ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — ‘Bones’ heavily favored to defeat Sonnen
The past seven months, having managed to talk his way into a UFC light heavyweight title fight against Jon “Bones” Jones, the always colorful Chael Sonnen has alternately trashed and praised his opponent.
All the chatter hasn’t changed one thing. Jones, the champion, is a prohibitive favorite to retain his title when the two meet Saturday in UFC 159 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
That’s all the more reason, says Jones’ ground coach at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts, for his fighter to take this fight as seriously as any in his career.
“That’s a huge mistake,” says Greg Jackson, addressing those who see the 7 1/2-to-1 odds favoring Jones and dismiss Sonnen as a threat. “… People are like, ‘Oh, Sonnen doesn’t have any punching power.’ Well, he dropped (UFC middleweight champion) Anderson Silva, and to my knowledge he’s the only guy that’s dropped Anderson Silva.
“(Sonnen’s) got great wrestling, Olympic-level wrestling, and great ground-and-pound. So he is a legit, scary opponent, and we need to train for him like that.”
Jones seems to find his opponent amusing or irritating, depending on which Sonnen is talking, and appears to view his recent “The Ultimate Fighter” co-star as less than scary.
But, he says, anyone who tries to take his title belt can expect to have his full attention.
“I never feel overconfident, definitely not complacent,” Jones says. “I’m aware of defeat; I lose at something every day in practice, and that keeps me on my toes not to have it happen on fight night.”
Still, it’s easy to see why Jones is such a huge favorite.
Jones is making the fifth defense of the title he won in March 2011. He has lost in mixed-martial arts only once, that because of a rules violation in a fight he had dominated.
He’s 26 years old and, with a 17-1 record, probably hasn’t peaked yet.
Sonnen, in sharp contrast, has a 27-12-1 record. He’s 36 and has campaigned mainly as a middleweight (185 pounds), not as a light heavy (205). His credentials for a title shot at Jones, other than his gift for self-promotion, have been in question since the matchup was first proposed.
Yet, it’s a fight that Jones, in consultation with Jackson, once turned down.
In September, Jones was scheduled to defend his title against Dan Henderson in UFC 151. After Henderson was a late scratch because of an injury, and after Lyoto Machida turned down an opportunity to replace Henderson, UFC President Dana White turned to Sonnen.
No thanks – not on a week’s notice, said Jones and Jackson, noting that Sonnen’s style was drastically different from Henderson’s.
White, amid a string of obscenities, responded by canceling the show.
This time, Jones says, he’s had a full training camp focused on preparing for what Sonnen brings to the octagon.
“We’ve both been training for each other,” Jones says. “We’ve both had appropriate camps. I’m excited to fight him at his best, and he’ll be fighting me at my best.”
Does Sonnen’s best qualify him for this fight? Perhaps not, Jones says, but that’s showbiz.
“Chael doesn’t have the greatest record, but he has a huge following and he’s a statement maker,” Jones says. “People like to see him compete, so it’s safe to say it’s a fan fight.
“I’m excited to do that. Ultimately, every fight should be about the fans.”
Another fan favorite, Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Leonard Garcia, will fight on Saturday’s undercard.
Garcia (15-10-1), a featherweight, is scheduled to face Cody McKenzie (13-3).
The Garcia-McKenzie fight is on a portion of the undercard to be streamed on the UFC Facebook page, starting at 4:35 p.m.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal