It seems like only yesterday a young, talented kid from Rochester, New York, was challenging Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the UFC title. Jones has literally grown before our very eyes as this polarizing figure and one of the greatest champions in UFC history.
“He evolves every time he fights. He comes out and puts on a clinic and does new things,” said White. “But I also thought leading up to this fight, Jones was different also. He was the youngest light heavyweight champion ever, but he’s becoming a man right in front of everybody. He’s growing up in and outside of the Octagon, and I thought he never looked better than he did tonight.”
When the stakes were highest, Jones once again showcased his unrivaled ability to shine in the spotlight at UFC 172, routing Teixeira in a unanimous decision.
The initial presumption heading into the fight was that Jones would revert to his grappling and play keep away from Teixeira’s one-punch knockout power. Quite the contrary, Jones calmly walked through haymaker after haymaker with the sole strategy of forcing Teixeira into a close-quarters clinch battle against the cage.
From the clinch, Jones brutalized the 34-year-old contender with countless elbows. It was yet another well-rounded performance and showing of high technical IQ from the young champ that helped him earn his seventh consecutive UFC title defense.
Jones is now one win away from tying St-Pierre for the second-most consecutive title defenses in UFC history. Silva is currently the record holder with 10 straight title defenses. Jones is only three years into his UFC title reign, but he has arguably faced tougher opposition than both Silva and St-Pierre.
Even White agreed Jones has been forced through a “murderer’s row” of opponents.
“There’s no doubt about it,” White responded, when asked if Jones has faced tougher opponents than Silva and St-Pierre. “The light heavyweight division has always been the nastiest division in the sport, and I say it all the time, he went through murderer’s row to get that title and to defend that title and he did again tonight.”
Technically, Jones may already be the best fighter we’ve ever seen, and he hasn’t even hit his ceiling yet. The best could be yet to come for the 26-year-old phenom.
Time may be the only thing standing in his way.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.