Not that you’d know it from the results.
While Jones said the game plan was to keep Teixeira at a distance and hunt for takedowns, at some point the UFC light heavyweight champion decided to chuck it all and go at his powerful opponent from the clinch, pressed against the fence at close range.
In the process, he sprinted headlong into Teixeira’s wheelhouse, forgoing his considerable reach advantage and dragging their main event fight into the only place where the 34-year-old Brazilian might have a chance to surprise him with a knockout punch.
It didn’t matter.
The UFC had gone out of its way to frame Teixeira as Jones' toughest test to date, but he dominated in all facets, eventually securing a lopsided unanimous decision (50-45 x 3).
“A lot of it was improv,” he told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in the cage after it was over. “The game plan was takedowns and going at him from range, but I realized he was winding up on his punches, and you can't do that when someone is on top of you.”
If there was a lesson on this night, it was that Jones can still do whatever he likes in the Octagon. Except for a close call against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, he’s looked a generation ahead of the competition while breezing past the rest of the best light heavyweights since his promotional debut in 2008.
Speaking of scripts, Jones’ now appears to be written for the rest of 2014. Barring injury or unforeseen calamity, he’ll rematch with Gustafsson some time this summer and then likely take on the winner of UFC 173’s title eliminator between Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier near the end of the year.
It’ll amount to a murderers' row of 205-pound contenders. If Jones can emerge from that gauntlet unscathed, his 2014 could rival his 2011 for a place in the MMA history books.
That’s saying something, considering Jones put together what could be the single best year any mixed martial artist has ever had during 2011. That year he went 4-0 (all by stoppage), won the UFC title and defeated three former light heavyweight champions during consecutive appearances. He eventually ran that streak to five and then set a record with six straight 205-pound title defenses by slipping past Gustafsson last September.
The win over Teixeira made it seven and moved his overall UFC record to 14-1. Jones’ lone career loss came in December 2009, when he was disqualified for beating Matt Hamill in ways that not even the unified rules of MMA would allow. Since then, he’s gone 11-0 and become the consensus No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
The scariest part is, at 26 years old, he’s still getting better and adding new wrinkles to his unorthodox attack. He unloaded his entire toolbox on Teixeira, even adding an unconventional arm crank from the clinch that Teixeira said may have dislocated his shoulder in the first round.
The rest was vintage Jones. He cut Teixeira over the right eye with slashing elbows, brutalized his legs with elliptical kicks and narrowly missed with an assortment of ax kicks and spinning techniques. The only thing he proved incapable of doing with any regularity was taking Teixeira down and keeping him there, though the point became moot once Jones had beaten him so badly everywhere else.
It was perhaps not the champion’s most exciting performance (at some point, it seemed like he should’ve stopped Teixeira). He may also court a bit of controversy after he was warned by referee Dan Miragliotta for poking Teixeira in the eyes with the open-handed stiff-arm he used to keep him at bay throughout the bout.
In the end, though, the lasting takeaway was that Jones remains far and away the fight company’s best all-around performer. With Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva still out of action, he’s one of the few UFC stars whose bouts still feel like appointment viewing.
Even when he has to make it up as he goes along.
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