MANILA, Philippines -- Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is already preparing for his 2012 campaign after finishing one of the most historic years in mixed martial arts.
Jones went 4-0 in the UFC in 2011, battering former contender Ryan Bader before defeating Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to win the light heavyweight belt. He subsequently defended his title two times, beating former champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida by submission.
One of Jones' trainers, Mike Winkeljohn, is already considering potential opponents for Jones next year. Among those who are in line to challenge the champion are Dan Henderson, Phil Davis, and Jones' former friend Rashad Evans.
"They all present different challenges," Winkeljohn told Sherdog.com. "I'm not sure which one's the biggest."
Winkeljohn said that the veteran Henderson, nicknamed "Hendo," may pose problems because of his advantage in terms of experience, as well as his vaunted right hand.
"Dan's big right hand is always a big challenge. He's somebody that could be able to close that gap and find a hole and try to get to Jon's chin," Winkeljohn said.
But Winkeljohn added that Henderson will not be able to outwrestle Jones and possesses no other physical advantage over the reigning champion. "I think Jon beats him everywhere," he added.
Winkeljohn did not sound concerned about Davis, who is undefeated through 5 fights in the UFC. The trainer said Davis was a "tremendous wrestler," but in terms of stand-up skills, he cannot match Jones.
"I think Jon kills Phil Davis with his stand-up," Winkeljohn added.
Evans, a former light heavyweight champion, is perhaps the fighter who stands the biggest chance of upsetting Jones. Evans and Jones trained together for a while before suffering a falling out, and Evans has repeatedly said that he has what it takes to beat Jones. '
"I think Rashad Evans is probably capable of closing the gap, if he wants to, faster than anybody out there in trying to strike with Jon," Winkeljohn acknowledged.
"I think (Jones is) prepared to fight Rashad. I think mentally, I don't have a problem with where his head's at with Rashad. He believes in his heart he can beat Rashad," he added.
Winkeljohn is confident that whoever Jones ends up facing, the defending champion will be more than capable of retaining his title.
"I think against all of them, Jon's got the ability to just pick them apart from long range, like he has with all of his other fights, and break them down and then finish the fight when it's time," he said.