Making a comeback in the UFC can be tough. The long layoff combined with the sport’s fast-changing nature can make a legend look like a has-been if they return at the wrong time or place. We’ve seen legends like B.J. Penn get clobbered in their returns. But others have flourished. And judging by most of the UFC predictions, Jones’s return should be a smashing success.
Following in Georges St-Pierre’s Footsteps?
Over five years ago, another “GOAT” (greatest of all time) returned from a lengthy layoff. Like Jones, this all-time great moved up in weight, won as a betting favorite, and became a two-division champion. It was George St-Pierre who defeated Michael Bisping in November of 2017.
On this date in 2017, Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year hiatus to fight then-middleweight champ Michael Bisping at UFC 217.
In what would be the final fight of his career, the long-time welterweight champ submitted Bisping to capture gold in a second weight class 🏆 pic.twitter.com/5v3VPCo7lC
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 4, 2020
St-Pierre, like Jones, took a beating in his last fight prior to this return. Johny Hendricks beat up “GSP” so badly many called his split decision victory a “robbery”. It’s not unlike Jones edging Dominick Reyes despite the latter taking the fight to Jones.
Now, Jones returns after three years as a favorite on the UFC betting odds against Ciryl Gane. The difference is that Gane, unlike Bisping, is a younger and fresher fighter. Bisping was somewhat shopworn after all the grueling battles he fought. After getting choked out by GSP, he retired after getting knocked out by Kelvin Gastelum.
But the fact remains that St-Pierre returned and won in emphatic fashion. After winning the belt, he would vacate it and then retire permanently. They say happy endings are unheard of in MMA. But GSP just had one.
Brock Lesnar Sticks It To Everyone
Speaking of a long layoff, former UFC champion Brock Lesnar shocked everyone by temporarily making a return to the promotion. It was UFC 200 and Lesnar was brought in to fight Mark Hunt despite a four-and-half-year hiatus from MMA. Lesnar had been performing in the WWE and got some “special” treatment from the UFC via the USADA testing (or lack thereof).
Of course, Lesnar was juiced and it came out in the post-fight testing results. The sportsbook then posted him as a sizable favorite to beat Hunt. It was the perfect matchup for Lesnar who was a far bigger fighter than Hunt. He took the “Super Samoan” down at will and pounded him out to an uncontested decision victory.
It did not matter that the results were ultimately overturned to a ‘No Contest’ due to Lesnar failing the drug-testing results. Those who bet online on Lesnar would have gotten their money anyhow and the “Beast Incarnate” had a brief but triumphant UFC return. Following the fight, he went on to win multiple world titles in the WWE where he is still active today.
Randy Couture Is the Ageless One
Should Jones beat Gane and capture the heavyweight title, he’d become the third fighter to win belts in the UFC’s heaviest divisions. His bitter rival, Daniel Cormier just did it a few years ago. But it was Randy Couture who first pulled off this feat.
“The Natural” was, in fact, a three-time heavyweight champion. His third and final reign as one was his most memorable as he returned from a one-year retirement and beat Tim Sylvia, who dwarfed him in comparison.
Couture opened as the underdog as most had Sylvia winning via their UFC picks. After all, Couture was 43 and barely 220 pounds while Sylvia was in his prime and had to cut down to 265 pounds.
The “old man” said “f— that” to all the skeptics as he dropped Sylvia and dominated him for five rounds. He captured the title and became the oldest fighter to win the heavyweight title. He defended it once before dropping it to Lesnar.
Remember that time the UFC let boxer James Toney fight Randy Couture? pic.twitter.com/0exAKd9W4R
— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) February 21, 2023
Jones Has Flourished in His “Comeback” Fights
Jones himself is no stranger to returning from layoffs. In fact, he’s done it three times in the UFC. He first pulled it off against Ovince Saint Preux, which was his first fight after a 16-month layoff. Jones easily defeated the similarly lanky opponent to capture the interim light heavyweight title.
However, Jones dropped the belt and got suspended for doping violations prior to a rematch with Cormier. He returned after a 15-month layoff and knocked out his archnemesis to remind everyone who the division’s true alpha dog was.
Of course, the UFC news repeated itself and Jones was again stripped and suspended for another failed drug test. This time, he returned from a 17-month hiatus to beat up another nemesis in Alexander Gustafsson.
So come this Saturday, Jones will look for another epic comeback as he makes it 4-0 when returning from a lengthy absence.