Jon Jones has gone through a metamorphosis-type of change in his life since 2009. At UFC 94, Jones displayed his amazing combination of strength, length and athleticism by completely outclassing The Ultimate Fighter's season one finalist Stephan Bonnar with spinning back elbows, kicks and Greco-Roman throws that looked like something out of a comic book. The only difference is Jon "Bones" Jones is very much real.
Now, just three short years and some change later and Jon Jones is not only the UFC's undisputed light heavyweight champion, but he also is coming off possibly the greatest calender year in the history of his sport. Yes, I know it is incredible! The guy is absolutely amazing and the scary part is he can only get better.
In 2011, Jones started the year viewed as a top ten light heavyweight with a very high ceiling. He ended the year looking like an unstoppable martial artist with combined submission, wrestling and striking skills that would rival any mixed martial artist to ever tape up the four-ounce gloves.
In his first bout of the year, Jones dispatched top contender Ryan Bader by submission at UFC 126 in February. In March, Bones stepped in for future opponent Rashad Evans and handed a one-sided beatdown to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to capture the 205 pound world title. Jones then finished the year with two submission wins over former champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto Machida.
It was a remarkable year for a fighter who is improving and learning. He has been dominant already in the UFC and the scary thing is he is still hungry to take it to the next level.
It appears that there are only a small number of opponents to oppose Jon Jones this year. Really after you consider Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson and a possible Shogun rematch (albeit an extremely unlikely fight) there is only Alexander Gustafsson left near the top at this point. Every other fighter seems to be either too far away from a shot, too green, over the hill, unworthy or a number of other reasons you can insert here.
Gustafsson started his UFC career with a bang by knocking out Jared Hammon at UFC 105 in less than a minute. A quick setback loss by submission to Phil Davis has now been offset by an impressive four fight win streak in the Octagon including two knockouts and two rear naked choke victories, respectively.
The "Mauler" recently picked up his biggest win to date at UFC 141 when he knocked out Vladimir Matyushenko in two minutes to solidify his top ten status among fellow light heavyweights in the UFC. He now looks to make a statement for a title at UFC on Fuel TV 2 by taking on slugger Thiago Silva who is to be a late replacement for the injured Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
If Gustafsson wins this bout, I could easily see the UFC giving him a number one contender fight in his next bout. Only Dan Henderson is next after Jon Jones' dispatch of Rashad Evans, so Alexander could be getting his shot by the end of this calender year.
The real question here is if Gustafsson poses much of a challenge to the champion. Is Alexander Gustafsson a threat to Jon Jones? He is a threat only in a puncher's chance sort of way. He is a threat in the same way that Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson both have heavy hands and can knock someone out at 205 pounds.
But, the simple fact of the matter is that Jones has too much reach, too much movement, effective wrestling, improvised submissions and flying strikes that no other man can duplicate. He has been dominant in the UFC in a way that only the great Anderson Silva can match.
Alexander Gustafsson may have a tough time with Thiago Silva, as well. If Silva is healthy and in good shape for this fight, I have doubts about the Swedish native winning his UFC on Fuel TV 2 bout, let alone a bout with the champion. Gustafsson is not a threat to Jones at this point, but he is dangerous and if he learns to use his range like Jones does, he could very well hold the gold one day down the road. I just don't see him taking it from Jon Jones.