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19th May 2019

Lazy GOAT’s: UFC. #3 – Jon Jones

Jon Jones at the weigh ins ahead of his fight with Daniel Cormier in 2017.

In the third instalment of a series we’re running, I take a look at my top five fighters in UFC history. I’ll be assessing their career, listing their achievements, and then hoping to persuade you as to why they belong in this list. It’s going to be a controversial one, but who doesn’t love a bit of drama.

Note: This list will only include fighters that have competed under the UFC banner – so no Fedor.

Jon ‘Bones’ Jones

Age: 31

Status: Active

Weight Class: Light Heavyweight

Record: 23-1-1

Key Stat: Youngest champion in UFC history

Early Days

I don’t think you see many fighters start out their careers in the way that Jon Jones did. After becoming a state champion wrestler in high school, Jones decided to progress towards a career in MMA. His first fight took place at FFP: Untamed 20. The fight was way back in April 2008, winning just over a minute and a half into the first round by knockout. From there Jones rattled off a ridiculous number of fights in a short space of time, fighting five more times within three months, amassing a 6-0 record in the process.

In his sixth professional fight Jones claimed his first championship, at just 21 years old, winning the USKBA Light Heavyweight championship via TKO in the first round. After this fight, the young star was handed a short notice fight in the UFC against Andre Gusmao. Taking the fight on two weeks notice, Jones put in an impressive showing, able to take his opponent down at will and displayed his unorthodox elbow and spin strikes. He would take a unanimous decision win, which would set him up for a fight with veteran Stephan Bonnar in early 2009.

Jones would win this fight against Bonnar in similar fashion to his first, again showcasing an impressive ability to take fighters down, and proving to be a challenge on the feet with his spinning strikes. Despite tiring slightly in the third round, Jones was able to grind out the unanimous decision victory.

His next fight would be against Jake O’Brien, who had recently moved down to 205 lbs from heavyweight. Jones withstood a number of takedown attempts from his opponent, finding his range on the feet and keeping a safe distance. Eventually Jones landed a spinning elbow on the top of O’Brien’s head as he shot for a takedown, then able to secure a modified guillotine choke to secure his first stoppage win in the UFC.

Rise to the top

After this, Jones would be booked against impressive young fighter Matt Hamill. At this point Jones was 9-0, including going 3-0 in the UFC. Once again he would dominate the fight, never really looking in trouble, however he was eventually disqualified for the use of multiple 12-6 elbows. It was a confusing end to the fight, as Jones was originally penalised a point from the round for the strikes, however Hamill was then unable to continue due to a shoulder injury. As a result of this, Jones was disqualified for the 12-6 strikes (despite these making contact with Hamill’s face, not his shoulder) as the judges were not able to deduct the point from Jones at the end of the round.

Despite this setback the talent that Jones possessed was still very much obvious, and he was booked to take on Brandon Vera. This fight would be the first time that Bones would headline a card for the UFC, and he did not disappoint. Winning the fight via TKO, following a spinning elbow that connected flush, with a number of follow up strikes. The spinning elbow that Jones landed broke Vera’s face in three different places.

Taking on former IFL Light Heavyweight champion Vladimir Matyushenko in his next fight, Bones had been informed by Dana white that he would face a step up in competition if he was to win this fight. Jones would knock out the Russian fighter in the first round with his patented elbow strikes. After the fight he demanded a matchup with someone from the top three.

Youngest UFC champion

It was reported after the fight with Matyushenko, and confirmed by both Jon Jones and Dana White, that Bones would be taking on the winner of Lyoto Machida vs Ryan Bader. With Bader coming out on top, Jones was booked to face him at UFC 126, his opponent was still undefeated at the time.

It was a very highly anticipated fight, as both fighters were still undefeated inside the Octagon (while Jones has a loss on his record, it came via disqualification). The fight didn’t last long however, as Jones would submit Bader in the second round, after dominating the fight. It would bring Jones his first submission of the night award.

Following this fight, Jones was informed by UFC commentator and announcer (while still in the Octagon) that his training partner Rashad Evans had been forced to pull out of his scheduled fight with Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio Rua, and he would be stepping in as his replacement.

The showdown between the young challenger and veteran champion took place in March 2011, at UFC 128, just over a month after Jones had defeated Bader. Jones would dominate Shogun throughout the fight, rocking him with an early flying knee before ending the fight with body strikes and a knee to the head. The referee stepped in to award Jones a victory by TKO.

Jones was then expected to take on former friend and teammate Rashad Evans for his first title defence (their relationship deteriorated after Jones won the title). Bones would pull out of the fight with an injured hand, instead making his first title defence against Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson at UFC 135. Jones defeated the veteran by submission in the fourth round (the first time Rampage had been submitted in his career).

His next title defence was once again expected to be against Evans, however a lingering thumb injury forced the contender to pull out of the fight. Jones instead faced former champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 in December 2011. Machida managed to rock Jones in the first round, the first time that we had seen Jones in real danger during his MMA career, however he was able to recover during the fight, securing an incredibly impressive standing guillotine victory in the fourth round.

Early Controversies and Complacency

Following his victory over Machida, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans would finally have their long awaited grudge match at UFC 145 in April 2012. Jones would dominate the fight, winning by unanimous decision, and squashing the rivalry with his former teammate.

It was announced that his next opponent would be Dan Henderson, and the fight was expected to take place at UFC 151. However Hendo was forced to pull out of the fight on short notice, with Chael Sonnen lined up as a replacement.

Sonnen and Henderson have very different fighting styles. While Henderson is more of the ‘stand and bang’ type fighter, Sonnen is a well established grappler. It was for this reason that Jones refused the short notice fight, which led to UFC 151 being cancelled. It was the first time a champion refusing a fight had caused a fight card to be cancelled. It wouldn’t be the last time that Jones would cause the UFC a last minute booking headache.

Originally Jones was booked in a rematch against Lyoto Machida at UFC 152, however Machida refused the fight, citing not having enough time to prepare as his reason. Jones was instead booked to take on another former Light Heavyweight champion, Vitor Belfort.

Belfort almost managed to defeat Jones in the first round, locking in a deep armbar, which Jones only just managed to escape (though I’m still not sure quite how he managed to do it). It was by far the closest that Jones had come to losing a fight at that point in his career, and would later admit that he hadn’t been training or keeping on top of his ju-jitsu, which allowed him to get into that position in the first place. Ultimately Jones would submit Belfort just under a minute into the fourth round.

It was the first sign that the dominant champion was beginning to turn a little complacent, and this would only become more obvious in future fights. In his next bout Jones would take on Chael Sonnen, however massively downplayed the fight to the media and in press conferences, often explaining that he didn’t see Sonnen as a true challenger. It turns out that Jones was right, as he secured a TKO victory over the challenger in the first round, tying the record for most consecutive defences of the Light Heavyweight championship.

Gustafsson and Cormier

A fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson was hyped to the moon and back, with the pair headlining the UFC’s first major video game since the early 2000’s. The fight was booked for UFC 165, in September 2013, and became an instant classic. Jones has since admitted that he underestimated his opponent, and did not correctly prepare for the bout, however Gustafsson provided the biggest test of Jones’ career to that point.

Jones was cut above the eye early in the first round, however would return the favour to Gustafsson as both fighters would finish the fight battered, bruised and bloody. The result would be a controversial unanimous decision in favour of Jones, and is something that is still hotly contested amongst MMA fans to this day. The fight was so intense that both men were taken to the hospital after the fight to be treated for their injuries. If you haven’t already seen it, make sure to go and watch it.

After this fight Jones was scheduled to take on Glover Teixeira, and after the fight was rescheduled a number of times, they finally met at UFC 172, as Jones would go on to comfortably win the fight by unanimous decision, not dropping a single round on any scorecards.

Dana White then wished to schedule a rematch between Jones and Gustafsson, even going as far as to announce that the fight would take place at UFC 177 in Las Vegas. It was later revealed however that Jones was not interested in a rematch with Gustafsson, and would prefer to take on Daniel Cormier.

It was later announced that the bout between Jones and Gustafsson would be going ahead at UFC 178, however Gustafsson was forced to pull out of the bout due to a torn meniscus, leading to the undefeated Daniel Cormier stepping in as his replacement. Jones was then forced to pull out of this matchup with a knee injury and the fight was rescheduled for UFC 182 in January 2015.

There was a lot of bad blood between Cormier and Jones, which came to a head in a promotional event when the fight was still booked for UFC 178. During a faceoff, Jones would press his forehead against Cormier’s, in response Cormier pushed the champion, and Jones responded by throwing a punch at the challenger. Both men were restrained by UFC officials and their coaching teams, however it was yet another glimpse of what was to come for Jon Jones.

It was also revealed a month before the fight that Jon Jones had tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a primary metabolite of cocaine. While this is not a banned substance, Jones was fined for violating the UFC’s Athlete Code of Conduct policy. This would be the base for Jones’ later claims, ahead of a rematch with Cormier, that he beat him after a weekend of cocaine.

Jones would eventually defeat DC at UFC 182, taking a unanimous decision win, only dropping one round to his undefeated challenger. He also became the first man to take down the former Olympic wrestler in his MMA career, attempting a number of takedowns in a bid to become that man.

Hit-and-run, failed drug tests, and everything in between

I could write an entire article, perhaps two, on the number of mistakes Jones has made in his career. But for the sake of keeping things simple, here’s a timeline of events that lead us to where we are today:

  • April 27 2015, Jon Jones is involved in a hit-and-run incident, it is later revealed the woman that he hit was pregnant, and Jones himself was high on cocaine
  • Jones was stripped of his UFC championship, removed from the rankings and suspended indefinitely by the UFC
  • September 29 2015, Jon Jones enters a guilty plea and is sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation
  • October 23 2015, Jon Jones’ UFC suspension is lifted and he is returned to the active roster
  • Jones is booked for a rematch with now UFC Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 197 in 2016, however Cormier pulls out of the bout and is replaced by Ovince Saint Preux. Jones wins the fight by unanimous decision
  • A rematch is then scheduled to take place between Cormier and Jones at UFC 200, however just days before the fight Jones is removed from the bout by USADA after a potential doping violation
  • November 7 2016, Jones is suspended for one year (retroactive to July 7th) for the positive test ahead of UFC 200
  • Jones returned to active competition after defeating Daniel Cormier via knockout at UFC 214 in 2017, however he was once again flagged by USADA for a potential doping violation
  • Both A and B samples test positive for the banned substance Turinabol, Jones is once again stripped of the title (which is returned to Daniel Cormier) and the fight is overturned to a no contest
  • Jones was handed a 15 month suspension, retroactive to the date of the failed test, after agreeing to help USADA with further cases
  • Jones is scheduled for a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232, however weeks before the bout he tests positive for trace amounts of Turinabol, forcing the card to be moved from Las Vegas to California
  • Jones tests positive for the same metabolite after his victory over Gustafsson to recapture the UFC Light Heavyweight title. However the metabolite is determined to only be a small amount of picograms, and caused by the same substance he tested positive for ahead of UFC 200

Jon Jones might be the most naturally talented MMA fighter to have stepped into the Octagon. He is still undefeated, and his recent victory over Gustafsson proved just how good he can be when he takes to sport seriously. If not for that long, long list of indiscretions, Jones would likely rank even higher on this list. Here’s part of the reason as to why:

UFC:

  • UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (x2)
  • Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion (x1)
  • Fight of the Night (x4)
  • Knockout of the Night (x1)
  • Submission of the Night (x2)
  • Performance of the Night (x1)
  • Longest win streak in UFC Light Heavyweight history (13)
  • Most consecutive Light Heavyweight title defences in UFC history (8)
  • Most consecutive Light Heavyweight title bouts in UFC history (12)
  • Most successful Light Heavyweight title defenses in UFC history (8)
  • Most submission victories in UFC Light Heavyweight history (5)
  • Most wins in UFC Light Heavyweight history (16)
  • Youngest fighter to ever win a UFC championship (23 years, 242 days)

United States Kickboxing Association

  • USKBA Light Heavyweight Champion (x1)

Sherdog

  • 2009 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
  • 2010 All-Violence 1st Team
  • 2011 All-Violence 1st Team
  • 2011 Beatdown of the Year
  • 2011 Fighter of the Year
  • 2012 All-Violence 1st Team
  • 2013 All-Violence 1st Team
  • 2013 Fight of the Year
  • Mixed Martial Arts Hall of Fame

World MMA Awards

  • 2010 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
  • 2011 Fighter of the Year
  • 2012 Fighter of the Year
  • 2013 Fight of the Year

MMAFighting.com

  • 2013 Fight of the Year

MMAInsider.net

  • 2013 Fight of the Year

FoxSports.com

  • 2013 Fight of the Year

Yahoo! Sports

  • 2013 Fight of the Year

MMAWeekly.com

  • 2013 Fight of the Year
  • 2018 Comeback Fighter of the Year

MMAjunkie.com

  • 2013 Fight of the Year
  • 2015 January Fight of the Month

ESPN

  • 2011 Fighter of the Year
  • 2013 Fight of the Year

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

  • 2014 Feud of the Year
  • 2011 Most Outstanding Fighter

Spike Guys’ Choice Awards

  • 2011 Most Dangerous Man

FIGHT! Magazine

  • 2009 Newcomer of the Year

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