Ranking the UFC Title Defenses of Jon Jones

Dana Becker@@DanaBeckerContributor IIMay 3, 2014

Ranking the UFC Title Defenses of Jon Jones

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    At just 26 years of age, Jon Jones has already defeated some of the top fighters of his generation and the generation before him. 

    The reigning UFC light heavyweight champion won the belt at 23 years old, becoming the youngest champion in promotion history. Since that time, he's set a new UFC record by successfully defending his title seven times.

    With former titleholders like Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson among his list of victims, his resume reads like a who's who of the sport. 

    If "Bones" decides to remain in the game for as long as the greats, he has a legitimate chance at etching his name atop the list. While that's in the future, we can discuss his past.

    Here's how Jones' title defenses rank in terms of his performance in those fights. 

7. Alexander Gustafsson

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    If Lyoto Machida exposed a chink in the armor, Alexander Gustafsson opened a large wound.

    The Swede, who matched Jones in terms of size and age, has provided the stiffest challenge to the champion.

    With effective boxing and a wrestling game that seemed to stun Jones, "The Mauler" pushed Jones the full distance for just the second time since he became champion and third since he joined the UFC. 

    Gustafsson became the first fighter to take Jones down while also negating his attacks by stuffing numerous takedowns. Many even believed he should have had his hand raised at the end.

    Jones, though, displayed his "heart of a champion" attitude by battling back from early troubles. He resorted to more of a controlled offense, using leg kicks and quick strikes to pick Gustafsson apart through the final rounds. 

    These two are headed for a rematch, and you can believe the eyes of the MMA world will be tuned in.

6. Lyoto Machida

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    Most believe that until the champion ran into Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida gave him his biggest scare.

    In the first round at UFC 140, "The Dragon" caught Jones rushing in and nearly floored him. While Machida dominated the opening five minutes, he was caught by a vicious Jones elbow.

    Just moments into the second, Jones choked the former champion out on his feet with a moment that will live in UFC history. Jones locked up a guillotine, choked out Machida and walked away, leaving him to collapse to the ground.

    Machida was offered a rematch a few months later but turned it down. He has since moved to the middleweight division but will be remembered for exposing that first chink in the armor of Jones.

5. Vitor Belfort

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    At UFC 152, Jon Jones found himself in deep trouble early on, as Vitor Belfort locked in an armbar that appeared to be signaling the end of his reign.

    Jones, though, showed another added weapon to his arsenal, escaping the hold and going on to display more of his ever-improving submission game by locking in an americana and forcing Belfort to tap.

    The bout wasn't his best performance just because he didn't get to showcase much of his offense. It was more of a slow and methodical approach, as he didn't seem interested in testing out the punching power of "The Phenom."

4. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

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    When Jon Jones and former UFC champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson locked up at UFC 135, most wondered if the current champ could take the kind of punishment the "old guard" had to offer.

    While Jackson got off some decent shots against Jones, he failed to capitalize or take control of the fight. In the championship rounds, it was all "Bones," as he locked in a rear-naked choke and submitted Jackson.

    For Jones, the bout would become the first of his three "Fight of the Night" victories since he won the belt. It also let everybody know that if they wanted to stand and exchange, he would be willing.

    The contest also brought into play one of Jones' more effective moves that he has used in every bout since: the oblique kick. While many questioned the move, the ability to do damage and control distance with it has become a vital key to his success. 

3. Chael Sonnen

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    Just like in his win over Glover Teixeira, Jon Jones decided to play to his opponent's strengths against Chael Sonnen. 

    Jones charged Sonnen and took the wrestler to the mat. A few minutes later, it was all over after Jones had beaten Sonnen with punches and elbows. 

    Sonnen, years before, was able to use his style of wrestling to nearly take the title away from Anderson Silva. Jones, though, wasn't intimidated by that, as he was the aggressor at UFC 159.

    While it was obvious that Sonnen was overmatched heading into the title fight, he's shown that he can hang with anybody in the world when he's able to impose his will.

    For Jones, the fight ended one of his more memorable feuds. 

2. Glover Teixeira

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    Maybe it's a case of short-term memory, but Jon Jones was on another planet in his fight with Glover Teixeira that went down at UFC 172 in April. 

    From the opening bell, it was all Jones, as he controlled the pace and the action. While he didn't land many of the highlight-reel shots we've become accustom to seeing, he stayed in close and used Teixeira's game plan against him.

    By resorting to showing off his boxing skills, Jones gave all the other 205-pound fighters out there another cause for concern. He displayed quick hands and good defense, avoiding several power punches by the knockout artist.

    And when he most needed to, Jones was able to impose his will on the Brazilian and take him to the canvas. 

    Teixeira was on a 20-fight unbeaten streak, but Jones was not ready to let that number reach 21. 

1. Rashad Evans

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    Rashad Evans and Jon Jones were the closest of friends under the watchful eye of Greg Jackson in New Mexico. But, when Evans went down with an injury, the UFC looked to Jones to fill the void.

    Jones took his crack at the title and won it, defeating Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. That set off a yearlong feud with Evans that came to a head at UFC 145.

    While his win over "Suga" wasn't one of his four submission victories since becoming champion, it was his most complete performance. Jones dominated a man who was once viewed as the future of the division.

    Jones showed that with his reach, size, athleticism and skill set, he had become the face of the light heavyweight division. 

    If you look at the resume of Evans, the loss to Jones was the only time he's been completely manhandled. His knockout defeat vs. Lyoto Machida was an eventful fight until the final blow landed, while the decision loss at the hands of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was widely criticized. 

    Evans is a future Hall of Fame fighter, but he had no answer for Jones.