Jon Jones should’ve picked Sonnen over Machida
By James Walker
One of the most unpredictable occurrences in UFC history took place Thursday when UFC 151 was officially canceled.
Light heavyweight contender Dan Henderson partially tore his MCL and couldn’t compete. But that's just the beginning. The UFC quickly tried to find a replacement for champion Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, who has verbally attacked Jones, accepted. But Jones declined to fight Sonnen on eight days notice.
That led to UFC 151 being canceled in its entirety. As a result, Jones will fight new No. 1 contender Lyoto Machida on Sept. 22 in Toronto.
Jones’ decision not to fight Sonnen will be debated over the next few days and weeks. Here are three reasons why Jones is making a mistake:
1. May hurt Jones' reputation
Jones is revered as a fighting champion. He's arguably the most feared fighter in MMA and has single handedly wiped out the light heavyweight division in a little more than a year.
But lately, Jones' actions have been a bit baffling. First, Jones said he didn't want to fight Machida again because he's a tricky fighter, and with the prospect of low pay-per-view buys, the risk is much higher than the gain. Then, Jones turned down an opportunity to fight Sonnen on short noticed despite being called out.
Expect a verbal barrage from Sonnen that will rival what he’s said to Anderson Silva. Sonnen already had harsh fighting words for Jones. Sonnen said he would take Jones' belt easily and called him a "punk kid." Now that it's on record that Sonnen accepted a fight with Jones and Jones walked away, that's certainly bragging rights that the two-time middleweight top contender will use.
2. Jones had the advantage of training
“Bones” Jones was training for a title defense against Henderson. Sonnen was recuperating from a second round TKO to Anderson Silva. Advantage Jones.
Sonnen is the type of fighter who always stays in shape. But having eight days to prepare is difficult for anyone. Sonnen fought Silva just seven weeks ago. In addition, this would be Sonnen’s first fight at 205 lbs. in years.
The differences, at least on paper, would have made Sonnen easier prey than Machida. “The Dragon” competes at 205, has more time to prepare, and fought Jones before and can learn from prior mistakes.
Machida is the only fighter to win a round against Jones and was doing well until being choked out in the second round. Machida is a much tougher fight due to his style and longer time to prepare.
3. Contradicting messages
Jones said he didn't want to fight Machida because the first fight had low pay-per-view numbers. Yet, Jones didn't take the fight with Sonnen, who is one of the biggest draws in UFC history. That's evident by the record numbers Sonnen-Silva II had in July.
So which side is Jones on?
Sonnen is a master promoter who could have talked up the fight and given Jones the pay-per-view numbers Jones says he's seeking. Yet, Jones did not follow through on his words and will fight Machida instead. "Bones," at times, can open himself up to criticism, and this is another example.
Jones will be the favorite to beat either opponent. But he probably would’ve had an easier time with Sonnen fighting on short notice than a well-prepared Machida.
It's a calculated risk by the Jones camp that cost the UFC its card and could prove dangerous for the light heavyweight champ.
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