Talk of the long-awaited return of Jon Jones is once again heating up with rumors that the UFC is aiming for a heavyweight title fight in March at UFC 285.
Reigning UFC heavyweight titleholder Francis Ngannou has been on the shelf since January, taking time off to have knee surgery following his first and only heavyweight title defense against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. With ‘The Predator’ engaged in a very public contract dispute with the promotion, many felt that Ngannou’s time away from the Octagon would allow the two parties to come to terms on a new contract. Unfortunately, that has not been the case according to Francis Ngannou.
With the standoff still strong between the two, Dana White and the company have developed a contingency plan if recent reports are to be believed. Should Francis Ngannou opt to move on from the UFC, No. 3 ranked heavyweight Curtis Blaydes is slated to step up and face Jon Jones for the heavyweight championship.
Discussing both possibilities alongside former UFC and Bellator standout Josh Thomson, ‘Big’ John McCarthy shared his thoughts on a potential bout between Jon Jones and Curtis Blaydes on the Weighing In podcast.
“If Jon Jones comes back and fights Francis Ngannou, that’s awesome,” said McCarthy. “That means Francis has signed a new contract with the UFC and he’s gonna be under their domain for a while and that’s fine. If they don’t sign Francis and he ends up going somewhere else, you’re bringing in Curtis Blaydes. That’s a great matchup in the heavyweight division for Jon. It’s someone that… Curtis has looked super good in the wrestling aspect. His stand-up has gotten really good. He’s long. Big guy.”
Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones targeted for UFC 285 on Mar. 4 in LV. If Ngannou isn’t healthy by then, the UFC will target Jones vs Curtis Blaydes. pic.twitter.com/6ze7VjvxsK
— FullCombat (@FullCombat_) November 22, 2022
When Jon Jones returns to the Octagon, it will be more than three years removed from his last appearance at UFC 247. Now 35, Jones will be returning in a brand new weight class following a lengthy layoff. Those factors are more than enough to make Josh Thomson question whether or not we will see the same Jon Jones that we have grown accustomed to.
“This is definitely going to be an unpopular opinion, what I’m about to say,” Thomson said. “Curtis Blaydes to me is the tougher fight. Not the more dangerous fight. The tougher fight.
“Curtis Blaydes has more tools, more weapons, and will give Jones a little bit of a fit in the wrestling area. Maybe not enough to make him work hard. I think he will, I just don’t want to overcompensate. I have small hands. That’s what I do around here. I’m just seriously trying to say here that Curtis Blaydes can wrestle him. Can stand with him a little bit. Doesn’t want to get carried away on the feet, but what we’re not taking into consideration, Jon Jones may not have the conditioning that we all think at the heavyweight division.
“He may be a little bit where he may slow down. He is getting older and this has been three years off. He’s not old, but he’s been off for three years. That initial fight pace. That initial getting in there. You’re fighting at a faster pace than you can train at.”
Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes is an impressive 12-3 inside the Octagon with his only losses coming against heavy-hitter Derek Lewis and to Francis Ngannou on two separate occasions, including his UFC debut. He holds notable victories over Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Currently, Blaydes is riding a three-fight win streak capped off by a first-round TKO against Tom Aspinall in July.