With the UFC back to putting on live events after a two-month hiatus due to the outbreak of COVID-19, things have once again begun to heat up in the MMA world and one particularly interesting topic of discussion has been a potential bout between longtime UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and fearsome heavyweight knockout artist Francis Ngannou.
While the idea of Jones moving up to heavyweight has long been discussed, the idea of a bout between him and Ngannou seemed to hit its stride last week during a heavyweight bout between former Jones foe Ovince Saint Preux and Ben Rothwell.
In regards to the bout between Saint Preux and Rothwell, Jones took to Twitter to admit that watching Saint Preux, an opponent he beat at 205 pounds in 2016, compete at heavyweight made him moving up himself “seem so much more real”. Following that claim, Ngannou responded to Jones and the two have gone back-and-forth on social media in various capacities since.
In terms of the matchup itself, there’s no denying that it’s an intriguing one. With a 26-1-1 overall record, Jones is without question the best light heavyweight the sport has ever seen and is widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters the sport has ever seen. Ngannou, meanwhile, possesses a 15-3 overall record with 11 knockouts and is quite possibly the most feared puncher in the history of the UFC.
The question, however, is whether or not this is the right time for such a fight and there’s a bit more to unpack when attempting to find an answer.
For Jones, for example, a potential move up in weight to heavyweight has long been discussed as previously mentioned. And it’s been discussed for a few reasons, with the most notable being Jones’ dominance at 205 pounds and his lack of competition at 205 pounds.
And at times throughout his career, Jones’ dominance has been on full display and it has appeared as if he had cleaned out the division. At this moment, however, that isn’t exactly the case.
For example, Jon Jones has looked less dominant as of late. Some have argued that this could be due to a lack of motivation, while others have argued that the competition has simply caught up to him. Regardless of the reason, “Bones’” last two fights have been particularly close, as he won a split-decision over Thiago Santos last July before winning a controversial decision over Dominick Reyes in February that many felt he deserved to lose.
Aside from his fights being closer as of late, it also seems as if, for the first time in a while, Jones has options at light heavyweight. Rematches against Reyes and Santos make sense, as does a bout against surging contender Jan Blachowicz.
It is, however, important to note that while he does indeed have options at 205 pounds, those options likely don’t compare in terms of magnitude to a fight against Ngannou. With that being said, if Jones has had enough of light heavyweight, it could certainly make sense to jump up in weight for a mega-fight against the sport’s consensus best knockout artist in a fight that could do wonders for his legacy.
When looking at the question from Ngannou’s perspective, the answer seems to be a bit more straightforward. Last competing at UFC 249 on May 9, Ngannou steamrolled through Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds. He has now won four-straight fights by way of T/KO with two of those victories coming over top contenders and two coming over former champions.
Given his recent body of work, there’s no denying that “The Predator” is deserving of another title shot. He’s in a bit of a difficult position, however, as negotiations are still ongoing for a bout between champion Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. Those two are expected to fight later this year, meaning that Ngannou will have to remain on the sidelines for a quite a while before he gets another crack at gold.
Given the current title picture, it would seem to make sense for Ngannou to be interested in a lucrative, high profile bout against a champion like Jones since there’s nothing left for him to do at heavyweight other than wait.
Ultimately, Dana White has said that he’s not sure how serious Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou are about fighting one another. And while Jones could remain at light heavyweight where he has business to cater to, a bout between him and Ngannou seems to have something to offer to both fighters as well as to the UFC.
Perhaps the time is right for Jones vs. Ngannou.