If the hype surrounding
The 23-year-old light heavyweight (for now, more on that in a bit) graduated beyond the status of mixed martial arts' top prospect Sunday. And, to his credit, Jones seems to know this.
That is one of five observations following UFC's escapades in San Diego, where Jones blew past 39-year-old veteran
Six days ago, I wrote that Jones (11-1) should be considered the sport's top young talent. That certainly hasn't changed. What has? Jones, in my estimation, shed the "prospect" tag with his win against Matyushenko (24-5).
"Bones" is now firmly in the "contender" category.
Sounds like little more than semantics, right? Well, it's a meaningful distinction. From this point forward, Jones shouldn't face opponents whose best-case scenario is to "hang in there" -- unless he truly is that good, in which case every foe may have the same objective.
But, really, Jones is now stepping into a realm of challenger that should push him like never before. Fortunately for Jones, that appears to be exactly what he's looking for.
"Every opponent I had were really tough guys," Jones said. "Right now, I'm like passing these tests with flying colors. I really don't want to sound arrogant, so I have to be careful how I word this, but I want to fight someone who will give me a tough test. If that has to be the champion, or whoever, I just want to fight someone who's supposedly much better than me ... so I can really try to step up and evolve to a different level."
He may want fighters ranked in the top three at 205, but it's simply too soon for Jones to fight the likes of
So who's next?
My first choice is the winner between
Next in line:
Last -- and never least -- is
Jones stepped into the Octagon on Sunday weighing 226 pounds. Because he's so young, Jones can get away with shedding and rehydrating more than 20 pounds in 24 hours.
Four or five years from now?
It sure feels like his future is at heavyweight.
Standing 6-foot-4, Jones has the frame for it. He'll naturally add muscle as he matures. And even though he looks almost skinny, that's a height-weight-proportional optical illusion. Jones is a big guy who comes from a family of big men -- his older brother,
Jones said his priority is fighting at light heavyweight and winning a championship there. Eventually, though, he'll tussle with the giants.
The UFC -- and MMA promoters in general -- has not always been the best about allowing prospects space to grow. To the wolves, young man; a sort of rite of passage. That's how it's been and, for the most part, that's how it always will be. This is, after all, a sport in which 10 fights or fewer can sometimes be enough to earn a shot at a title.
But with Jones, UFC matchmaker
Jones has faced enough tests. His confidence and skill have grown with each effort. As does his experience. He has been handled perfectly, and it shows.
Should the victory catapult Okami (25-5 overall) to the front of the middleweight division title picture? I don't think so.
Okami said before fighting Munoz that he wanted
He'll continue to push ahead, outpointing opponents with exploitable technical deficiencies. But when it really matters, in pressure-packed moments against equally skilled opposition, I have my doubts that Okami is capable of rising to the occasion.
Welcome back, "Fireball Kid."
After mostly middling efforts since a war with
With Gomi turning 32 in September, there wasn't any time to waste if he was going to pull out of a downward spiral that saw the Japanese star go 4-3 before a vicious right hook sent
The power was always there. That we knew. It's the last thing to go. But what about desire? That was the question with Gomi, as it's been throughout his career, which peaked in 2005 when he went 5-0 to claim the Pride championship.
Judging by his reaction after pasting Griffin -- his first win in the UFC after