UFC on Versus 2 Preview: Jon Jones, the Autodidact of Mixed Martial Arts

I posted earlier this week about Greg Jackson's approach to coaching Jon Jones. One of the most interesting aspects of Jackson's approach is his willingness…

By: Nate Wilcox | 13 years ago
UFC on Versus 2 Preview: Jon Jones, the Autodidact of Mixed Martial Arts
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I posted earlier this week about Greg Jackson’s approach to coaching Jon Jones. One of the most interesting aspects of Jackson’s approach is his willingness to give Jones a very wide open game plan with a LOT of options. But Dave Walsh is concerned lest Jackson’s approach will hamper Jones against Matyushenko:

Greg Jackson’s camp is a camp for winners, no doubt, but has also come under scrutiny for being a rather cautious and at times “boring” camp. The argument for this being beneficial for Jones is that Greg Jackson himself is a self-taught martial artist. Gaidojutsu is made up, it didn’t exist before Greg Jackson watched a few Judo and BJJ instructional videos and added those holds to his wrestling base. Sound familiar? Of course, with Jackson, everything has become so precise and formulaic now that it is hard to argue that the same level of innovative spirit exists within him. The point, though, is that Jackson understands this energy and could help Jones harness it.

On the other hand, think of Jones right now like a chunk of clay, still forming. Greg Jackson’s strict training and gameplans could be throwing Jones right into the kiln then just putting on layers of glaze without letting Jones take the shape he really could be. Many make the argument of raw clay stilll being raw clay and needing to be formed quickly and made to follow the rules to build up a solid base. For some people, there doesn’t need to be a strong base, they already understand and learn and grow at their own pace. I’m just not sure if Jon Jones needs “tweaking” or a coat of paint right now as much as he needs his own space to explore and do what he feels he needs to grow.

It’s an interesting point and one to consider seriously, especially since we’ve seen Georges St Pierre evolve into an ever more cautious and ever less entertaining fighter under Jackson’s mentoring.

But the discussion has made me do more research on just how self-taught Jones really is. Everyone knows he competed in Greco-Roman wrestling at the junior college level, but that’s clearly not where he learned the array of judo throws and spinning elbow strikes he’s unleashed in the Octagon.

It’s interesting to me that Jones, of all the new talent to emerge in the last couple of years, appears to be the most serious student of the game with the exception of Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Ironically, Jones’ free-wheeling everything and the kitchen sink style, is the polar opposite of King Mo’s dance-with-the-one-who-brung-you/keep-it-simple-stupid take down and ground and pound style. Both guys are whip smart and serious students of MMA, and yet one is a total radical in the cage and the other couldn’t be more conservative.

Someday we may get to see Jones and King Mo lock up. This Sunday’s bout with Vladimir Matyushenko, himself a stolid conservative wrestling-based fighter, could be a preview of how that bout will go, at least stylistically.

Be sure and “bone up” on Jones’ technique by reading The Judo Chops of Jon Jones.

More on Jones’ learning secrets in the full entry.

Here’s an interview with the Las Vegas Sun where he talks about the reading he did to prepare for Brandon Vera and learning Judo moves off the Internet:

“I bought a book that talked about fighting in your core and fighting a smart fight,” Jones said. “Fighting Brandon Vera, I knew he’s a great striker and I was preparing for it.

“When I read that book I realized, there’s no need to strike in this fight. I’ve been a wrestler since I was 14 years old. Why go out and have a Muay Thai fight with somebody who might be better than me?”

Widely regarded as an unorthodox and unpredictable fighter, Jones has built his style based on what he’s learned in the gym from instructors and what he’s taught himself using methods like YouTube.

While it’s known that Jones comes from a Greco-Roman wrestling background, he’s evolved that style into his own by combining it with moves he’s picked up from studying judo on the Internet.

“A lot of the moves I’m performing aren’t actually Greco-Roman, they’re judo,” Jones said. “You can’t use a trip in Greco-Roman. I don’t have an official judo coach but I’ve been, it sounds weird, getting on the Internet and watching a lot of Judo moves. I take it seriously.”

Here he is talking to Ben Fowlkes about developing his striking game via You Tube:

“The gym I train at is a really small gym, a lot of wrestlers, so I didn’t have a striking coach until this last fight,” Jones said. “I had to teach myself how to strike. I would study a lot of videos on YouTube, or go to different websites where I could watch old Pride fights. I just became obsessed with MMA and watched videos over and over again. I learned the moves and took them to practice and started using them. Before I knew it I was considered a pretty good striker.

“YouTube videos can really teach you a lot. It depends how you search for them. If you look really hard, you can find videos of seminars from some of the best fighters in the world. It’s just a matter of taking them seriously.”

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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