Jon Jones and 10 Fighters Who Step Up to Save the Day
Jon Jones has slowly become the saving grace of the UFC.
After claiming the organization's light heavyweight title in March of last year, the dynamo would later defend his title twice against formidable opponents in the forms of both Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida.
In 2011, Jones competed four times and fought three times in title bouts—a feat that is rarely accomplished by most of the organization's champions.
Now, after taking just a little time off from his December tilt with "The Dragon," Jones is gearing up for another battle this April, serving as the main event for the upcoming Atlanta show.
Jones is just one example of a man who, despite some problematic concerns, has stepped up to the plate in order to produce the fights that the fans want to see, all at his expense.
Tito Ortiz; photo cred: combatsoup.com
At UFC 132, the resurgent Tito Ortiz scored an emphatic first round finish of The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 winner Ryan Bader, rocking and dropping the heavy-hitter before cinching the guillotine choke.
After arguably the most pivotal battle of his career, which took Ortiz out of a career worse five-fight winless streak, Ortiz was called back to action at UFC 133 after Phil Davis had bowed out due to injury.
Ortiz accepted the task at hand, rematching rival Rashad Evans in the main event of the pay-per-view event.
Though he came up short, Ortiz did more than enough to appease the fans and most importantly UFC President Dana White.
Chris Leben; photo cred: UFC
After a dominant victory over wrestling ace Aaron Simpson in June of 2010, Chris Leben was given the option to square off against a middleweight great in Yoshihiro Akiyama just a few weeks later.
Wanderlei Silva, Akiyama's original opponent, had bowed out due to injury and the UFC was in need for a middleweight to take on the daunting task that is the K-1 and Dream veteran in Akiyama.
Leben stepped up to the plate and engaged the Japanese Judoka in a "Fight of the Night" performance which resulted in "The Crippler" cinching up a triangle choke finish in the third round.
Chris Weidman (left); photo cred: thegarv.com
At UFC on FOX 2 just last weekend, a shuffle in opponents set some things in motion for Chris Wiedman.
Originally, Demian Maia was slated to face Michael Bisping, while Chael Sonnen was set to take on fellow wrestler Mark Munoz.
After the "Filipino Wrecking Machine" was forced to exit the card due to injury and invasive surgery, Bisping was promoted to a battle with Sonnen, while Maia was left without an opponent.
On just 11 days notice and with a staggering 32 pounds to cut, the NCAA Division I All-American in Weidman stepped up to the plate. It wasn't the prettiest, but a fatigued Weidman gutted out a decision victory over the Brazilian, claiming his spot amongst the best in the middleweight class.
Jon Jones (left); photo cred: bloodyelbow.com
The reigning king of the 205-pound class had a rough go in 2011.
After defeating Ryan Bader in February, Jones was granted a shot against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua—then the organization's light heavyweight champion—after then teammate Rashad Evans had bowed out of his bout with the Brazilian due to injury.
Jones deftly defeated Rua and later defended his belt some months later against Quinton Jackson, submitting the former champ with a rear-naked choke.
Hoping to enjoy the rest of the year, Jones was quickly called back to action in December where he took on Lyoto Machida. After a tough first round, the New Yorker quickly found his groove in the second, dropping the former champ to the mat before cinching a fight-ending guillotine choke.
Four fights in the books in 2011 and now Jones is returning again in April. Machine.
Keith Jardine; photo cred: cagedinsider.com
A former top contender in the light heavyweight division, Keith Jardine recently stepped down to the middleweight class. The Greg Jackson product filled in for his injured teammate, Tim Kennedy, taking Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold.
On January 7, the two battled it out at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas where Rockhold demolished "The Dean of Mean," stopping the heavy-hitter with a barrage of strikes within the first round.
Josh Koscheck; photo cred: mmasucka.com
Say what you will about the "beloved" Josh Koscheck, but he truly lives by the moniker of anyone, anytime and anywhere.
The former welterweight title challenger was sidelined for the better part of a year after suffering a broken orbital in his bout against Georges St-Pierre in December of 2010.
At UFC 135, Diego Sanchez was slated to face off against UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, though the Greg Jackson fighter suffered a broken hand which sent him on the backburner.
On less than three weeks notice, Josh Koscheck stepped up to the plate in order to take on Hughes, stopping the welterweight great in the waning moments of the first round, due to strikes.
Nick Diaz; photo cred: Sherdog.com
Originally, at UFC 137, Nick Diaz was slated to take on champion Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight title. After skipping out on two pre-fight press conferences, UFC President Dana White removed Diaz from the bout and the card altogether.
Promoting Carlos Condit to the main event, the New Mexico native's original opponent in BJ Penn was left without a foe. Soon after, Dana filled the vacancy with that of Diaz.
The Stockton native and Penn would later serve as the main event of the evening after St-Pierre was removed from the event due to injury. Both Diaz and Penn engaged in a "Fight of the Night" performance which went in favor of the Cesar Gracie fighter in Diaz, who reasserted himself as the top contender in the division.
Donald Cerrone; photo cred: mmajunkie.com
In 2011, Donald Cerrone recorded five fights inside the Octagon, where the Greg Jackson fighter earned many hefty bonuses to boot.
After compiling a three fight win streak in the UFC with victories over Paul Kelly, Vagner Rocha and Charles Oliveira, Cerrone got the call to take on top contender Dennis Siver, after a grieving Sam Stout bowed out after hearing of his trainer Shawn Tompkins' passing.
Though Siver had proven to be among the best in the division, Cerrone blew through the German heavy-hitter, rocking and dropping him early with powerful strikes, before locking up a fight-ending rear-naked choke inside of the first round.
Next, Cerrone returned just two months later, taking on the always tough Nate Diaz. Despite losing a spirited decision, both men earned "Fight of the Night" for their memorable performance.
Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo
Cheick Kongo (left) staring down Pat Barry; photo cred: mmafrenzy.com
At UFC on Versus 4, the main event was originally set as the welterweight debut for Nate Marquardt, who was to pare down to the 170-pound class, taking on Anthony Johnson in the main event.
The Georgia native in Johnson was forced to remain sidelined due to injury, though Rick Story stepped up to the plate to take on the perennial contender in Marquardt.
The Greg Jackson fighter failed to gain medical clearance the day of the weigh-ins and was subsequently released from the promotion. Charlie Brenneman stepped up to take on Story, while a heavyweight battle now took center stage.
Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo were originally regulated to the co-main event, but after Marquardt's folly, both of these heavy-hitting behemoths stepped up to the plate—and in a big, big way.
The K-1 vet in Barry dropped the Frenchman with powerful shots early. Stumbling to the canvas on several occasions, Kongo seemed all but out of the fight until a counter right uppercut sent Barry into unconsciousness.
The dramatic finish earned Kongo both "Knockout of the Night" and "Comeback of the Year" at the World MMA Awards.
Honorable mention to both Rick Story and Charlie Brenneman as well.