UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been something of a divisive figure ever since his hype train left the station in the winter of 2009-10. After the UFC 151-cancellation-turned-organizational-nightmare and yet another successful defense of his title at UFC 152, however, the reactionary world around Bones can no longer be described as one of reason.
Shoot, it's not even clinging to a semblance of objectivity.
Instead, it is one of insanity driven by bias.
Jon Jones has become the Bill Clinton of the mixed-martial-arts universe—hero or goat with nothing in between and neither side making much of an effort to remain tethered to reality.
Either Bones is invincible or he's a phony bum.
His tougher-than-expected victory at UFC 152 over undersized challenger Vitor Belfort either proved that his vulnerabilities have been exposed and will be exploited by legitimate competition or that nobody can beat the 25-year-old champion.
The truth, as is usually the case, can be found in between.
First, let's dispense with the obvious—the scrap with Belfort, in which the Brazilian challenger snapped on a tight armbar in the first round that had Jon slamming his adversary around the canvas in sheer panic, did not prove that the 205-pound kingpin can be defeated.
To make that argument shows extreme MMA naivete, whether sincere or intentional to facilitate a lazy angle.
As any fight fan worth his or her six-ounce gloves will tell you, every fighter can be defeated on a given night. Nobody is unbeatable. That is the lesson taught by the Ryo Chonans, Matt Serras and Chael Sonnens of the sport.
But let's pretend all this "not invincible" talk is hyperbole, that "not invincible" is just a figure of speech used to mean "he's not as dominant as we thought."
Even from that angle, how can anyone make the argument, point to UFC 152 as evidence and hope to retain credibility?
Let me get this straight—Jones survived a brutal submission by a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in which his limb was bent at an ugly and unnatural angle, then went on to win by stoppage despite an obvious injury, and that proves he's vulnerable?!?!
Look, Belfort is not Demian Maia.
He's a noted striker for a reason—it's his preferred means of attack and he's very good at it, as his 14 knockouts in 21 career wins indicate. But Vitor is not a chump when it comes to the art of submissions, having received his black belt from the legendary Carlson Gracie.
The 35-year-old has grappling game.
Make no mistake; Belfort knew exactly what he was doing when he was wrenching the champion's arm. I can't vouch for his technique since I'm no BJJ practitioner, but I've seen enough of them to know Vitor didn't make any glaring errors. Furthermore, I've got to assume any technical deficiency had to do with the monstrosity he was trying to make concede, as opposed to incompetence on Vitor's part.
And let's not forget that timing wasn't on Jones' side.
The sub attempt came so early in the opening round that neither gladiator had yet worked up a lather that would've made the hold more difficult to maintain. All in all, Jon was in a precarious position.
An observation validated by the revelation that Bones didn't escape the armbar unscathed.
Whether he suffered nerve damage to his bicep is neither here nor there. The key takeaway is that the armbar did its job. It inflicted some measure of carnage on its victim and left him at a disadvantage for the rest of the back-and-forth.
What it didn't do was break said victim's arm, and that's really the most important lesson learned from the entire battle.
In order to defeat Jon Jones, you will have to knock him out or dole out such grievous bodily injury that someone else will stop the fight. Neither sounds like an easy task.
So add that considerable weapon to Jones' already bristling arsenal.
Of course, we've reached the point where the other side, the pro-Jones people, start taking leave of their good senses.
Because the aforementioned lessons still hold: Nobody in mixed martial arts is unbeatable.
Fedor Emelianenko is the closest thing I've seen to invincible in a cage (or its proxy), and we all know how that turned out.
Anderson Silva is undefeated in 15 trips to the Octagon, but he has four losses on his resume and almost wore a fifth at UFC 117 in Oakland.
Cain Velasquez was supposed to have a constitution that would make him impervious to defeat at heavyweight...until current UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos blasted him in 64 seconds.
Yes, Jones has incredible athleticism. Yes, Jones has a freakish 84.5-inch reach that is the closest thing to a trump card as you'll find in the sport. Yes, Jones actually has that you-must-destroy-me-to-beat-me mentality that virtually every warrior claims to have, but so few do. Yes, Jones seems to have a natural gift for MMA—a fluid, accurate striker with a competent submission game and an excellent wrestling base who fights intellectually (i.e. to a game plan).
Yes, Bones appears to be as mentally tough as he is physically.
I repeat, he is not invincible.
It won't be easy and I wouldn't bet on it happening anytime soon, but the man is human and that means Jon Jones can be beaten.
Now, will he be beaten?
Well, that's a different question and a more interesting one.
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