Watching the evolution of Jon Jones, I’m reminded of the early days of Mohammed Ali’s career—back when he was still called Cassius Clay. He was lean, cocky, agile, fast and unorthodox. The young, undefeated phenom was characterized as not having punching power, until the 22-year-old Clay became the youngest boxer to win the heavyweight title (at that time) with a KO win over Sonny Liston.
Does that sound similar to the stellar rise of Jon Jones?
The critics predicted Ali would show his weakness in each successive fight, but he denied them and kept winning. It finally came to pass 12 fights and seven years later, when Ali lost the title in his first career defeat against Joe Fraser in 1971.
Should Jones follow a similar course, he would become the most dominant champion in UFC history, and still there would be those to label him as unworthy of greatness. Read the MMA forums, comments and blogs, and you’ll see a plethora of Jones doubters and haters.
Some pundits in MMA had predicted a tough test for Jones at UFC 135 against Rampage Jackson, the seasoned former champion possessing great KO power in his hands. Jones was called untested and overly confident. He was said to be learning on the job.
Jones ignored the criticism and got down to work last night in Denver. In the thin mountain air, Jones took away Ramage’s legs with vicious kicks. With superior reach and movement, Jones took away Jackson’s game plan and punching power. Then UFC Champion Jones took away Jackson’s hollow pre-fight claims of victory, his heart and finally his will.
His first challenger for the light heavyweight title was vanquished in style. Not one judge scored a single round for Rampage before Jones submitted him with a rear naked choke at 1:15 of the fourth round—the first stoppage of Rampage in 10 years.
After the fight, a humbled Rampage commented, "Jon is a great wrestler, so you don't want to take too many chances. Jon keeps his fingers in your face, so it's hard to get close to him." He added, "Jon is good. I'm telling you, the kid's here to stay. I don't know...whoever he fights next, I don't know who's going to beat him. He had me mesmerized."