Anthony Smith has never argued that Jon Jones isn’t one of the greatest fighters the game has known. But, as he gets set to face the UFC’s light-heavyweight champ tonight, “Lionheart’s” tossed out an interesting tweak to that narrative.
During Smith’s rise up the 205 ranks, and since he was booked to face Jones in the UFC 235 headliner, he’s repeatedly acknowledged the abilities of the champ. Smith has argued that he sees holes in Jones’ game, and of course, he’s stated he can beat the renowned fighter. But, as noted, he’s been very respectful of Jones’ skills.
More recently, however, Smith had this interesting take on Jones’ development as a fighter, over the last few years (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“If you really sit down and think about it, how many new skills have you seen Jon use in the last five or six years?” Smith said. “I don’t think he’s any better now than he was when he fought [Lyoto] Machida [at UFC 140]. I think he was so far ahead of the curve when he came onto the scene, so far ahead of everybody, that he was this mythical creature, and no one could figure out his style.”
“But if you really watch him fight and see how things have gone, he’s not any better. But people can’t forget how dominant he was.”
“People made it seem like Jon walked through Gus, not really,” he said. “Gus didn’t have a lot for him, but it’s not like Jon buzz-sawed through him. He had some problems. He looked kind of tired, and looked a little frazzled. He wasn’t comfortable…he had some love handles around his waist.”
How about that? Now chances are a lot of folks, particularly Jones and his camp, are likely going to pile on this argument. Jones has talked extensively about the improvements he’s made to his game, and it’s been well documented how much time he’s invested in weight training. After all, Jones’ has had a lot of time in recent years to focus solely on training.
Further, Jones put away both Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson in his rematches with them, after going the distance with both the first time around (although, as posted above, Smith doesn’t think that argument applies to the rematch with Gustafsson).
But, maybe Smith’s saying this to get in the head of Jones? Or, maybe he truly does believe that the “Bones” of today, is no more better than the man who choked out Machida back in 2011. One thing is certain, however, Smith has a chance tonight at recording one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.
UFC 235 will be hosted by the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.