AT UFC 197 two of mixed martial arts pound for pound contenders both fought in title fights as Jon ‘Bones’ Jones returned after a lengthy absence to claim the interim light heavyweight title against Ovince Saint Preux and Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson defended his flyweight title against Olympic freestyle wrestling champion, Henry Cejudo. Whilst both men won easily and it was Jones who headlined the show, it was Johnson who stole a march on the bigger man in the pound for pound battle with a devastating knock out victory.
Jon Jones came back into the UFC having been out for a long period due to personal issues experienced outside the cage. Although arguably still the promotions best fighter, in his absence Jones has fallen someway behind the likes of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey in the box office stakes. Unfortunately, the manner of his victory against Saint Preux will have done little to redress that situation. Jones did win every round against the tall Frenchman and controlled pretty much every aspect of the fight, but fireworks and toe to toe action were lacking. As a technical demonstration of controlling distance and the pace of a fight, Jones was spot on but the crowd booed the slow action – they wanted reckless destruction and instead got measured discipline.
I think Jones deserves a break in terms of the criticism. He has not fought in the Octagon for some time and Saint Preux was a late change of opponent with a completely different style to Daniel Cormier, the reigning champion who Jones was originally supposed to face. Despite this Jones took the fight and won it comfortably, if not in the most spectacular style. He can’t finish every fight with a spinning elbow or a standing guillotine choke and sometimes a win is enough. I’m certain the Cormier fight, when it does happen, will be a lot more interesting and we will really see the best of Jones.
Demetrious Johnson lived up to his Mighty Mouse tag in the co main event and certainly did not have to worry about the crowd booing. The 125 pounder was defending his belt against an undefeated Olympic wrestling champion and took him apart inside one round. Perhaps surprisingly it was the champion and not his Olympic wrestling opponent who dominated the clinches, with Cejudo managing just a sole takedown, which Johnson immediately bounced back up from. As Cejudo got in close again, Johnson punished him with a succession of cruel Muay Thai knees, thrown from a variety of angles. Cejudo simply crumbled under the vicious onslaught and fell to the mat, with the referee stepping in as Johnson landed some follow up punches.
UFC colour commentator Joe Rogan was clear in his appraisal that it is Demetrious Johnson and not Jon Jones who is the best pound for pound fighter in the world and on this evidence it was hard to argue. However, once Jones regains his full world title against Cormier, as I believe he will, then it’ll be the bigger man who will get the acclaim as the best fighter in the world and perhaps the greatest MMA fighter in history.