Jon Jones is set to defend his light heavyweight championship at UFC 235 this Saturday against Anthony Smith. There is no question Jones is the huge favorite, but that doesn’t mean Jones isn’t worried.
After all, this is a fight and anything can happen. Furthermore, Jones claims he took Alexander Gustafsson lightly in their 2013 fight, and nearly lost the title as a result. Thus, Jones and his head coach Mike Winkeljohn know they can’t make that mistake again.
“The first Gustafsson fight, we didn’t know how good he is and Jon could have trained a lot harder than the first fight,” Winkeljohn said to BJPENN.com. “He trained much harder for the second fight. We do not want to make the same mistake with Anthony Smith and we will make sure we are well prepared. We have to understand that this man has a lot of talent.”
Not only is Jones training hard for this fight, but he is also studying tape. According to Winkeljohn, Jones understands how good Smith is.
“That is actually scary, where everyone thinks you will win. That will make it a competitive fight, and those are the fights to worry about,” he said. “He has nothing to lose, and he will throw everything and the kitchen sink at Jon. If you watch his fights, he has a tendency to come back late in the fights. He is a survivor, he is tough. He weathers the storm and comes back. He’s good at counter-punching.”
According to Winkeljohn, the actual preparation for this UFC 235 fight is now over. Fight week is here, and it is all about the weight cut and fine-tuning the small details of Jones’ game.
As this fight draws nearer, some fans are worried Jones is returning too quickly after his December rematch with Gustafsson. Yet apparently that was precisely the plan. Jones has kept his nose to the grindstone since then, and has apparently improved leaps and bounds in the last few months.
“March was a perfect time. It kept Jon in the gym and staying focused. He was the one who wanted to say he wanted to get back in there,” Winkeljohn explained. “After the fight, it seemed like there was a new mature Jon Jones. We are seeing a resurgent of Jon Jones who is only getting better. First off, it is Jones’ IQ. He watches a lot of fight tape, and him doing more reps only makes him better. He’s learning new things and that is kind of scary.”
UFC 235 is almost upon us, and Winkeljohn is confident Jon Jones will win the fight and hear ‘And Still.’
“Jon fights best when he has that big rivalry or big test in front of him,” he concluded. “The fear makes Jon fight better and get more focused.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/25/2019.