Early Preview: Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones, Part 2
Unless Jon Jones is a fool, he will do everything he can to get this fight to the mat where he can utilize his vastly superior grappling game. The advantages in this realm for Jones cannot be understated and if he gets Ngannou in some of the positions Gane did, the fight will be over. Jones has a fluid guard passing game, tight top control and at times vicious ground-and-pound. Add in an underrated submission game and a gassed Ngannou has little chance of surviving the late rounds vs Jones.
The problem for Jon will be getting the takedown. Ngannou has shown much improved wrestling, scrambling and general grappling awareness recently. His takedown defense is very solid and he’s extremely strong in the clinch, where Jon’s best takedowns come from. Ngannou tends to simply muscle fighters from the clinch position and I expect him to be able to do the same to Jones. Granted, Jon certainly had the superior technique in the clinch, but given Ngannou’s strength and improving skills there, I favor him to at least neutralize Jon There while they’re both fresh.
Jones transition to heavyweight, which saw him put in roughly 40 pounds, makes for a wild card in his first bout in the division. Does the added weight give him the additional strength and lower needed to compete with bigger men? Or does the increased size reduced his speed and badly affect his cardio? Further, while his chin was great at 205, how will it do versus much bigger hitters at heavyweight? Jones was never outmuscled in the lower class, but that may change now as well. Overall, I think there are more ways for this transition to go poorly than well for Jon.
On the flip side, I feel much more confident on the blazing speed and soul crushing power of Ngannou to show up in fight night. Combine that with his advantages in chin, strength and experience against bigger men, and the intangibles absolutely favor the champion here.
I also question how Jones will fair against someone who not only has a similar height and reach to him, but holds a significant natural size and strength advantage. Jones has always struggled in the feet when he lacks reach and height advantages, even when he has the athletic edges. This will be the first time he lacks those and again in addition to being at size and strength disadvantages. Ngannou is just as tall and tangy as Jon but has a much larger, wider frame with more muscle mass.
Just like most of Francis Ngannou’s past bouts, we have a dynamic where he is far less technical and skilled but vastly more dangerous. Once again I think the danger will win out. Jones point fighting style may work to win an early round or do well minute-to-minute, but eventually I see Ngannou finding a home for a kill shot. Jones will do his best to stay all the way in or all the way out, focusing on kicks from distance until an opening for the clinch presents itself. The problem here is not only counters in those exchanges, but the potential for blitzes at any time. Jones may be safe at range, but once Ngannou exploded forward, Jones will need an answer no fighter has yet to find. Yes, Ngannou has been defeated, but not in the blitz. That’s where he is most dangerous and by far where Jones is most vulnerable. Eventually, at some point in the first two rounds or so, I see Ngannou landing the Hail Mary and being the first to hand Jon Jones a legitimate MMA loss.
The Pick: Francis Ngannou by knockout, round 2
*Note: I give method of victory for all of my picks. This is NOT a recommendation to bet the prop for that method. I NEVER bet props, only sides and totals.