Jon Jones is without a doubt a special talent. He's accomplished a great deal at such a young age and is one of the biggest stars in MMA. In the days leading up to UFC 159, the UFC champion has received quite a bit of praise from MMA media members and even his opponent, Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen proclaimed Jones as the best fighter he's ever seen and now Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports is drawing comparisons between Jones and boxing legends like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
Iole discussion about Jones' rise to prominence begins with the bout with Ryan Bader in 2011. He then fluffs up Jones' progression to world champion through the use of statistics.
Starting with that match, Jones in his next six bouts faced fighters with a winning percentage of 82.9, who had 78 finishes and a combined record at the time he met them of 118-24-1. All but Bader had held the UFC light heavyweight title. Rua also won the PRIDE Grand Prix and Vitor Belfort won the UFC heavyweight tournament title (though that is not recognized as an official championship by the UFC).
His next quote is where the wheels begin to fall off Iole's praise of Jones.
"His performance against elite fighters at his early age," writes Iole, "more than favorably compares with the greatest fighters in either boxing or MMA."
Comparing boxing to MMA isn't applicable; it's like apples to oranges as many will say.
But let's examine those elite fighters anyways.
Rua was just 3-2 in his previous Octagon appearances prior to facing Jones. Fans will point out that his loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 104 should've been a win, and, while I agree, that hardly fades out Rua's dreadful showings against Mark Coleman and Forrest Griffin.
Jones' first title defense came against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who sported a much better looking record in the Octagon, going 4-1 since dropping the title in 2008. However, wins over Keith Jardine and an over-the-hill Wanderlei Silva don't inspire me to proclaim Jackson as being elite.
Even more so when you consider that "Rampage's" victory over Machida was an uninspiring split decision, and Jackson's victory over Hamill was equally uninspiring.
The next title defense for Jones would come against the karate riddle of Machida. Jones deserves credit for solving the enigma that is Machida but the Brazilian was also riding a 1-2 streak heading into UFC 140. The win came against a MMA senior citizen in Randy Couture, who subsequently retired from MMA after the Machida fight.
Next up was a fight against his former training partner Rashad Evans, who Jones dominated. This fight combined with his victory over Machida are the only two I would consider to be against "elite" competition.
Iole's praise of Belfort is unwarranted as Belfort took the fight on a few weeks notice, is a natural middleweight, and hadn't won a fight at 205 pounds since 2007.
Now if Jones can get past Sonnen I'm expected to believe his name belongs in the same conversation as Ali and Tyson? No. Jones is a special fighter, and he could go down as the best competitor in MMA history, but his name belongs nowhere near either of those two.
Yes, Jones has defeated a number of big names and some of them will be in the UFC or MMA (when there is one) Hall of Fame. Yet, he defeated them when they were on the downslope of their careers. His earlier UFC victories also came against less than stellar competition.
Nobody can deny Jones belongs near the top of any pound-for-pound list these days but he has quite a bit more to do in his career if he expects his career to parallel that of some of the legends in combat sports.