MacDonald on MMA: Decal to blame?

Jon Jones (Jack Dempsey/AP)

By now most UFC fans have seen – or at least heard about – the nasty injury Jon Jones suffered in his fight at UFC 159 last Saturday, in which he fractured his toe on the canvas. (Here’s an animated gif of the moment it broke, but fair warning, it’s not for the squeamish). Now I haven’t spoken to Jon, but watching the replay, I really believe that it was due to the advertising decals on the canvas. His toe must have had too much grip and gotten stuck on it, and as his foot rotated, his toe didn’t and it snapped.

The reason I believe this is because it’s almost identical to what happened with my foot when I broke my ankle in my UFC fight three years ago. After I threw a kick at John Salter, he started to fall on top of me, so my body rotated under the force, but instead of my foot moving with my body, it stayed put. My body turned, but my foot didn’t, got twisted and then the ankle snapped.

The UFC canvas is good, it’s not too grippy, but on the decals there’s a little extra traction. The decals are not in the fabric; they’re not painted on, they’re on top. So this might be something to look into, though I don’t know if there’s anything they can do because they offer millions of dollars in advertising. And there are hundreds of fights with no injuries; unfortunately, the few that do happen can be nasty.

These types of injuries happen in this sport, and actually a lot more than people think. I’ve seen a number of times where the bone didn’t break but instead the skin between the toes ripped right open because the toe got caught and didn’t move with the momentum of the body.

When we saw Jon’s toe afterward it looked horrible, but it made for an interesting ending to dominating fight. Not only did Jones dominate, but he did it with a busted toe. It sounds like he’ll have a quick recovery and it shouldn’t have any impact his fight career.

I know some people were surprised that he was able to continue and not be overwhelmed by pain. I can say that when I broke my ankle it was incredibly painful. But there’s a difference between the two. I broke both bones in the ankle and also tore all the ligaments. Jon broke a relatively small bone in his big toe. The adrenalin could certainly mask that pain at first, so it’s reasonable for him to not feel any excessive pain at that moment. But I guarantee you he felt some pain afterwards.

I’ve dislocated my toe before in training, and it was in somewhat similar fashion. I was grappling and my toe went in between two mats. While I rotated, the foot stayed. It wasn’t anywhere near as painful as when I broke my ankle.

Still it’s pretty amazing that Jon was able to do what he did with the broken toe. But I think it’s more about having that fighting spirit. Jones talked about being in the heat of the battle, and flipping that switch from nice guy to competitor mode, which Greg Jackson also talked about. That was a prime example.

But in the end it was a pretty one-sided fight. It was much less of a fight than I thought it was going to be. I don’t want to take anything away from Sonnen, but I think we all look at the first fight against Anderson Silva when he dominated him so badly for four and a half rounds and we base everything on that. I just don’t think we’ve seen the same Sonnen in subsequent fights.

Now I think we’ll see a real hard push from the UFC to make the Jones vs. Silva fight. I think a win for Jones there would really solidify his legacy. Silva has been the most dominant champion, but if Jones can dethrone Silva, that would be huge for him.

Alternatively the Alexander Gustafsson fight is hanging out there. That could be a tuneup fight in the meantime while waiting for the Silva vs. Chris Weidman fight to happen. I’m personally not crazy about Jones vs. Lyoto Machida. That ship kind of sailed already.

All in all, UFC 159 was another notch in Sonnen’s belt, with likely many more to come.

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