The first time I saw Jon Jones compete in Mixed Martial Arts was at UFC 94 where he took on veteran Stephan Bonnar. I was fairly new to the MMA scene, but understood enough to know this kid was special. Whether he was throwing spinning elbows, flying knees or seamlessly slamming Bonnar to the ground with his various unique wrestling techniques, I knew the UFC had a star in the making.
Since that fight, Jones slowly climbed up what is unquestionably the organization's toughest division. Running through the likes of Vladimir Matyushenko, Brandon Vera and Matt Hamill, he went from being a UFC prospect to a true contender of the light heavyweight throne.
A fellow up and comer by the name of Ryan Bader was the next "test" for Jon when the two of them met up at UFC 126 in Vegas. Many MMA pundits including myself, thought the winner of this fight would be catapulted to the top of the division, which is exactly what happened. Jon put on another dominating performance, completely controlling Bader on route to a second round submission victory. When Joe Rogan stepped into the cage to give his usual post-fight interview with the victor, Jones life quickly took a sudden turn when he was told that he had been awarded a title shot due to the injury of his past teammate Rashad Evans.
In three quick years Jones was thrust into the biggest spot that the UFC can offer. At the young age of twenty-three, he would be fighting against undoubtedly the number one light heavyweight in the world, Shogun Rua.
Approaching the fight, many people were split right down the middle on whom they thought would win. Shogun would be an obvious choice for most people, as he was the current champion after a dominant performance against Lyoto Machida. On the other hand many people thought Jones could continue his dominating ways, despite the difference in the level of competition it would be. Unfortunately for Shogun, he was no different from any of the previous opponents of Jones as once again Jon controlled and dominated the fight from start to finish.
You can make the argument that Shogun didn't look like himself, but that's what great fighters do. They make their opponents look average. None the less, Jones wasn't perfect in the fight either. He looked like he had gassed and was tired early in the second round. Despite that he still put on an amazing performance against Shogun. He acted as if Shogun was like any other opponent as Jones told the media many times, "I fight the body, not the name." He took control of the octagon early. Coming out with a flying knee, and later throwing his trademark spinning elbow. It was truly an amazing moment to watch as the twenty-three year old phenom went out there and put on the fight of his life.
After a few fights in a short period of time Jones publicly stated that he would like some time off before his first title defense. His first opponent will be his ex-teammate Rashad Evans. Showdown Joe from Rogers Sportsnet has said that the UFC has this bout tentatively booked for November.
Jon Jones is without question an amazing fighter and an exciting one to boot. He is coming in as the early five to one favorite over Rashad Evans months before they even square off. People have been quick to call him the new era of the light heavyweight division, however, maybe we should all learn something from the last time we did this, as the "Machida era" only lasted one fight.
After all this is MMA, anything can happen.