This isn't news to most fight fans, but there's really no room for debate left.
The UFC light heavyweight champion is not invincible and may very well eat a legitimate defeat in the weight class to go along with the bludgeoning of Matt Hamill that Bones technically "lost." But if that ever happens, it's going to be the product of the champion beating himself or some out-of-nowhere freak of nature that's not even on the 205-pound radar at the moment.
Look at the organization's own light heavyweight rankings. They aren't necessarily definitive, but as they are published by the company that puts on the cards, they might easily be mistaken as such:
- Jon "Bones" Jones
- Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida
- Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson
- Dan "Hendo" Henderson
- Glover Teixeira
- Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira
- "Suga" Rashad Evans
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
- Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis
- Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi
- Ryan Bader
You'll recall that Bones dispatched the current top challenger with extreme prejudice at UFC 140. It's true that the Dragon gave him issues in the first round and managed to touch the champ a few times. But Jon eventually found his range, bloodied the Brazilian and ultimately left him in a heap at the base of the cage courtesy of a nasty standing guillotine.
Neither Evans nor Rua nor Bader fared any better than Machida. Alhough, Suga Rashad does get a star in the moral-victory column for being the first man to ever go a full five rounds with the UFC's version of the bogeyman.
Gustafsson and Teixeira would both be interesting if they could place the 25-year-old champion in stasis and improve while Jones was unable to do so himself. Unfortunately for both up-and-comers, Jon seems to be improving as fast as, if not faster than, anyone else in the division.
Possibly even the company.
He didn't have much of a chance to demonstrate his latest upgrades, but even in the roughly five minutes it took to dismantle Sonnen, Jones proved he had something every all-time great must have: poise enough to navigate a no-win situation smoothly.
And he has it at a relatively young age.
Bones has arguably reached that rarest level of dominance where anything short of a spectacular performance against a sincere challenger will leave the audience grumbling: "What's the big fuss?"
That means the great majority of his bouts will be lose-lose propositions from now on because most of the men on that list of light heavyweight contenders won't be seen as sincere challengers.
Anderson Silva reached that point somewhere around Patrick Cote and Thales Leites.
Things were heading in an ugly direction if the Demian Maia Incident at UFC 112 was any indication, but Sonnen's arch-villain routine and near-upset at UFC 117 changed the game on the Spider. One could even argue Chael saved Anderson from himself by providing Silva with a "worthy" foil or at least one the UFC middleweight champion had to take seriously.
Regardless, Silva showed that, even at well-seasoned 34 years of age (at the time of the debacle in Abu Dhabi), the psychological weight of being the top dog can be as dangerous as any opponent. The stakes are, almost by definition, higher for the one holding the belt than for the one trying to take it.
Sometimes unfairly so, which tips the scales of pressure even more dramatically toward the title-holder.
UFC 159's main event—featuring arguably the greatest 205-pounder of all time against a dude who hadn't fought at the weight in almost a decade and got blasted in his last bout at 185 pounds—was a perfect example of the phenomenon.
If Jones had walked across the cage and knocked Sonnen out in 12 seconds, the Prudential Center crowd would've roared politely and then returned to talking about Alan Belcher's eye or Roy Nelson's nuclear right hand.
Jon Jones had nothing to gain, everything to lose and sailed through the ordeal unscathed.
He could've toyed with his adversary, he could've trash-talked him or tried to make an example of him. Bones could've insisted on beating Sonnen with his own head games, but instead chose the better part of valor and beat Chael with his own fight game.
The light heavyweight champion bullied the much smaller challenger, landed a couple punishing takedowns and pulped Sonnen until the referee had seen enough. Sure, the stoppage looked a tad premature, but only because Chael was still conscious, not because he had any chance of rallying.
So chalk up another impressive, though unsurprising performance for Jones and yet another mental weapon to go with the resolve he showed against Vitor Belfort's infamous armbar at UFC 152.
Which brings us back to that list of so-called challengers.
The Mauler and Teixeira are impressive in their own rights, but neither has the physical tools that Jones' possesses and Jon is proving up to the mental hurdles as well.
Both deserve and will most likely get their shots, but neither will be a terrific bet to unseat the 205-pound kingpin unless one or both can find a way to close on the champ between now and then.
Hendo and Minotoro Nogueira might've given Jones' a run for his hardware in their primes, but despite my man-crush on Dangerous Dan and my respect for anyone named Nogueira, you're talking about 42 and 36. Age isn't the end-all-be-all of fight variables, but adding it to all of Jones' other advantages doesn't help.
That leaves Davis and Mousasi.
Mr. Wonderful just picked apart Vinny Magalhaes, but well, it was Vinny Magalhaes. Davis falls into the "needs more improvement" camp along with Gustafsson and Teixeira, he just appears to need more of it.
As for the Dreamcatcher, who knows what to make of him at this point? He's looked like a world-beater at times and then looked like the guy who battled Keith Jardine to a draw in 2011. Either way, Mousasi's about the same size as Sonnen, but not nearly as physical, so it's hard to see him offering Jones much resistance.
As for the mythical warrior from beyond the horizon, the only name I can think of is Daniel Cormier, but have you seen DC lately?
If he's set on trimming down to 205 safely (as he should be), it's going to be a while before we see Cormier at light heavyweight and that's if he even decides that's where he wants to go.
Until then, Dana White and Joe Silva are going to have to get creative because, after five eye-opening title defenses and 10 consecutive victories at 205 pounds with nine coming via stoppage, the UFC light heavyweight champion has little left to prove and even less competition against which to prove it.
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