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December 14, 2019
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Experts debate how dangerous is Dominick Reyes for Jon Jones?

Experts debate how dangerous is Dominick Reyes for Jon Jones?
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Jon Jones hasn’t fought in the Octagon since edging Thiago Santos on July 6, but his battle with motivation has played out on social media ever since.

Jones just couldn’t seem to get excited about defending his light heavyweight title against any of the top contenders, including ESPN No. 4-ranked Dominick Reyes and No. 5 Corey Anderson, who are both coming off impressive victories.

Jones tweeted on Sept. 9 that big news was coming soon. There was speculation he would move up to heavyweight and possibly challenge champion Stipe Miocic or maybe Francis Ngannou. Or maybe the talked-about fight with middleweight champ Israel Adesanya would get fast-tracked.

But it might have just been Jones having fun with a tease on social media.

Clarity finally arrived on Nov. 6 when Jones tweeted that he chose Reyes after determining with this coaches that Reyes is a more dangerous opponent than Anderson.

The fight became official on Friday and will take place Feb. 8 in Houston.

So how dangerous is Reyes for Jones, whose only loss was a controversial disqualification for an illegal elbow strike? And did Jones’ unconvincing win over Santos, who had torn ligaments in his both his knees, reveal vulnerabilities in the champ? ESPN’s panel of experts — Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim — breaks it down.

How dangerous of a fight is this for Jones?

Helwani: Jones has had a little bit of trouble with long fighters during this run, but of course, he’s won all those fights. We’re nitpicking here. My biggest concern is, is he motivated? It’s no secret he’s been looking for a big fight. Problem is, there isn’t one right now. So, he is kind of settling here, even though Reyes is a tough and worthy opponent. Will he look past him? Will he take this fight seriously? That’s what I wonder.

Okamoto: When discussing the difficulty level of a Jon Jones fight, it’s important to keep in mind it’s all relative, right? Jones is the favorite to beat anyone. So, when we’re discussing these different opponents, it’s not a question of, “Is this the guy to beat Jon Jones?” It’s more a question of, “Is this a guy who could, maybe, theoretically, on his best night, beat Jon Jones?” And relatively speaking, I think Reyes is one of the biggest challenges to Jones right now. Certainly at light heavyweight. It’s a dangerous fight in that Reyes has legitimate power, and he is undeniably in his prime, which you haven’t always been able to say about Jones’ opponents.

Raimondi: Every bit as dangerous as Thiago Santos was and Jones was not able to run through Santos by any means. Reyes is bigger, longer and younger than Santos. While he might not be as proficient or as experienced of a striker as Santos, Reyes is six years younger and still getting better. In his past four fights, he has knocked out Chris Weidman and Jared Cannonier and defeated the tough Ovince Saint Preux and Volkan Oezdemir. Reyes is arguably Jones’ toughest opponent since Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 in December 2018, because we just don’t know how good he can be yet. Consider this: Through 12 career fights, Reyes has a better résumé than Jones did (though Jones was significantly younger).

Wagenheim: How dangerous for Jones? Only as dangerous as Jon allows it to be. In fact, he should be insulted by this question. He’s a raging hurricane of a fighter who’s spent years as the one inflicting the danger upon opponents. And Jones is still capable of that, isn’t he? We haven’t seen much of that guy in the cage, really, since DC II a good two and a half years ago. But Jon is just 32, clear-eyed and healthy, and if he’s still Jon Jones, he should be way too much for Dominick Reyes to handle. So I’m inclined to say this fight poses nowhere near the most peril Jones has been through in his time at the top of the sport. Then again, I’m a bit haunted by the recent “Bones” persona of a champion bored by it all (sigh), deigning to bestow a beating on the next victim up. That, my friends, is living dangerously.

What did we learn about Jones from the Santos fight?

Helwani: That he continues to evolve. He is able to dig deep. He can take a big punch. One of the biggest questions about Jones throughout his career has been about his chin. I think after that last fight he proved he has a very strong chin and can take a punch from the heaviest of hitters.



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