At the UFC’s debut on the Versus network two of the UFC’s brightest young stars, Jon Jones and Junior Dos Santos, emerged victorious, but what comes next for these talented fighters?
At just 22 years of age Jon Jones is already showing all the signs of being a formidable opponent for anyone in the light-heavyweight division, despite being one of the youngest fighters on the UFC’s roster.
Despite that don’t expect to see him being pushed into a title shot by the promotion in the near future. Dana White stated after the show that he’d like to see him “get another year under his belt,” before challenging for the strap.
He also suggested he’d have to go through a succession of strong opponents, namely Rashad Evans, Rampage Jackson and the loser of the rematch between Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua first.
I agree with the philosophy of giving him time to grow as a fighter. Jones is a special fighter who has the talent to be one of the greats in the sport in years to come, but he needs to be given time to grow to his full potential.
It’s worth remembering that he has only been fighting professionally for two years, so we have to be patient despite our eagerness to see how he might fare against the best in the division.
With that in mind, despite the names that Dana mentioned I would give him at least one more fight against someone who’s not currently vying for title contention to aid his development.
Really there’s a whole host of names in the stacked LHW division but some that spring to mind include Luiz Cane and Thiago Silva, both of whom would pose a significant challenge. Ryan Bader also make senses, though I suspect the UFC won’t want to keep two of their up and coming prospects in the cage apart at this stage.
Hopefully such a fight could be put together in reasonably short order since Jones emerged unscathed from his battle with Vera. That will also leave time for the winners and losers of Evans Vs Rampage and Machida Vs Shogun to be established.
Junior Dos Santos:
Another star emerging in the UFC’s roster at this time is 25 year old Junior Dos Santos who is now unbeaten in five fights after his victory over Gabe Gonzaga on Sunday night.
At this stage I believe Dos Santos is slightly ahead of his light-heavyweight counterpart Jones in the hunt for a title-shot for two simple reasons:
1. The caliber of fighter he’s faced has been consistently tougher – for instance his first fight for the promotion was against Fabricio Werdum, and he’s continued to fight challenging opponents since.
2. Though it’s improving the talent pool at heavyweight is not as deep as at light-heavyweight.
Therefore I believe Dos Santos is perfectly entitled to hammer on Dana White’s door and ask for a title shot.
Though White is a believer in the Brazilian, telling reporters after the Versus event that Dos Santos was, “the real deal,” it’s unlikely he would grant him that wish just yet though.
Right now the immediate future at the top end of the division is already mapped out. On Saturday night at UFC 111 Shane Carwin and Frank Mir battle to decide who will be next to fight Brock Lesnar.
Meanwhile White has already stated that Cain Velasquez will be on stand-by in case the winner of Carwin – Mir is for any reason unable to face Lesnar.
There’s few other fighters in the division that would make adequate opponents for Dos Santos in the mean-time – Antonio Nogueira could have been one, but he is the Brazilian’s trainer and mentor, so that is a fight that will never happen.
Therefore I see only two options for the fighter at this moment in time:
1. He waits to fight Cain Velasquez to see who is the next top contender in the division.
2. He fights the loser of Carwin – Mir while he waits for Velasquez to take a crack at the title.
I like either option,but I suspect the UFC may find the second option more appealing since it keeps the divisions two hottest prospects apart for the time being.