Three weeks after the cancellation UFC 151 Jon Jones finally fought Vitor Belfort at UFC 152. For the first time in his UFC career we saw Jon Jones in a difficult position when Belfort nearly ended the fight in the first round with an arm bar. Jones was able to get out of the submission and finish Belfort with an Americana in the fourth round.
For now we’re left with the question of who will challenge Jones next for the light heavyweight belt. Dana White already stated that Lyoto Machida will not earn the next title shot after turning down a rematch with Jones at UFC 152 so who is next?
Hendo was supposed to face Jones at UFC 151, but a partial torn MCL forced Henderson out of the bout. There have been rumors that he will face Machida in a No. 1 contender bout, but no contract has been signed at the moment. Henderson is always one punch away from finishing an opponent with that huge right hand of his, but in order to do that he would need to get inside Jones range. We saw Jones negate the knockout risk from Belfort by using takedowns and this could be something he would do again in a fight with Henderson although Henderson is a more accomplished wrestler.
Sonnen could be the dark horse candidate to challenge Jones. He hasn’t fought at light heavyweight since he moved up in weight, but demand may force the issue. Sonnen is one of the best wrestlers in mixed martial arts, but again it’s an issue of getting inside the range of Jones. We saw Sonnen have success with this against Anderson Silva and it’s hard not to assume he would try the same game plan against Jones. He has been very susceptible to the submission in his career and this is something Jones would likely attempt to take advantage of.
Alexander Gustafsson-Shogun Rua winner:
Gustafsson could be the perfect foil to Jon Jones. He is a very tall and lanky fighter that could stand at range and strike with Jones. Gustafsson isn’t as polished as Jones, but he has looked outstanding in his last couple fights. He has the ability to finish fights via knockout or submisssion and could present some serious problems for Jones.
Shogun, on the other hand, will need to put on a much better performance than in his first fight with Jones. He was dominated on the feet and ground and was never able to work any offense against Jones. Rua would likely need to rely on a miracle submission or knockout to defeat the champion because we have seen him gas in the later rounds of fights.