Brandon Gibson, coach to UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, gave his take on some of his fighter’s potential opponents in the near future.
Speaking to Luke Thomas of MMAFighting during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Gibson broke down four of the names who could well be listed beside Jones in the near future – as the 205lb champ looks to recapture the consistency that he has been lacking of late in the sport.
On the subject of the man who is arguably the most likely to face Jon next, Thiago Santos, Brandon admitted that there was more than enough power on the table to cause his star-pupil problems.
With that being said, however, he likened the ferocious former 185lb-r’s style to that of the man Jones just handled at UFC 235, Anthony Smith, telling Thomas that he lacks the stellar technique of some of the names who bolstered the legendary run that saw him rule the light-heavyweight division for years.
“He’s been looking great. He’s a powerful, very powerful 205-pounder. I’m sure that’s something that intrigues a lot of fans and I like that there’s some fresh blood in the light heavyweight division.
“When Jon started it was kind of like the older reign of some of the Pride legends. The Shoguns, the Rampage Jacksons, the Vitors, there were so many of these legends for us to chase after. And now Jon’s the legend and these young guys are coming up like Johnny Walker, like Thiago Santos, so it’s cool to be in this position now.”
“I think [Jones has] fought a lot of brawlers. I would consider Anthony Smith a brawler. I think we’ve finished some very polished MMA boxers with explosive hooks like Rampage Jackson, like Shogun, and then we’ve fought a lot of really polished technical MMA strikers like Gustafsson, like Machida.
“And Thiago brings a different kind of power. I don’t think he’s as polished or refined as a Shogun or a Rampage, I think he’s probably a little closer to Anthony Smith’s style.”
This Brazilian sensation is still very much the name on everybody’s lips post-UFC 235. A potent knockout artist with a penchant for the spectacular, Walker was able to breeze through his first major test Misha Cirkunov with a sub-minute flying knee KO.
According to Gibson, he’s a guy who is well and truly on the right path and one who could well be facing Jon before all is said and done – although it is unlikely that is happens any time soon.
“That kid’s impressive, he’s explosive.
“I saw a really impressive stat that he’s only thrown 30 strikes or something in his combined UFC career, so his knockout-to-strike ratio is like, 1-to-9.
“That’s impressive. We’ve definitely got our eye on him. He’s charismatic, he’s fun, he has a swagger to him, he’s creative. That’s a fight that is definitely on the horizon, I’m sure.”
In many cases, it may be difficult to justify giving a fighter who has failed to defeat his rival twice a third and final crack but when it comes to the reigning heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, it does seem as though a trilogy fight is inevitable.
DC’s post-UFC 214 run has seen him win three times with three finishes – capturing the most-coveted belt in the game in the process.
For right now, at least, both guys will likely fight again before making this one happen.
“I think that will always be looming, everybody will always want to see a trilogy there and DC’s had so much success since Jon’s fighting, and he’s double champ and heavyweight champ.
“But I think for right now there’s a lot of intriguing matchups in each of their respective weight classes, so I just like having fun with that idea.”
In a move that may have the end-goal of seeing Cormier’s money-fight with the WWE superstar fade away, Jones spoke during the UFC 235 post-fight about his wish to take on Brock Lesnar at heavyweight this year.
Gibson, who is no doubt a purist of the sport through and through, admitted that the hulking behemoth wouldn’t exactly offer too much in the way of a tricky puzzle to solve.
“I think, for the casuals that a guy like Brock brings to the sport, it will be super high numbers and a high payday. I think for the challenge, just the size of the man that Brock is, I think that’s something that intrigues Jon. Brock will bring something different.
“It would be fun, it would be intriguing, but as far as, is Brock the most polished mixed martial artist that we’ve ever competed against and what is our gameplan gonna have to be and all these things we’re going to have to watch out for and train for — no, I don’t think it’s that.”
As for what will be next in the career of the greatest fighter to ever do it, Gibson explained that a return over the summer is likely at this point.
“I know Thiago Santos is looking very strong. Jon always gets hyped for the idea of a super-fight. He said he wants to fight three or four times this year. We want to give him a little break though.
“We want to make sure that that fire is always well lit under him and back-to-back training camps is definitely a grind. It was exciting to get in there though and have this quick turnaround and make sure there was no ring rust, and I think as a fan of the sport, we’re lucky to have the greatest of all-time actively competing once again.
“He wants to stay busy. Maybe it’s the big international fight week in July, maybe it’s something big in the fall. We’ll see.”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena