Jon Jones knew exactly what he was doing when he poked Glover Teixeira in the eye, and that alone makes him a dirty fighter, according to Bas Rutten.
The UFC light heavyweight champ has developed a habit for utilizing his Mr. Fantastic-like reach to shove an open hand into opponents’ faces. Some believe Jones merely uses this tactic to gauge distance and set up his offense, while others lean on the side of intentional eye-gouging.
Appearing on Inside MMA, Rutten went with the latter after watching Jones land multiple eye pokes against Teixeira at UFC 172:
[Jones is] a very calm, relaxed methodical fighter, and because he is that, I’m sorry I have to say yes. That is a dirty fighter. Maybe he was looking down and pushing the fingers in the eye, maybe that happened, I didn’t check that out. But he knows exactly what he’s doing at any given time, and his fingers were definitely in [Teixeira’s face] for a long time. He was constantly rubbing them in the face.
Teixeira isn’t the only opponent Jones had wincing like a pirate in a title fight.
Zeus of Middle Easy ran a story in April counting down Jones’ best eye pokes. Along with Teixeira, the victim list also included Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Alexander Gustafsson.
It’s definitely not a good look for Jones, who is already the most scrutinized fighter on the planet. Some of the instances against Teixeira were especially bad with Jones basically feeding his entire pinky into the Brazilian’s eye.
It’s unfortunate that "Eye-Poke Gate," or whatever you want to call it, has taken away from what truly was a brilliant performance by Jones. UFC President Dana White admitted that Jones needed to keep his hands closed more, but he refused to have his opinion of the 26-year-old champ swayed to the same contempt held by the masses.
“I mean, people are always going to go overboard with Jon Jones because they don’t like him,” White said in an interview with MMAjunkie.com. "Guys have got to start closing their hands, and if you’re going to keep your hands open to block shots, which everybody does, you’ve got to keep your hands closer to your face, not extended in your opponent’s face.”
White makes a valid point in people going “overboard.”
The eye pokes were completely unnecessary on Jones’ part against Teixeira, but at the same time, one would be hard-pressed to claim they played a significant role in the outcome of the fight.
This isn’t to take away from the general concern that the champ's future opponents will likely face.
An eye injury can end a career, and it would behoove any referee who is tasked with the job of overseeing Jones’ fights to keep a watchful eye, no pun intended. Speaking with MMAFighting.com, Teixeira said he didn’t feel like the pokes were intentional. However, he did encourage MMA refs to be stricter in future instances.
Gustafsson, Jones’ next opponent, has to be thankful for that.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.