It's rare to say that someone’s most impressive fight was a loss. In the event of rising star Jon "Bones" Jones, that's exactly the case.
December 5th, 2009 at the Ultimate Finale 10 at The Pearl at The Palms Casino in Los Vegas, Nevada marked the beginning of a meteoric rise. Matched up against Matt Hamill, a three-time national wrestling champion, silver medalist in Greco Roman wrestling, gold medalist in freestyle wrestling and Ultimate Fighter Season 3 cast member, Jon Jones put on the display of a lifetime.
It’s quite an interesting story when one can dominate absolutely every aspect of a fight, yet walk out of the Octagon without their hand raised. Unfortunately for Jones, this was his reality.
Jon was born in Rochester, New York, raised in Endicott, currently residing in Ithaca, and as of August 2009, trains in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Greg Jackson camp. At just 23 years of age, Jones has already enjoyed relatively great success, holding a professional record of 5-1 in the UFC and 11-1 overall, with every performance becoming more and more dominating.
JBJ has proven himself to possess great all-around skills both on the feet and on the ground, which are rapidly improving every time he steps into the Octagon. In just his second fight in the UFC, Jones showcased tremendous wrestling and grappling skills, explosive stand up striking and overall great athleticism in a decision victory over UFC veteran, and Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finalist, Stephan Bonner. This fight included highlight reel knees, kicks, spinning elbows, and some of the most authoritative and dynamic slams the MMA has ever seen.
The road to success wasn’t always as simple as some might think. Coming out of high school, and coming off of being a Greco Roman All-American and state champion as a senior at Union-Endicott High School in Endicott, New York, Jon was a highly touted college recruit.
He left his home state of New York to travel to Iowa, where he won a Junior College National Championship as a freshman at Iowa Central. After red-shirting his sophomore year, he planned on accepting a full scholarship to a Division I school.
However, he soon discovered that his girlfriend of four years was pregnant. Jon decided to put his education on hold and picked up a job bouncing to make some quick cash. He received an email from a teenage fan, who had seen him wrestle in the past, suggesting that if he wanted to put his life-long passion of wrestling to good use, his cousin had an MMA gym where Jones could train. Jones jumped at the idea of training MMA and one day possibly becoming a professional and quickly responded to the invitation. He started his first day of MMA training later that week.
As much as Jon enjoyed what he was doing, he felt somewhat empty deep inside. He felt like he was letting his family and friends down. Jon's father was a Pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Endicott, so he had grown up in the church all his life. He felt like he had gone from the highest of the high, being an avid Christian, possessing a full scholarship to college and having a generally bright outlook on life, to the lowest of the low, dropping out of school, getting his girlfriend pregnant and then transitioning into being a cage-fighter.
Nonetheless, Jon managed to keep his faith in God, MMA and the work ethic he learned from his father, in order to keep improving and bettering himself as both a person and a fighter. A short time later, Jon signed a four-fight contract with the UFC.
With the exception of a unanimous decision victory in his UFC debut over Andre Gusmao, and a unanimous decision victory over Stephan Bonner, who is notoriously difficult to finish, "Bones" has made short work of all of his opponents. JBJ obtained a submission finish in Round 2 against "Irish" Jake O'Brien, and first-round knockouts over Brandon "The Truth" Vera (which earned him Knock Out of the Night Honors) and former IFL Light Heavyweight Champion, Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko.
Right in the middle of these UFC victories was the Matt Hamill fight. After starting off his career 9-0 (3-0 in the UFC) Hamill, who was coming off of a Knock Out of the Night performance against Mark Munoz, was going to be the toughest test to date. This was a fight in which Jones was staring another win directly in the face before it unluckily slipped right through his fingers.
After taking down the All-American, and landing some nasty ground-and-pound, which included punches packed with dynamite and elbows that landed like a cross between hammers and razor blades, Jones was penalized for landing two illegal 12-to-6 elbows. When Hamill was unable to continue, Jon Jones was disqualified, suffering the first loss of his career. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that JBJ was going to win the fight and stay undefeated if it wasn’t for that unfortunate technicality.
Jonny “Bones” has out-wrestled every wrestler he has fought and out-struck every striker/brawler he’s been matched against. His next opponent, however, Ryan Bader, is extremely well-rounded in all phases of the game, and holds an exceptional 12-0 record (5-0 in the UFC) with notable wins over UFC/MMA veterans Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Bader, having won two state championships in high school and moving on to Division I at Arizona State University, is a great wrestler and has also shown to have formidable power in his standup game.
When Jon Jones and Ryan Bader meet on February 5th, 2011 at UFC 126, it will significantly improve the winner’s stock in the top 10 Light Heavyweight rankings.
If JBJ is able to defeat an excellent opponent, and the most difficult of his career, in that of top 10 ranked Ryan Bader, his next opponent will be an extreme step up in competition. A finish of Bader would be that much more impressive and might even earn Jones the next title shot.
11-1 (which arguably should be 12-0) Jon has taken tremendous strides towards perfection each and every time he fights. His world-class wrestling, exceptional athleticism and unprecedented striking are what bolstered him to the top of the division.
A win against a very talented Bader should make JBJ’s hopes at a title shot a reality. Few have ever had the potential to be as great or have ever looked nearly as dominant as Jones has in his burgeoning career. After a win at UFC 126, no one will have earned it more or be more worthy of the next title shot than Jon “Bones” Jones!