Will Jones reach be too much for Sonnen at UFC 159?

Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defends his title against Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 on April 27th at the Prudential Center in Newark. With a remarkable 11″ reach  difference between the two; is a Sonnen victory a stretch?

Champion Jones big favourite with Pinnacle Sports


UFC Light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones is the big 1.121* favourite to retain his title and inflict a 12th career defeat on Chael Sonnen.


Jones will be looking to inflict payback after the two fighters went head-to-head as coaches for Season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter” – Team Sonnen beat Team Jones in  the semi-finals resulting in an all-Team Sonnen final.


Bones (17-1-0) will be making a fifth defense of the title he won at UFC 128, with an unbeaten run that stretches eight bouts, while Sonnen arrives on the back of a  title fight defeat to Anderson Silva at UFC 148 – he is 0-3 in title fights between both the UFC and WEC.


Jones is still undefeated in open combat, with his only loss coming via disqualification against Matt Hamill. Despite dominating the fight, Jones was disqualified for  a downward elbow strike.


The two have been embroiled in a war of words after Jones rejected Sonnen the opportunity to fight as a replacement for Dan Henderson at UFC 152. After stating he  would never give Sonnen a title fight, it appears the challenger has ruffled the usually calm Jones enough until he relented.


Sonnen (27-12-1) will be fighting at light heavyweight for the first time since 2005, after spending the bulk of his career at middleweight. The 7.550* odds with Pinnacle Sports suggest the difficulty he faces with the adjustment in weight and the prospect of fighting the awesome Jones.


12″ reach advantage will cause problems


The champion will enter the cage at 6’4″ with a 3″ height advantage. And despite both men needing to meet the 205lbs weight limit, Jones is a big light heavyweight and  cuts a lot of weight to make the cut, while Sonnen is naturally smaller after spending most of his time at 185lbs.


The biggest advantage for Jones, however, is his remarkable reach. At 84.5″, the defending champion has a 12″ reach benefit over Sonnen. Many fighters and pundits alike  have argued that the advantage is simply too much of a benefit in the light heavyweight division, and Sonnen will be very aware of his reach handicap.


Chael has earned accolades as a fighter for having one of the best takedown games in the sport, however to get in close he must get past the arms of Jones. Coupled  with his abnormal reach, Jones utilises an unorthodox style of grappling that Sonnen has never dealt with before.


Who holds the striking advantage?


Jones holds a big advantage over his opponent in the striking department, with his reach, boxing and speed all superior to Sonnen’s.  The champion’s striking has  progressed impressively since making his debut, out-striking Mauricio Rua, Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida.


‘Bones’ has won 47% of his fights by KO and lands an impressive 3.93 strikes per minute with an accuracy of 52%. Defensively, Jones gets tagged 1.44 times per minute  and rebuffs an impressive 67% of his opponent’s attacks.


Despite possessing reasonable boxing skills, Sonnen has never been known for his striking ability. Just seven of the 36-year-old’s wins have come via KO – he lands  3.24 strikes per minute with 44% accuracy. Defensively the challenger absorbs just 0.96 strikes per minute and avoids 67% of his opponent’s strikes.


However, he has been knocked out three times in his career against Anderson Silva, Terry Martin and Jeremy Horn.


Grappling battle will be key


Despite both fighters being closely matched in terms of pure grappling, not many are better than challenger Sonnen. Renowned as a wrestler, Sonnen has a great ability  in taking his opponent to the mat.


So far the best wrestler Jones has faced is Rashad Evans – who only attempted four takedowns, all of which were unsuccessful. Sonnen will be busier, and will try and  suffocate Jones like he did against Anderson Silva for nearly five straight rounds at UFC 117.


Taking Jones down is no easy feat to accomplish, however – no one has ever been able to do it. Despite not facing anyone as aggressive as Sonnen, the likelihood of a  takedown is still slim. Jones is simply too large and too strong.


The fact that Jones is very capable at grappling also adds to the challenge for Sonnen. The 25-year-old averages 2.54 takedowns per 15 minutes with 64% accuracy,  compared to 3.94 takedowns and 60% accuracy by Sonnen.


For the 35-year-old to have a genuine chance of victory he will need to take this fight to the ground.


Sonnen could be forced to ‘tap’


Another mismatch. So far in his career Jones has won six fights by submission, including four of his last six fights, all of which come against top 10 ranked fighters.  Sonnen in comparison has lost eight of his 12 defeats by submission and has won only one by making his opponent tap.


The champion is busier, averaging 0.88 submission attempts every 15 minutes, while Sonnen averages just 0.26 attempts.


Both fighters will be in prime condition


Sonnen is renowned for being a fighter with great cardio and plenty of gas in his engine. The fact he won’t be cutting weight to make the fight will only add to that  perception.


The challenger has trained himself to fight at the same speed for five straight rounds, which will give Jones something different to consider.


Jones is no slouch when it comes to fighting for an extended period of time, but he’s never really been pushed to the brink. If the fight comes down to the judge’s  card, Sonnen’s ability to force the pace and grind his opponent down could be the difference-maker. Sonnen has won a remarkable 16 fights via decision compared to just  the three of Jones.


(Source: Pinnacle)




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