A worthy challenge to Jones?

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Is Chael Sonnen worthy of challenging UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, or is the UFC 159 main event a waste of Jones (and fans') time?

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SONNEN IS UNFIT
CHAEL IS GAME

Little intrigue involved

Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
Archive

The expectation game determines plenty when it comes to fight promotion.

It's obvious Jon Jones expects very little from Chael Sonnen when they step in the Octagon this Saturday.

So, do tell, why should we feel different?

On SportsCenter Tuesday, Jones summed up what he thinks of his latest challenger. Asked to respond to Sonnen's unfolding attempt at selling the fight, which essentially boils down to talking about himself in pro-wrestling-pitched tongues, the 25-year-old UFC light heavyweight champion, arguably the best mixed martial artist on the planet, was clear enough:

"He can't back up anything he says."

This didn't even come off like a dig. Just fact. Because when you bother to think about it, how real a threat is Sonnen to Jones?

(Take another couple of seconds to respond.)

Right.

So isn't it fair to wonder what this pay-per-view headlining tilt in Newark is worth? To us, of course, but most especially to Jones.

Sonnen's stake is clear. Here's a guy with no legitimate claim to the UFC light heavyweight belt getting a chance. It's all upside for the loquacious one.

The upside for Jones is less clear. Mainly, I think, because there isn't one. Best case scenario: He destroys Sonnen in the first round, as most expect he will, ties Tito Ortiz's record for most title defenses at 205, and moves on to the next act. Ho-hum. Anything else would reflect poorly on him and his designs of being the greatest fighter of all time.

Jones doesn't need to improve to beat Sonnen, just show up in shape. It's like Gilbert Melendez spending the past couple of years prepping to fight instead of working to get better because opponents didn't force him to.

Sonnen won't require Jones to be his best, so in that way the experience is regressive. Failing to improve is essentially the same as declining.

Sure, Jones is young. Sure, he doesn't yet have 20 fights to his name. Sure, navigating through the Sonnen circus may have the benefit of augmenting Jones' focus and patience. Sure, there's good to be found in every moment, even farcical ones.

But on the whole, Chael Sonnen represents a giant waste of Jon Jones' time and talent. UFC 159's main event is a waste of time and money for fans.

When the best-case scenario can't take a person beyond their status quo, what value is there in the experience?

Sonnen a solid test

Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
Archive

Listen, in no way am I even close to a fan of Jon Jones versus Chael Sonnen.

There are exactly 16 UFC fighters (eight heavies, five light heavies and three middles) I'd rather watch fight Jones this weekend than Sonnen. I just counted and the total was actually less than I expected.

But to say the UFC 159 main event (not to mention the camp, reality show and everything else associated with it) is a total waste of the great Jon Jones' time? That's getting a little carried away.

For starters, it completely overlooks what Sonnen has accomplished as a martial artist. Is he the true No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division? No. Is he the reigning, undisputed middleweight champion, as he has claimed? Of course not.

Is he a can, though? This is the same guy who came within 110 seconds of beating Anderson Silva in 2010. In his most recent fight, a rematch against Silva last July, true he lost -- after beating Silva again in the first round. Does he have a decent shot at defeating Jones? Probably not. But does he have nothing to offer? Come on.

Clearly, he's got something to offer in the eyes of Jones' coach, Greg Jackson. It was Jackson who told Jones prior to the cancelation of UFC 151 that fighting Sonnen on eight days' notice would be "the biggest mistake of his career." Whatever Jackson wanted Jones to learn before he fought Sonnen, he has learned it by now.

And let's not forget the sport we're discussing here. One could argue Jones' last fight was a "waste" of his talents.

Actually, some did. He fought a middleweight, Vitor Belfort, who accepted the fight on short notice. Jones opened as an unheard of 13-1 betting favorite -- and nearly lost in the first round via armbar.

Did Jones learn anything in that fight? My guess is he did. So, in terms of Sonnen, did Jones learn anything from spending time in a reality show setting with a trash-talking opponent? Will he take anything away from a fight against a fast, pressure-oriented opponent who fought the best fighter in the world (twice)? My guess is he will.

And all this doesn't even mention the fact that Jones is 25 years old. He has his entire career ahead of him. It's not as if the guy has two fights left and we're sacrificing one of them.

This weekend's fight against Sonnen is not a blockbuster. They can't all be. To label the past six months of his career a black hole that meant nothing just because he's fighting Chael Sonnen?

Seems a little dramatic, doesn't it?

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