In the days leading up to UFC 197, the “Conor McGregor vs. UFC” dispute has represented the most talked about subject in the MMA stratosphere. While anything involving Conor McGregor is entertaining, it appears that nobody is thinking twice about the tantalizing main-event of UFC 197 between the P4P #1 Jon “Bones” Jones, and unheralded but extremely dangerous light-heavyweight contender Ovince Saint Preux.
Stakes are high for each UFC 197 headliner, with Jones returning from a 15-month layoff, marching towards regaining the title he never lost in the octagon, and OSP clamoring to prove his legitimacy as an elite light-heavyweight in the UFC.
While this is a high-risk fight for Jones, the majority of MMA analysts are considering this fight to be a “showcase” fight for Jones, with OSP as the sacrificial body. The question that has to be asked is, does OSP have a punchers ‘chance?
OSP’s physical attributes cannot be understated going into this match-up, with an 80-inch reach and top-tier athleticism, he is virtually the most physically gifted opponent of Jones to this point. OSP truly puts his athleticism on display in the wrestling scrambles, where he can get out of rudimentary positions relying largely on athleticism. Against high-level wrestler Patrick Cummins, he got taken down multiple times but only stayed on the mat for a short period of time as he managed to scramble quickly and get back up to his feet. But the main hole in his grappling is his takedown defense. He got taken down repeatedly by Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader, and Patrick Cummins.
His inability to stop takedowns saps his energy and forces him to fight off of his back, which isn’t his strong suit.
Offensively, his ground-and-pound from top position is brutal. With such a long reach, OSP can generate a great deal of leverage in a tight space. In his TKO finish against Cody Donovan, he uses his monstrous reach to rain down heavy punches from top position.
He also possesses potent striking power, nearly finishing Glover Teixeira with a roundhouse body kick, and knocking out Patrick Cummins and Shogun Rua with counter left-hand bombs.
OSP prefers to stay on the outside and within kicking range due to his long limbs and his ability (or lack thereof) in the pocket. If you had to categorize him as a striker, he would be considered a southpaw counter-puncher who prefers power over volume. His favored strikes include the left-straight, left roundhouse kick, left snap-kick, and an overhand-left.
OSP began training MMA relatively late in life compared to the majority of professional fighters, and this shows in a few areas. His punching mechanics are not in the least bit crisp, commonly throwing wild, looping blows. This is due in part to his lackluster cardio. As you can tell, his technique is already starting to wane only halfway through the 1st round.
His overall octagon generalship and fight IQ will be his pitfall against Jones, who by all accounts has supreme intelligence inside the cage.
St. Preux will gamble on the feet and on the mat attempting to finish the fight, consequently putting himself in a disadvantageous position. In the 1st round of his fight against Patrick Cummins, he’s controlling the stand-up battle but has already gotten taken-down 3 times in the first few minutes of the fight. He is doing well in a particular exchange in the middle of the round, but throws an unnecessary short spinning back kick and gives up his back to a great wrestler in the process.
In his highest profile fight to date versus Glover Teixeira, he hurts Glover with a thunderous roundhouse kick to the body and with Glover’s back against the cage, he telegraphs another body kick instead of being patient with his strikes. This results in a take-down with OSP on the bottom and Teixeira regaining his wits on top.
The blueprint to beat OSP has been shown in his fights against Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira: make OSP lead on the feet, take him down repeatedly, grind him out until has no more scrambles left in him, and pressure him until he runs out of gas.
OSP is undoubtedly a less-skilled martial artist than Jones in every facet of the game. But as a heavy underdog who has nothing to lose, and a physical specimen with surefire KO power, OSP is getting overlooked and has a punchers chance to get the job done on April 23rd.