UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones rubs people the wrong way.
He reminds us of that annoying, supercilious know-it-all we all have in our lives.
But is that really Jon Jones? Is Jon Jones that guy? Or is he just an awkward 24-year-old trying to deal with fame and fortune?
Let’s take a look.
Jones stormed the UFC in August of 2008. After only four months as a professional fighter, he accumulated a 6-0 record, all by stoppage, on the local scene in the Northeast. Before long, he got the call to fight in the big leagues.
Aside from a couple of Ultimate Fighter alumni, can you think of a fighter who earned a UFC call-up that quickly? If so, please feel free to brag in the comments section.
After Jones’ UFC debut, a decision win over Andre Gusmao, he was touted as an athletically gifted fighter, but not much more than that.
In his second UFC appearance, Jones was put up against Stephan Bonnar. The general consensus was that Bonnar would be too much for the youngster.
As usual, the general consensus was wrong.
Using superior wrestling and unorthodox striking, Jones ran through Bonnar at UFC 94 to win an impressive unanimous decision.
After the Bonnar fight, Jones became a certified public health hazard. He had found his mojo, and it consisted of taking opponents down and obliterating them.
He did this to respected veterans Jake O’Brien, Matt Hamill, Brandon Vera, and Vladimir Matyushenko in succession, although he would suffer his first loss in the Hamill fight—a disqualification due to illegal elbows.
But even in defeat, Jones further proved how devastating he had become by pretty much ending Matt Hamill’s career.
That little mid-level run of dominance precipitated what would become Jones’ reign of terror at the upper echelon of the light-heavyweight division.
That reign consisted of a run that spanned the length of 2011 and consisted of four straight dominant victories over Top-10 competitors: Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida. Jones picked up the championship belt, three fight night bonuses, and fame and fortune along the way.
Not bad for a 23-year-old.
In the middle of all that success was a camp crisis that resulted in the Rashad Evans feud, the raising of three daughters, and a short stint as a superhero—chasing down and restraining a burglar in Paterson, New Jersey mere hours before fighting Shogun for the title.
After capturing the title, Jones would go on to defend it twice, and solidify his place as not just a freak-of-athletic-nature fighter, but a dominant champion.
Who will beat Jon Jones?
The 205 pound division had been in a state of flux since the legendary run of Chuck Liddell in 2005-06, with five different champions, only two of whom kept the belt long enough to earn a single title defense: Rampage Jackson against Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida against Shogun Rua.
So here’s this newcomer to the sport, a guy with only a few years of experience, and he not only accomplishes more than the previous five champions, but beats three of them with relative ease.
Approaching Saturday night and UFC 145, Jones will face off against former friend and teammate, Rashad Evans, and Rashad is pretty much the last of the Fab 5 in the light-heavyweight division.
If Jones defeats Rashad, as the odds-makers and pundits agree he will, then we’ll be left with only prospects as potential challengers.
Alexander Gustaffson, Phil Davis, King Mo, and that one guy who’s out there right now. That guy no one knows, but whose Clubber Lang-hungry, working his tail off in the gym.
These are our only remaining hopes to keep the 205 pound division from becoming like the 170 and 185 pound divisions: long-term champions whose challengers are seen as little more than blips on the screen.
So, is this the real Jon Jones? Is Jon Jones that guy? Or is he just a somewhat awkward 24-year-old trying to deal with immense fame and fortune?
Yes, that is Jon Jones. Yes, he is that guy. And yes, he is a somewhat awkward 24-year-old dealing with things far out of his range of maturity.
But, wouldn’t you be too?