Post-Fight Thoughts: Jon Jones -vs- Anthony Smith
The co-main event went nothing like I had drawn up, but the main event mostly went according to plan. The one surprise was that Jon Jones opted to play with his food rather than push too hard for the finish. Some of this is also due to the fact that Anthony Smith seemed completely deflated by the middle of the fight, focusing his energy on defending himself and avoiding being finished rather than trying to win the fight himself. As a result, Smith made it to the final bell but at no point did he have Jon Jones in any sort of danger. It reminded me a lot of a standing version of Georges Saint-Pierre when he mauled Dan Hardy for 5 rounds but somehow couldn't submit the man despite endless attempts.
It was also fight very reminiscent of Jones' bout with Ovince Saint-Preux, wherein he dominated a completely overmatched opponent but didn't put him away. I chalk this up to a combination of Anthony Smith's overall durability and Jon Jones wisely fighting with an extreme amount of caution. Almost as dangerous as Smith's fighting skills was the prospect of the potential Greatest Of All Time losing to such an unheralded challenger — something I am sure factored into Jones' plans to some extent. Jones also opted to strike with Smith, something I expected but sort of hoped he wouldn't do to the extent he did. Smith did well stuffing Jones' takedown attempts, so maybe Jones made the decision to conserve energy and stay standing where he was having very good success anyway.
This fight didn't tell us anything we didn't already know; Jon Jones still remains in a league of his own as far as MMA skill and ability is concerned, and Anthony Smith is every bit as tough as people said he was. Aside from the lack of a finish, this fight was every bit the one-sided contest that everyone expected and Jones will continue to reign over a division that really has nothing to challenge him with. I could see Smith fighting Alexander Gustafsson next, but as for Jones' next challenger, I'm not sure — nor am I really hyped to see him do squash matches to defend his title. I guess Thiago Santos is next in line, and then perhaps Johnny Walker if he can get another win — and avoid hurting himself during his post-fight celebrations.
The light heavyweight division is at a historic low-point in terms of talent and name value. Jon Jones stands alone atop a division that offers no challenge for him. Jones has recently said that his move to heavyweight is "inevitable." Whether that holds true is another matter, but it would provide at least the appearance of competition again. Jones is also a very large light heavyweight, who dwarfed Anthony Smith in this fight. Jones would give up size to a lot of the heavyweight division, but the skill differential would be even higher. Regardless, it's going to take some work to present compelling match-ups involving Jon Jones, no matter the division they take place in. We'll see what the future holds, if Jones will continue to run up the score at 205 or test himself in a heavier division.
Whatever the future holds for Jones in the UFC, I'll be watching. Even when he's punching a clock, Jones is phenomenal to watch; rendering one of the best fighters in the world completely ineffective and beating him up for 25 minutes is an impressive feat to witness. I'd like to see someone give Jones a true challenge but it's still pretty fun watching the man work his craft even if that doesn't happen.
Published: March 3rd, 2019.