Everyone wants to see a grudge match between rivals Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, especially for a title. It has been over a year since they last battled for five rounds, and in that time, Jones has been stripped of his light heavyweight title and Cormier has stepped into the void and taken the throne with wins over Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson.
With Jones apparently dedicating himself to a more disciplined and healthy lifestyle, and with all the intense trash talk between him and Cormier, their originally scheduled UFC 197 main event was an exciting prospect to look forward to.
Now, Cormier is out with an injury, and Jones faces Ovince Saint Preux, instead. It may not be the fight we were all looking forward to, but after being out of competition for over a year (and spending a couple brief stints in jail), it actually makes some sense to pair Jones with the type of top contender he's now facing at the last-minute instead of the division's champion.
Here are three reasons why OSP may be exactly the type of test Jones should have in his return bout:
1. His Size
The only time Jones arguably lost was when he faced Gustafsson. The Swede brings an array of skills to the table, but he also happened to be the first man "Bones" faced who had a similar reach to him, and it seemed to make a big difference.
Jones found himself within Gustafsson's reach at distances where he'd always been safe, in the past, and Gus busted his face up over five rounds. OSP has a pretty long reach that gets close to Jones' own record-breaking wingspan.
Saint Preux is long and has a big frame. He's just a big dude at light heavyweight, and when you pair that size and strength with his improving takedown defense, you realize that he could be a handful even for Jones. Distance is paramount in fights.
Jones hasn't fought in a long time, so he'll already have an uphill battle to get his timing and sense of range sharp once he steps into the Octagon at UFC 197. With an opponent who is almost as long as him, it could be an even trickier challenge.
2. His Speed
A former NCAA Division I football player, OSP closes distance fast. Real fast, with big punches at the end of his forward charges.
Furthermore, he can also be deceivingly fast. Saint Preux can sometimes move around in a little bit of a plodding way, but then he'll suddenly flip a switch and hit a burst, attacking his opponents.
If Jones' timing is off even a fraction of a second, OSP has the physical tools to make him pay for it and surprise him.
3. His Punching Power
Jon Jones matches up favorably against OSP (and pretty much the rest of the world) because of his wrestling. Ultimately, he should be able to get this fight where he wants it -- either keeping it on the feet or taking it to the ground - because of his takedown ability.
OSP doesn't go or stay down easy, however, and whenever you're not glued to him, he has a chance at knocking you out cold, no matter you who you are. Saint Preux will be a knockout threat for the entire fight, and that is never something that should be taken lightly.