Jon Jones’ Return To The Octagon May Happen Sooner Than Later: But Who Will He Face?

Jon Jones’ Return To The Octagon May Happen Sooner Than Later: But Who Will He Face?
Image ©Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Weber
Author:
Frank Weber
Updated: 
December 23rd 2022

Jon Jones hasn’t fought since February of 2020, yet here we are, almost three years later, and he’s still the center of attention. You can’t blame us for keeping him relevant–cheating scandals aside, he is one of the best fighters the MMA world has ever seen. His 14 title-fight wins are the most in UFC history, and the only blemish on his record (related to fighting) came as a disqualification against Matt Hamil, in a fight that Jones was only seconds away from winning. So, for all intents and purposes, his 26-1 (1) record is really 27-0 (1). So, of course, the MMA world is going to buzz when his name gets brought back up.

Rumors circled for months regarding his return to the octagon, with many MMA writers circling UFC 282 as his most likely return date. However, with UFC 282 only a few weeks away (and dealing with issues of its own) it has become clear that 282 is not the Jon Jones homecoming we so ever hoped it would be. 

So, the date is still unclear. However, we’re not at a complete loss– what’s becoming a bit more predictable is who he’d be facing in his return, and the names being thrown around are making MMA fans around the world lick their perspective chops. 

Who are these names, you ask? Well, let’s take a look. But before we do, just remember–none of these fights have been officially made yet. If they are officially booked, however, you can be sure to bet on them through any of these online sportsbooks. Personally, I use DraftKings Sportsbook for all of my MMA betting needs, but you are more than free to shop around and choose whichever one is best for you.

Possible Opponents For Jon Jones’ Heavyweight Debut

Francis Ngannou

The current UFC Heavyweight Champ, Ngannou is the clear fight to make when setting up Jones’ return. Stylistically, it’s excellent: a crafty, well-rounded Jones whos never been taken down in his MMA career goes up against the scariest man in all of combat sports–the pay-per-views practically sell themselves. 

What’s holding this matchup back, though, is something that has been holding Ngannou back for months: injury. Ngannou hasn’t fought since UFC 270, where he shocked the world by defeating challenger Ciryl Gane in rounds three, four, and five of their championship fight. Ngannou displayed excellent wrestling in that match, which is something that we’ve never seen from the heavy-handed striker. All that said, Ngannou’s title defense came at a cost–he severely injured his knee a few months before the fight, and only made it worse during the match, forcing him to undergo ACL and MCL surgery in the weeks after the fight.

Ngannou only started kicking again eight months after his surgery, so it’s still unclear as to whether or not Ngannou will be ready by UFC 285 (which is the new perspective fight-date for Jones’ return). In addition to his injury, Ngannou as the option to become a free agent in December, which means he may not even be on the UFC roster come 2023. So while Ngannou vs Jones is the fight we all want to see, it may not be the one we get–at least for now.

Curtis Blaydes

Blaydes came out of nowhere in terms of the Jones fight talks, but as each day passes, it seems more and more likely that Blaydes will be the man for the job come UFC 285. Blaydes is currently on a three-fight win streak, with his most recent win coming back in July 2022 against Tom Aspinall, who injured his knee during the match. 

Blaydes only has three losses in his career, two from Francis Ngannou and one from Derrick Lewis. All of his losses have come via KO/TKO, but that is not to suggest anything about his own striking capabilities–he has 7 wins via KO/TKO in his UFC career, and is one of the hardest-hitting fighters in the division. In addition to his heavy hands, Blaydes is regarded as one of the best wrestlers in the entire division. While he has never won a fight via submission, he is a heck of a takedown artist, and is a tough matchup for anyone in the division. 

While Blaydes would be no walk in the park for Jones, Jon is still considered a heavy favorite in the fight. 

Stipe Miocic

And last but not least, we have Stipe Miocic. Miocic has been the definition of MIA since he lost his belt to Francis Ngannou back in March of 2021. His return to MMA has been teased for months on end, but little to no leeway has been made in regard to his return.

When Jones first announced his move up to Heavyweight, this was the first fight that came to many people's heads. However, we don’t even know if he is training right now, let alone if he’s anywhere close to fighting shape.

This would be an instant classic if the UFC could make it work–the best Heavyweight Champ of all time taking on the best Light Heavyweight Champ of all time in a striking bout that would surely break some PPV records. However, in terms of the three names I listed, I think this one is the least likely to happen.

Well, those are three guys who could be facing off against Jones in his return to the Octogan. I’d also keep an eye on Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa, who are two guys that can sell the hell out of a fight, so the UFC couldn’t go wrong booking Jones against them either. At the end of the day, though, all we can do is wait. 

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