- Hardy believes Jones could be motivated by Adesanya challenge.
- Adesanya could exploit holes if Jones cruises against him.
- Adesanya will be a 'much more serious threat' by the time he faces Jones.
UFC analyst Dan Hardy believes Israel Adesanya certainly has a chance in a super fight against Jon Jones.
Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 this Saturday in Las Vegas. Many observers believe it will be his toughest matchup yet given Romero’s pedigree. However, if he comes through it with flying colors, the attention will eventually turn to Jones with the pair seemingly destined to collide in the future.
Although it’s an intriguing fight, some have written off Adesanya’s chances given that “Bones” is simply the more experienced and bigger man with superior wrestling skills.
But for Hardy, his perspective changed especially after seeing Jones’ most recent title defense against Dominick Reyes last month — a close five-round war which many felt the decision should have gone the challenger’s way.
“Yes, it did a lot,” Hardy told Submission Radio when asked if the Reyes fight changed how he felt a Jones vs. Adesanya fight would go. “And Adesanya actually talked about it on the stage in Auckland. I think he felt like Jon Jones kind of showed a slowing of his game in that fight. I don’t think necessarily think that’s the right phrasing for it, I don’t think Jon Jones is slowing down necessarily, but I certainly feel like he doesn’t really identify many challenges in his division and I’m not sure whether it’s challenging him enough to keep raising his game like he was in his early years.
“I think maybe Adesanya stepping up as a real challenge and a real threat would kind of… what was it that Jon Jones kept saying which was really weird? Tickle his pickle or something? I think it might be the right thing to get him fired up and really prepared for a fight.”
Jones has shown to step up his game when the stakes are high and when his opponent is a big and popular name.
But even then, Hardy would still give “The Last Stylebender” a shot against a fighter many consider the greatest of all time — especially with how much Adesanya will have improved by that point.
“But I absolutely give Adesanya a chance in that,” Hardy added. “If we see the Jon Jones that we’ve seen for the last couple of fights, that, you know, he doesn’t seem as confident as he used to be, doesn’t seem as confident in throwing his hands like he used to. Like, you think back to Rashad Evans fight or his [Glover] Teixeira fight where he’s like, he’s just stepping into the breach with elbows and just smashing people up. That takes a confidence to do that. And I think that [Alexander] Gustafsson scared the scrap out of him a little bit in those first couple of rounds and it changed his game a bit. I mean, he was fortunate to get away with the win in that one. But you remember what happened with Matt Serra and GSP. That changed GSP’s approach to things.
“And I do think if you just change Jon Jones’ approach a little bit, I think you look at the [Thiago] Santos fight — I feel like he could have stopped Santos, especially with that knee injury. I feel like he probably could have got Anthony Smith out of there. Anthony Smith’s incredibly tough, but when there’s nothing coming back at you, there’s no reason not to put your foot on the gas.
“So, I think he has cruised a little bit, and I think if he tries to cruise against Adesanya, there’s a lot of holes in his game that Adesanya could exploit with feints and head movements. And the reality is, by the time Adesanya gets to that stage, if he beats Romero and maybe somebody else afterwards, we’re going to be thinking about him as a much more serious threat to anybody that he fights, including Stipe [Miocic].”