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Upset Alert: Why Lyoto Machida Will Beat Jon Jones

At this point in his (still young) career it seems crazy to pick against the UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. He has achieved a level of dominance at 205 pounds that has not been seen since the heydays of former company poster boys Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, and you could make a good argument that Jones has fought better competition than either man. The craziest part of all this is that Jones is only 24 years old and has probably not even achieved the pinnacle of what he can do as an athlete in combat sports.

Even with all that being said, I think Lyoto Machida will beat Jones on December 10 in Toronto.

I may be wrong, as I’ve certainly been wrong about Machida before. Jones has appeared virtually unstoppable since arriving in the UFC, but of course the same was said about Machida during his run up to the title. MMAth certainly doesn’t help me, since Machida lost to Shogun and Jones beat Shogun with ease. Machida’s mystique has already been cracked yet Jones appears to be Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America every time he’s in the cage.

So why do I think “The Dragon” will dethrone “Bones” Jones?

The first reason is a matter of timing. Jones is a warrior and one of the best embodiments of a pure athlete, but he is also human. When Jones meets Machida in the center of the octagon in December it will be his fourth fight in a little over ten months. Add in to that the fact that he’s been training essentially nonstop between those fights and fatigue is a very real possibility.

Let’s not forget that those three fights he’s already had have been against some of the best fighters in the UFC. All three men were top ten fighters when Jones faced them, and you could make the case that the biggest challenge is yet to come. Machida may not be the invincible warrior he was a few years ago but he’s still one of the most unique fighters in the sport of MMA. I know Greg Jackson has a world-class facility in New Mexico but I doubt he has any guys on his team that are masters of Shotokan karate.

If this fight stays on the feet I have to believe that the edge goes to Machida. He’s still extremely hard to hit, although he’s obviously never faced anyone with the reach of Jones. If the two do engage any back-and-forth exchanges it’s probably going to be Jones that takes the most punishment. Let’s also not forget that Jones has yet to show any true knockout power since joining the UFC, and at the same time we don’t know how well his chin will hold up if it’s hit repeatedly over the course of a potential five rounds. If you don’t think Machida can knock Jones out, I’ve got a UFC Hall of Fame member’s tooth that I’d love to sell you.

It’s also important to note that this is Jones’ first time facing a southpaw. Jones is still learning how to be an effective striker, as his genetic gifts have been able to cover up a lot of the holes in his boxing. If there’s a single fighter at light heavyweight who is great at finding those holes and exploiting them, it’s Machida.

The easy solution may be for Jones to turn this into a ground battle, and it’s this area where he will likely win the fight if he is indeed victorious. Jones has some of the best ground and pound of any fighter in the modern era of the sport, and Machida will likely be in trouble if he’s put on his back.

That being said, I’m not sure if Jones can get the fight there. Jones brings those amazing throws and trips that work so well, but Machida’s balance is simply uncanny. He’s got plenty of experience in wrestling and sumo and has proven several times over that his takedown defense is top notch. If Jones decides to clinch with Machida he could be making a big mistake given how well Machida utilized the clinch in his destruction of Thiago Silva.

Again, Jones is a genetic freak so if anybody can put Machida on his back it’s probably the champ. We can’t forget that Machida is a black belt in BJJ even though we rarely see his ground game in effect during his fights. Jones’ reach advantage could work against him should the two fighters spend any real time on the ground, as those long limbs give Machida even more to grab a hold of before attempting any limb-based submissions.

Let’s review. Jones is facing (arguably) the toughest opponent of his career, on shorter notice than usual, at the tail end of a four-fight blitz through the upper levels of the division. Jones will have to figure out how to defeat the fighter that is like no other, who has very real knockout power, and who will probably test his chin like it’s never been tested before. If Jones wants to take Machida down he will likely have a very hard time doing so, and even if he gets the fight there he’s dealing with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

It’s so hard to try and accurately predict what will happen in the cage when these two meet in eight weeks. This is the fight I wanted to see from the moment Jones won the strap, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Seeing as we’re still two months out I reserve the right to change my mind, but for now I like Machida’s chances to hand Jones the first legitimate loss on the young champion’s record.