Jon Jones is not only the UFC’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, he is also the organization’s long-reigning light heavyweight champion. Leading up to UFC 165, Jones had destroyed every foe in his path. He consistently made many seasoned fighters appear unworthy in their attempts to defeat the current champion. Some of Jones' victims included former world champions in the form of Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Jones is virtually the only undefeated fighter (his only loss is via disqualification) among the light heavyweight division's Top 10 contenders. The 26-year-old absolutely demolished the majority of his opponents—until his meeting with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165.
Jones’ bout against Gustafsson on Sept. 21, 2013, was one of epic proportions. It was a back-and-forth battle in which the champion retained his title via unanimous decision. However, the matchup exposed weaknesses on the part of Jones and illustrated a blueprint to beating the champion.
Recently, Jones spoke of moving to the heavyweight division. However, given a much-desired rematch between Jones and Gustafsson, accompanied by the talent of other viable light heavyweights, 2014 already appears quite eventful for the champion and MMA fans alike.
The following highlights a variety of high-octane matchups on the horizon for the light heavyweight champion in 2014.
Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 28
The hard-hitting Glover Teixeira is set to take on the 205-pound champion on March 15, 2014. The Brazilian sports an astounding record of 22-2, with 13 knockouts. As a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Teixeira is well-rounded, boasting six career submissions as well.
However, the No. 2 ranked contender has been criticized for his rise to the top. Teixeira hasn’t fought anyone in the division’s current Top 10 yet remains highly touted. The highest-ranking contender whom the Brazilian has fought is Quinton Jackson.
At the time of their bout, at UFC on Fox 6, Rampage barely made the UFC’s Top 10 list. After Teixeira’s decision victory over Jackson, he subsequently went on to submit an unranked opponent in James Te Huna at UFC 160, and then knocked out Ryan Bader (No. 10) at UFC Fight Night 28.
Deserving or not, Teixeira will face Jones for the light heavyweight title at UFC 171 and will attempt to dethrone the greatest 205-pound UFC champion of all time.
Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 5
Upon the conclusion of UFC 165, the world of MMA was in an uproar. Many felt that Alexander Gustafsson had done enough to wrest away the title from the champion in a unanimous-decision win that went to Jones.
In their matchup, Jones was on the receiving end of more damage than he had ever experienced before. His face was battered, lip swollen, and he was hospitalized immediately thereafter.
However, Gustafsson was hurt during the bout as well, suffering a barrage of devastating blows, courtesy of Jones, at the end of the fourth round. It was a fight for the ages that tested both combatants’ will, determination and heart. The bout was utterly exciting and a blockbuster hit. With that, according to UFC president Dana White, Gustafsson is guaranteed another title shot with a victory in his upcoming bout against Jimi Manuwa in March 2014.
Daniel Cormier at the UFC 166 press conference
Former Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion and undefeated fighter Daniel Cormier has been steadily losing weight to make 205 pounds. He clocked in at around 225 in his last fight against Roy Nelson. He looked exceptional in that bout, using a wide range of his arsenal to defeat his opponent.
Cormier utilized his boxing, leg strikes and high-level grappling to nullify Nelson on his way to a unanimous-decision win at UFC 166.
For Cormier, with the weight loss came speed and stamina. The Oklahoma native appeared to be more fit than at any other time in his career as a heavyweight. Moving down to light heavyweight will not only enhance his athletic ability, it will also increase Cormier’s chances of defeating Jones.
Phil Davis at UFC 163
Phil Davis is on a three-fight win streak. His most recent and notable win is over former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 163. Davis is also the only man to finish Jones’ greatest opponent to date, Gustafsson.
The Pennsylvania native is a four-time NCAA wrestling Division I All-American. His respectable 12-1-1 record and No. 4 ranking are a testament to his athletic ability and diverse game. Half of Davis’ wins have come by knockout or submission. He has the ability to finish the fight in any given position. Davis is also cautious and tactical, which makes him an interesting opponent for someone like Jones.