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The Dragon v. Bones: epic UFC light heavyweight title fight

On December 10 in Toronto, 24 year old UFC light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones (14-1) will take on former champ Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida (17-2). Bones has replaced The Dragon as the man many feel is unbeatable in the weight class. The Dragon knows what it’s like to lose the luster of invincibility, though, knows first-hand it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. What matters is what happens in the octagon.

Bones has only been competing in mixed martial arts since April, 2008. Before that he was a standout high school Greco-Roman wrestler, and won a national championship in the Junior College Athletic Association for Iowa Central Community College. He stands 6’4” and has an 84.5 inch reach, the longest of any fighter in the UFC, including 6’11” heavyweight Stephan Struve. The phenom even has a brother who is a rookie starter on The Baltimore Ravens, one of the NFL’s top defenses.

Bones combines his physical attributes with an utterly unique style that mystifies his opponents. His throws, tosses, spinning back-elbows and punishing strikes while on the ground--- techniques he  often found on YouTube and then perfected---is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Across his chest is a script tattoo: Phillipians 4:13. For those not up on The Bible, that’s the verse, I can do everything through Him who gives me strength”.  It’s a simple tattoo that has deep meaning to the devout Christian, but one that harkens to Jules, Samuel Jackson’s  murderous Pulp Fiction character, who would spew Bible quotes before capping someone. 

Before his first title defense against Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, The Dragon, a 3rd-dan black belt in shotokan  who hails from Belem, a Brazilian city on the Amazon, was 16-0  and hadn’t lost a round in a long while. His shotokan style was one of the most distinctive in years. He leans back and keeps his distance with quick, lateral movement, putting his opponents out of range. He strikes like a cobra, retreats, and  finishes with flurries or uses trip-ups to get them down to finish them there. He kicks directly from his stance, without projecting, which means less power but far more hits. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a Sumo competitor, he prefers to use his grappling prowess to keep the fight standing. He is almost impossible to take down. High-level NCAA wrestlers have not had success getting the Brazilian to the mat.

This is where the match-up gets interesting. Bones utilizes reach and distance to punish his opponent while being out of reach himself, and takes down anyone he wants to punish them further on the ground. Machida uses distance and movement and unrivalled take-down defense to keep the fight standing.  Put simply, this is the first time either fighter has been in the octagon with an opponent for whom their advantage may not be an advantage.

The difference in Saturday’s fight in Toronto will assuredly be Bones’s height and reach, because he won’t have to work as hard as Machida to achieve his goals. Although a better technical striker, and as interesting and unique as Machida’s style is, it is relatively easier to break down his attacks. If you watch several Machida fights, you can count his maneuvers  and how they are applied. You’d need an engineer’s calculator to solve Bones’s riddle.

For some reason Toronto is the Mecca of MMA. According to UFC President Dana White, the Canadian city has the most PPV buys per capita anywhere, perhaps because they were denied live events for so long. Whatever happens, you can bet the fans there will appreciate it.

Bones by TKO in the 3rd, after being severely tested.

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