UFC Champ Jon Jones Makes Top 20 List in ESPN 2012 'Cross-Sport' Power Rankings

McKinley Noble@KenTheGreat1Correspondent IDecember 26, 2012

Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones reacts to beating Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Jon Jones won the bout by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Following a dominant year of title defenses and star-making headline news, Jon Jones has been rated as one of the year's Top 20 athletes across all sports.

That list, compiled by ESPN, places the UFC light heavyweight king at No. 18 overall, ahead of more famous stars like Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.

However, Jones is a long way from the peak of the list, which is topped by LeBron James of the Miami Heat, one of the highest-paid and most prolific athletes in the world.

Here's how the list broke down, with several budding young stars and older veterans:

1: LeBron James (NBA, Heat)
2: Lionel Messi (Soccer, FC Barcelona)
3: Kevin Durant (NBA, Thunder)
4: Eli Manning (NFL, Giants)
5: Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer, Real Madrid)
6: Michael Phelps (Swimming)
7: Serena Williams (Women's Tennis)
8: Miguel Cabrera (MLB, Tigers)
9: Anthony Davis (NCAA CBB, University of Kentucky)
10: Brittney Griner (NCAA Women's CBB, Baylor University)
11: Usain Bolt (Track and Field)
12: Johnny Manziel (CFB, Texas A&M)
13: Gabby Douglas (Gymnastics)
14: Buster Posey (MLB, Giants)
15: Brad Keselowski (NASCAR)
16: Jonathan Quick (Hockey, Kings)
17: Rory McIlroy (Golf)
18: Jon Jones (UFC)
19: Adrian Peterson (NFL, Vikings)
20: Kobe Bryant (NBA, Lakers)

Even though Jones is towards the bottom of this year's list, he's the first combat sports athlete to be included in the Top 20 since ESPN first began compiling these rankings.

Previous year-end picks in 2010 and 2011 didn't include any champions or notable rookies from MMA or boxing, making Jones a rare pick.

Like most athletes on this list, Jones had a career-making year in 2012, defeating former UFC champions Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort in two successful title fights and becoming only the fourth of 12 men to defend the UFC light heavyweight title four times.

Jones also made headlines in some notable controversies this year after crashing his Bentley Continental GT in a Binghamton, New York suburb and pleading guilty to a DWI charge.

"Bones" didn't stop there, additionally playing a part in the cancellation of UFC 151 after refusing to face former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen on eight days' notice.

Intended challenger Dan Henderson pulled out of the match due to a knee injury, setting off a chain of events that ended with Jones electing to drop the fight altogether when Sonnen appeared as a last-minute replacement.