Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (pictured) needs to thank the heavens above that he fought Ovince St. Preux Saturday at UFC 197 instead of current 205-pound champ Daniel Cormier, as originally scheduled – if you were to ask UFC president Dana White and Cormier.
Although Jones posted a dominant (50-44, 50-45, 50-45) unanimous decision victory over the last-second replacement to capture the vacant interim UFC light heavyweight crown, he looked every bit of a rusty fighter who hadn’t stepped in the cage for over 15 months.
Cormier, who was sitting inches from the live action helping out with color commentary duties for the pay-per-view broadcast, was not impressed and wished he wouldn’t have had to pull out of the rematch with a leg injury. According to Cormier, if this is the new and improved Jon Jones that Jones has been boasting about in his countless Twitter and Instagram posts leading up to Saturday’s return, it might be new, but it’s certainly not improved.
“He got the job done,” Cormier said on FOX Sports 1’s post-fight show. “A lot of times, most guys, they don’t have their best performance, they lose. They don’t get it done. So it shows how special Jon is. That being said, [I’m] very disappointed that I didn’t get to compete tonight because I do believe that if he showed up in the form that he did tonight, or if this is the new Jon Jones, there’s no way that guy can beat me.”
White sided with Cormier in stating Jones lucked out with the late opponent change.
“Cormier’s dying right now, wishing it was him in there [tonight against Jones],” White said on Fox Sports 1’s post-fight show. “I’m a firm believer in ring rust, Jon Jones looked rusty tonight. And it was a really good thing for him that it was OSP tonight, the #6 ranked guy, and not Cormier because he was able to get some rounds under his belt in there and feel himself out, and now he knows what he’s got to do when he gets back in the gym.”
Saturday’s Jones appeared to be lightyears away from the “Bones” who utterly destroyed Cormier last January at UFC 182 to notch his UFC-record eighth consecutive light heavyweight title defense. A 15-month layoff that consisted of felony hit-and-run arrest, a temporary UFC suspension, having his belt stripped and another arrest for parole violation for drag racing certainly sucked some life out of Jones’ game.
While Jones admitted to being disappointed with his showing, he claimed at the post-fight press conference that he could still beat Cormier on his worst day, and if that was Saturday night, Cormier missed a golden opportunity to try and take advantage of a less-than stellar Jones.
“I believe I could beat Daniel Cormier right now,” Jones stated. “For sure, and I’m going to prove that as soon as possible.”
About that. Jones suffered shin and foot injuries during the bout and was being pushed around on a wheelchair backstage. His wounds aren’t expected to be serious. Cormier said he has a followup appointment with his doctor Wednesday. If he’s given clearance, he’ll start preparing for Jones immediately.
If Jones and Cormier are deemed healthy, it is believed the UFC will have the archenemies headline UFC 200 on July 9 to unify the light heavyweight throne.