Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will make his first-ever title defense against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 135. That fight will take place on September 24 at Denver, Colorado's Pepsi Center.
Jones vs. Rampage is a very worthy UFC title fight. Jackson is a former UFC champ himself, with some of MMA's most effective boxing. He's definitely not a fighter the 24 year-old Jones can afford to look past. If Jones is having trouble handling the sudden money and fame that comes with a UFC title and lets the outside the cage distractions get the better of him, Rampage will quickly bring him down to Earth.
But if Jones continues to live up to his incredible potential we'll be talking about who's next for Jones sometime around 11:30 ET on September 24th and hoping Rampage didn't suffer any permanent harm in the cage.
The 6'4" Jones combines a pterodactyl wing-span of 84" with a viciously opportunistic striking style that's heavy on hurtful knees and elbows and the ability to throw 200lb men around the Octagon like he's a human catapult. He's complimented his physical gifts with a positive thirst for knowledge about all aspects of fighting. Training under Greg Jackson, the Yoda of MMA, has only sharpened Jones' dangerous game.
After Jackson, Jones needs to settle his beef with MMA's #2 ranked light heavyweight (according to the USA TODAY/MMA Nation Consensus Rankings) Rashad Evans. But let's face it, as skilled as Evans is -- and few Mixed Martial Artists can combine boxing and wrestling so fluidly -- he's a natural middleweight and Jones will be heavily favored to beat his former teammate and ex-friend.
It's not just a dream fight for MMA fans, it would also be blockbuster business for the UFC. Silva vs Jones would be kind of champion-vs-champion mega-fight that gets mainstream media attention and sells boucoup pay-per-views. It could potentially be a blockbuster on Fox TV as well and could make one of both of the fighters a true superstar in the U.S.
The fact that so far in this series of Anderson Silva fights we want to see, we've only talked about one true middleweight (and one sometimes middleweight in Dan Henderson) as a compelling foe for Silva shows how much he has wiped out the 185lb division. Silva's also terrorized UFC light heavyweights every time he's moved up to 205lbs, so there's no worries that Silva can't hang with the big boys.
Jones vs. Silva is the kind of fight that makes fight fans quiver in anticipation. The clash of styles and personalities combined with the incredible gifts of both men make this the Mount Olympus of MMA fantasy match-ups.
As I argued after UFC 134, Anderson Silva just hasn't had the rivals worthy of his gifts as a fighter. Sure he's the best Mixed Martial Artist of all-time, but he needs one or two more epic fights against great opposition to capstone his legend.
Jones presents Silva with a younger, bigger, faster foe whose blend of Greco-Roman wrestling and Judo throws with the game's most vicious ground-and-pound could be stylistic kryptonite to Silva. Can Anderson Silva pass the test presented by the game's fastest-rising, loudest-roaring young lion?
And from Jones' perspective, Silva is the perfect bench mark to test himself and see if he is The Man or if he still has some rough edges to polish before he ascends to his rightful throne. Silva's speed and incredible striking could potentially dissect Jones' unconventional stand-up game like a mad vivisectionist taking a scalpel to a monkey on an operating table.
A potential Jones-Silva bout will make MMA old-timers think of nothing so much as Frank Shamrock's epic war with Tito Ortiz in 1999. Shamrock was the reigning champ who gave up size and wrestling skill to Ortiz, the young bully who'd quickly soared to the top of the sport. The two put on one of the all-time greatest fights in the sport.
I have no doubt that Anderson Silva and Jon Jones could match Shamrock-Ortiz and put on one for the ages.