Israel Adesanya and Jon Jones have been going back and forth on the social networks. But how would an actual fist fight between them look? This is an interesting question with many layers. Aside from the superficial similarities between the two (both being incredibly tall, rangy, and slim), this is one of those matchups where we truly have no idea how it would go.
I am not going to claim to know what would happen, but like anyone else, I have some ideas in my head. Because there is a (relative) weakness in Jon Jones which we have seen exploited before, and if there is anyone who can exploit that once again, it is Israel Adesanya.
Back in 2013, a blueprint was established for how to beat Jones, although it just so happened to be in a fight that he won. Alexander Gustafsson thoroughly outboxed Jones before losing a close decision. What made this a blueprint was the fact that Jones never really managed to figure out Gustafsson’s timing.
He put on a gritty come-from-behind performance, winning with some creative striking and a heavy dose of low kicks.
And of course we saw what can be possible when someone actually makes an effort to target Jones’ legs, as Thiago Santos did at UFC 239.
The question we then have to ask ourselves is: if Gustafson and Santos managed so much success in finding their range against Jones (of course while keeping the fight on the feet), why wouldn’t Adesanya be able to do the same? Adesanya not only has the range of Gustafsson (203cm to Gustafsson’s 201), but his timing, footwork, and head movement are on a totally different level than what we are accustomed to seeing in mixed martial arts.
So in Jones we have a fighter who can be outboxed and who has been outboxed, and in Adesanya we have the best kickboxer in MMA today. Jones is still considerably bigger and stronger, but if Adesanya can stay away from the fence and stay upright, it is perfectly reasonable to expect him to piece up Jones.
Again, I am not saying this as if it is a foregone conclusion. But as of this moment, Adesanya has all the tools to beat Jones: he excels in Jones’ biggest weak point (boxing), has the length which has given Jones trouble in the past, and lastly, has an unparallel ring IQ.