As Jon Jones prepares to defend the UFC Light Heavyweight Title for the eleventh time this Saturday, February 8 at UFC 247, one has to wonder what kind of Jones we will see. Looking to be in the peak of his career with his new lease on life, Jones (25-1, 1NC) will try and take care of Dominick Reyes, a man who has shown no fear when talking about the 32-year-old.
UFC 247 takes place inside the Toyota Center in Houston Texas. While extremely controversial outside of the octagon (drugs, hit-and-runs, etc.), there is no denying the dominance Jones displays within it. As champion, “Bones” Jones has managed to create moments many fans will never forget. Which bouts represent who he is as a fighter though?
Here are top five Jon Jones title fights. The fights displayed take into account the caliber of the bout and the meaning behind it. Some may be obvious, while at least one might surprise you.
Rashad Evans – UFC 145
The former training partner of Jones, Rashad Evans had all the respect in the world for him. When Jones’ third title defense came, and Evans was the one picked, the gloves were off. A miscommunication on both fronts had Evans believing that Jones was looking past him, which created some great soundbites for a rivalry that came out of nowhere. An injured Evans (19-8-1) resulted in Jones fighting Shogun Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title (more on him later), so in a sense, Evans helped make Jones.
Evans’ line of, “anybody can lose on any given day” was the base statement coming into the fight. While the hype for the fight was even, the fight itself was not. Jones outpointed Evans throughout the bout, and even with the latter utilizing his kicks and landing heavy blows, it was the long reach of Jones that ended up giving him the ultimate advantage. Elbows, knees and strikes were a part of Jones’ recipe for success.
For the first time, we saw a Jones that wasn’t trying to have fun. This was a Jones who knew what to say, how to say it and walk the walk as well as he talked it.
Daniel Cormier – UFC 182
While Jones’ reign following this fight was marred with controversy, this was the moment he became the bad guy that many within the world of MMA loved. A true blood rivalry started, with brawls and respect going out of the window. It was also a tale of two fights.
The first half saw Cormier coming in hot, using the clinch to hit heavy shots while also pressuring him against the cage. Cormier (22-2, 1 NC) was using his momentum to crush Jones, if only for a moment.
The latter half of the fight saw Cormier’s cardio give out, and Jones took quick advantage of that. It was a master comeback that saw Jones land knees and shots around the cage. The last two minutes of the fifth round saw Cormier land a takedown, but Jones got back up. He then put Cormier against the cage, hit a spinning elbow and started smiling as the closing bell rang.
Jones landed 92 significant strikes compared to Cormier’s 58. He also had over six minutes of clinch control time compared to Cormier, a natural wrestler, who had over one minute. The three takedowns against Cormier was a first. Was it the best fight of his career? No. Was it the most personal? Yes, and it resulted in an entertaining story.
Also, never forget the fact that Jones hit Cormier with a shot after the bell. With Jones saying he has no respect for him in the post-fight press conference, the fight was only a catalyst for future spats between the bitter rivals.
Thiago Santos – UFC 239
Some may be shocked, but this new entry is extremely important when it comes to the growth of Jones. This also showed how versatile Jones is in the face of danger.
Jones landed 90 significant strikes, the fewest he has landed in his last seven fights. The judges also scored the bout 48-47, 48-47, 47-48, the first non-unanimous decision win of Jones’ career.
For his credit, Santos (21-7) managed to make the fight extremely competitive. This was after tearing his ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus in his left knee within the first two rounds. The knockout artist kept Jones on his feet, literally, as the champion did not attempt any takedowns. A black belt in Muay Thai, Santos earned the praise of Jones that night, who said Santos was more technically sound than he was. It was a rare sign of doubt from the champion, who added another win, albeit barely, to his brilliant career.
Shogun Rua – UFC 128
The one that started it all. One of the most active fighters in MMA at the time, Jones was rewarded in 2011 with a championship bout against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who held the title for close to a year during that time. It was the first time Jones was really put in the spotlight, and the young star just carried himself extremely well. It certainly would not be the last time.
Rua (26-11-1) pressured into Jones early and “Bones” immediately went for a flying knee that ended the fight before it began. While the fight lasted three rounds, there was no real damage sustained to Jones compared to Rua. Jones outpointed him every step of the way, which was shocking considering his age and the resume of Shogun.
The ending sequence saw Jones hit key shots following a takedown and left knee that took Rua out for the count. It was the purest knee you will ever see, and it ended up making Jones the youngest UFC champion in the company’s history.
Alexander Gustafsson – UFC 165
Did you expect anything less? The fight that defines Jones’ career and cemented him as one of the best to ever do it.
With an opponent taller than him in Alexander Gustafsson, Jones didn’t back down. The same could be said for the Swedish fighter, who came into round two of the fight after a so-so round one with guns blazing. The two looked to find any sort of advantage, and throughout the bout, you saw how tough Gustafsson’s (18-6) chin was.
When the championships rounds hit, the first time Gustafsson made it there, art was being created. “The Mauler” hit lefts and right jabs that blooded the face of Jones. While an elbow by Jones wobbled him, Gustafsson stopped multiple takedown attempts, making Jones realize this would be the toughest challenge of his career.
If art was being created in round four, round five was the Mona Lisa. Gustafsson just throttled Jones with uppercuts and elbows. Jones finally got a takedown in the tenth, after ten tries, but Gustafsson got right back up. He no-sold a head kick by Jones and hit him with spinning elbows. Jones returned the favor and ended the fight with a flying knee.
In a controversial outcome to many, Jones won via unanimous decision, 48-47, 48-47, 49-46. Unlike the bout with Cormier, Jones had respect for Gustafsson after. The bout is important for Jones and for every fighter looking to make an impact. It will be the one that truly stands the test of time.