Jon Jones and the Top 5 UFC Champions in Light Heavyweight History

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2013

Jon Jones and the Top 5 UFC Champions in Light Heavyweight History

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    At just 26 years old, Jon Jones has used superior athleticism, sharp intellect and the heart of a samurai, among other superlatives, to become the UFC's most prolific light heavyweight champ.

    He's already tied Tito Ortiz's mark of five consecutive title defenses, and it seems that "Bones" hasn't even reached his prime yet.

    With his most promising days still ahead of him, there's no telling what great heights the New York native will reach at 205 pounds.

    But if Jones represents the company's most illustrious light heavyweight, then where do the former champs in the division stack up with one another.

    Here are the top five light heavyweight kings in UFC history.

5. Randy Couture

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    Even though Randy Couture never successfully defended his light heavyweight belt, the UFC Hall of Famer scored some of his most notable wins in 205-pound title fights.

    Couture made his bones with the company when he defeated Maurice Smith to snag the heavyweight strap at UFC Japan in 1997.

    Nearly six years later, and following two straight losses in heavyweight title fights, a 39-year-old Couture earned a TKO win over the favored Chuck Liddell at UFC 43 to become the interim light heavyweight champ.

    At 40, Couture unified the title in his next bout by impressively outlasting a 28-year-old Tito Ortiz at UFC 44.

    Then, following a controversial loss to Vitor Belfort at UFC 46 (Couture suffered a first-round cut to his eyelid), The Natural recaptured the belt with a TKO over "The Phenom" at UFC 49.

    Couture eventually locked horns with Liddell on two more occasions in light heavyweight title tilts, disappointingly losing both bouts via knockout. He finished 6-4 at 205 in the UFC.

     

4. Frank Shamrock

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    Originally christened as the UFC's inaugural middleweight champ, Frank Shamrock eventually sported the title of the company's first ever light heavyweight titlist when the UFC revamped its divisions in 2001.

    At that time, Tito Ortiz was donning the belt that Shamrock once owned between December 1997 and November 1999.

    Prior to the Ortiz era, Shamrock ripped through UFC counterparts, snatching the belt with a win over Kevin Jackson at UFC Japan and then defending it four consecutive times.

    Shamrock ultimately vacated the belt and left the UFC because of a perceived lack of competition.

    Shamrock's most triumphant moment as champ came when he thumped Ortiz in his last light heavyweight title defense at UFC 22.

    The sleeker and swifter Shamrock defied the odds and pummeled Ortiz into oblivion with vicious elbows and hammerfists to finish 5-0 as a light heavyweight in the UFC.

3. Tito Ortiz

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    Wear and tear and a spike in competition brought Tito Ortiz's lengthy reign as light heavyweight champ to an end in September 2003.

    But despite the fact that he prevailed in just one of his last nine fights at 205, Ortiz ruled the UFC's light heavyweight division for a company-record 1,260 days between 2000 and 2003.

    During his run, Ortiz notched five straight emphatic wins in title fights, including victories over Wanderlei Silva, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ken Shamrock.

    Ortiz left his stamp on the division when he nearly drove the late Evan Tanner through the canvas with an unforgettable belly-to-belly slam at UFC 30.

    Ortiz defended his belt three more times after his win over Tanner, finishing Shamrock with a TKO in his last title defense at UFC 40.

    Randy Couture eventually ended Ortiz's party with a unanimous decision over "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" at UFC 44. Ortiz finished with a 15-11-1 mark in the UFC's 205-pound division.

     

2. Chuck Liddell

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    The fact that Chuck Liddell racked up one less title defense than Tito Ortiz carries little weight in the debate of the UFC's greatest 205-pounder.

    Truth be told, "The Iceman" proved his superiority over Ortiz when he twice pummeled "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" at UFC 47 and UFC 66.

    Liddell, who between 2004 and 2006 arguably signified the company's most coveted champ, took the light heavyweight strap by force from Randy Couture at UFC 52.  

    The Iceman then defended the belt four times with consecutive KO's over Jeremy Horn, Couture, Renato Sobral and Ortiz.

    In his final title defense, Liddell stymied seven of Ortiz's eight shots before TKO'ing the former champ in an unforgettable clash that garnered "Fight of the Night" honors.

    Once notorious for his ability to absorb punishment, Liddell saw his career spiral quickly once his jawline began to soften. The Iceman sadly dropped five of his last six fights, including four via knockout. Liddell won 16 of 23 fights as a UFC light heavyweight.

1. Jon Jones

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    Although Jon Jones enjoyed plenty of highs in his first seven bouts with the company, the Jackson's MMA phenom didn't truly arrive until he dismantled Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to take the belt at UFC 128.

    Jones utterly ragdolled Rua and then TKO'd the lethal former 205-pound linchpin to become the youngest champ in UFC history.

    Since then, Jones has defended his belt five straight times, winning three of those fights by submission and another via TKO to tie Ortiz for most defenses of the light heavyweight strap (5).

    Standing 6'4" and sporting an 84.5-inch reach, Jones has used unorthodox striking, a venomous submission game and superb wrestling chops to stay essentially unbeaten in 13 fights at 205 in the UFC.

    The lone smudge on his resume occurred when Jones accidentally dropped a series of 12-to-6 elbows on Matt Hamill's head in a one-sided beating at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale. 

    Jones outstruck Hamill 55-7, and had he not mistakenly delivered the illegal elbows, he'd surely still be undefeated in 13 light heavyweight fights in the UFC.