At UFC 235, Jon Jones successfully defended his light heavyweight championship over Anthony “Lionheart” Smith in the main event. Some believe that even with the shutout victory, Jones did not quite look like the Jon Jones of old, but the fact remains that Jones cruised to a victory with the only roadblock along the way being placed there by himself via an ill-timed illegal knee.
Last Saturday’s title defense against Thiago Santos at UFC 239 was quite a different story. Jon Jones was a round and scorecard away from his split-decision victory going in the opposite direction. And whether or not Jones’s bout with Anthony Smith is evidence of the light heavyweight division gaining ground on Jones, Smith believes that Jones’s bout against Santos certainly adds proof to that theory, as his tone regarding Jones and his relation to his peers took a wide shift following UFC 239 (Transcript via BJPenn.com):
“I’m having a really hard time putting my finger on it,” Anthony Smith said of Jones in an appearance on MMA on Sirius XM. “I’m not sure what’s happening.
“Jon was so ahead of the game early in his career — he was kind of like a unicorn, he was just so much different. As the game evolves, I don’t want to say everybody’s catching up, but everybody’s catching up. I don’t know how else to say it. I think that there’s enough tape out there on Jon that he’s running out of new things that people haven’t seen. When he first blew up and he was just running through people, I believe he’s one of the people that you can credit with the evolution of the fight game.
“I think that he levelled up the game just in terms of his ability to think on the fly, and I think it opened up everyone’s eyes and everyone’s minds to new stuff, but eventually you’re going to run out of stuff.
“I think we’ve gotten to who Jon Jones is,” Anthony Smith concluded. “I think we’ve seen him run his course of what he’s doing, and I’m not saying he’s not going to get better or get more dangerous if he adds more wrinkles. I just think that he’s not evolving as fast as the game is anymore. And I think before, he was moving faster than the rest of the game and I don’t think that is the case anymore.”
Do you agree with Anthony Smith’s assessment? Is the light heavyweight division catching up to Jon Jones?