Anthony Smith will make a tremendous step-up in competition this weekend as he attempts to hand Jon Jones the first legitimate loss of his professional career.
There are very few people who are giving Smith a chance in this one – and based on what we’ve seen from him in interviews ahead of UFC 235, he seems to understand that there is virtually no expectations in place for him.
To be honest, many would be surprised if he even made it to the judge’s scorecards in one piece.
And it’s understandable.
The term ‘puncher’s chance’ is a pretty ridiculous term to use in a fist-fight, one that is only surpassed in terms of silliness by the so-called ‘lucky punch’.
Smith will be gunning for that chin early in the hopes of achieving perhaps his only path to victory in this fight – the successful utilisation of the power in his hands.
Where technique is king in the scrambles, the submissions, and the wrestling, power remains the one great outlier that can make all of that irrelevant.
Let’s be real here, Smith isn’t going to submit Jon and without sounding harsh, a win from him on the scorecards would be an incredible shock.
But in his hands, he has the x-factor necessary to topple this man’s legacy and in truth, it’s the only real weapon that Jon can be threatened with.
There are no bad stylistic matchups for Jones anymore – at least not at 205lbs.
In height and reach, he is only outdone by heavyweight Stefan Struve – a fighter who has completely and utterly failed to make his natural gifts count.
If there is a fighter on the UFC’s roster right now who matches Jones on a technical level, they’re doing a fantastic job of keeping it a secret from the rest of us.
The highest level of athlete that Jon has faced to date is arguably heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and even then, he managed to defeat him comfortably on two separate occasions.
Many believed Alexander Gustafsson was the perfect foil to Jones’ freakish height and reach after their legendary UFC 165 war – and for a period of five years that was the narrative.
If there was a single chink in the armour of Jon Jones that has been pointed to over the years it was his boxing defense.
And even at that, it wasn’t a glaring hole.
But when Jon returned to the octagon at UFC 232 to rematch the Swede, he put on a near-perfect display of defensive head-movement to shut down the respected pugilist that stood before him until he was able to finish him viciously in the third-round.
He well and truly made the difference in class between him and Gus felt and added further truth to his claim that a lack of motivation and his excessive lifestyle outside of the cage had hindered him ahead of UFC 165.
The scary thing here is that Jon is clearly still improving.
With that being said, though, power remains the one weapon that can prove to be anyone’s downfall.
Anthony Smith is one of the biggest underdogs in a Jon Jones title-defense to date.
I can’t argue that Smith has a better chance at beating the champion than Gustafsson, Teixeira, Machida, or Belfort did.
But he has a chance and you’d be a fool to discount it.
Just as Serra could never hope to defeat GSP, as Holm was doomed to fall to Ronda at UFC 193, and as Barao would certain to breeze through Dillashaw – the reason we tune in is to be left pleasantly surprised.
Jones should probably have one of the easiest fights of his life on Saturday night, all things considered, but our minds have been blown before.
You just never know with these heavy-hitters!
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena