Jon Jones will look to cement his status as the number one light-heavyweight fighter on the planet when he defends his UFC title against Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC 247 on February 8, and ahead of his latest defence we have been taking a look back at some of the wins that made ‘Bones’ the undisputed king of the 205lb division.
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Jon Jones v Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (March 19, 2011)
Jones’ rise up the UFC light-heavyweight rankings was swift, sudden and spectacular. Overlooking the disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, in which he was guilty of dropping overzealous elbows on his opponent, ‘Bones’ had looked unbeatable as he reeled off a string of wins against experienced opponents to go from hot prospect to genuine contender. A submission win over Ryan Bader in February 2011 presented him the opportunity to challenge for the belt just one month later as a late replacement for the injured Rashad Evans, and Jones did not pass up his chance. At just 23 years of age he became the youngest champion in UFC history, rocking the legendary Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua early with a flying knee before going on dominate the contest until the referee stepped in to wave it off in round three.
Jon Jones v Lyoto Machida (December 10, 2011)
With a successful first defence against Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson in the books, Jones signed on the dotted line to face former champion Lyoto Machida. ‘The Dragon’ had a reputation for being one of the toughest men to hit in the entire sport and many expected this to be a tough test for the young champion. It was… for just over a round. Despite dealing with a significant reach disadvantage, Machida enjoyed plenty of success in the stand-up during round one and was able to rock Jones with a straight left – suddenly the champion was looking human. Jones regained his composure quickly though and in the second round he waited for his moment to pounce. When it came, he made no mistake. Jones countered a hook from Machida to take him to the canvas and delivered a fight-changing elbow that opened up a nasty cut. The challenger was able to work his way back to his feet, but the fight had now swung firmly in Jones’ favour and he secured the win when he stunned Machida with a right-hand and then sank in a standing guillotine choke that gave the challenger a choice – tap out or be choked out. Machida took the latter and Jones dumped his unconscious body to the mat and went off to celebrate the hardest earned win of his career so far.
Jon Jones v Vitor Belfort (September 22, 2012)
Having followed up that victory over Jones with a dominant win over ex-champion Rashad Evans, Jones signed on to take on one of the sport’s greats in his next defence of the light-heavyweight title – Vitor Belfort. ‘The Phenom’ was back in the UFC after a lengthy exile and few gave him much hope of toppling the seemingly unbeatable champion, but the Brazilian had other ideas and almost shocked the world by forcing Jones to tap out to a tight armbar just two minutes into the contest. ‘Bones’ resisted any temptation to surrender his belt, worked his way out of the dangerous position and by the end of the round he was in firm control as Belfort ran out of steam – his one big chance gone. Jones sliced the challenger open with a nasty elbow, leaving him a bloody mess at the end of the first round, and despite having an injured arm he went on to dominate the next couple of rounds before Belfort issued one last flurry in the fourth. Jones responded to that by taking Belfort to the ground and, after failing with a crucifix attempt, he sank in an Americana that forced the Brazilian to tap out. Jones had survived the biggest scare of his career… so far.
Jon Jones v Alexander Gustafsson (September 21, 2013)
If that armbar was a ‘scare’ then it is difficult to put his win over Alexander Gustafsson into words. Many, many people felt that ‘The Mauler’ should have had his raised after the two men went to war in an epic five-round contest that became an instant classic. Both men were left battered, bruised and bloodied and had to be taken to hospital, but it was Jones who left the arena as the champion after the judges ruled in his favour. The two men would meet several years later, and on that night there was a definitive winner as Jones dominated Gustafsson before stopping him with strikes in round three.
Jon Jones v Daniel Cormier 1 (January 3, 2015)
When Jones finally hangs up his gloves it will be his rivalry with Daniel Cormier that he will probably be most remembered for. These two men cannot stand each other, so much so that one interaction at a press conference descended into an all-out brawl that resulted in both men being sanctioned and fined by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The two men were, however, more than clear to exchange fists and kicks when they finally stepped foot inside the Octagon several months later, and while Jones had no issues striking with Cormier he wanted to also embarrass his heated rival – a former Olympic wrestler. ‘Bones’ became the first man in MMA history to take ‘DC’ to the mat with a takedown, and he did not just do it once. He did it three times as he secured a convincing unanimous decision victory. There would be controversy post-fight however, as it was later revealed that Jones had tested positive for cocaine a month before the bout, and although the victory was allowed to stand, he was soon stripped of the belt by UFC officials. That proved to be the start of an extremely controversial few years in the career and personal life of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones that included multiple failed drugs test and run-ins with the law.