Over the past week there is a lot of talk about Jon Jones latest conquest and successful title defense. Dana White is labeling him the number 2 best, while most writers and fans are quick to peg him as number 1. Not only do I think this is fundamentally incorrect, but is an insult to the veterans of the sport. My arguement is that Jon Jones is not currently the number one, and he has not done anything to justify the majority of the praise he is getting such as the UFC marketing him as the most dominant UFC champion. I feel that people who have stayed with this sport over the years, watching the birth of the UFC, witnissing Pancrase and Pride, and continue to follow MMA as a whole, and not just the UFC will see that Jon Jones, while he possesses massive advantages in the cage, is not the number one fighter in the world, and cannot yet be regarded as one of the best of all time.
I can't remember the first MMA fight I saw, but I'm pretty sure the fight that captured my attention and caused me to delve into the world of MMA was Carlos Newton vs Sakuraba. Now that fight became more of a grappling match than an MMA match, but it was enthralling. I was mesmerized, and I was hooked, I was only 10 years old. Over 13 years later, I am still hooked, and at 23, I am old enough not only to pursue watching the fights live (at least on PPV), but I have the means to educate myself on the history of the sport, as well as study technique myself. I learned how to box from my grandfather who was golden gloves in New Jersey, I studied a little Wing Chun under my godfather, and I studied BJJ for about 2 years. I'm not going to say I am well versed or skilled in any martial art, but studying it did give me a closer connection to MMA, and a slightly deeper understanding of the intricacies of the fight game. Alas I digress, but I thought a little personal history might shed light on my upcoming opinions on Jones.
When I saw Jones fight for the first time I was floored. I missed the Gusmao fight, but my eyes were opened when I saw him pick apart Bonner for 3 action filled rounds. I thought "this kid is sick!" I started following him in his next few fights, saw the atrocity that was Mazagatti standing over a deaf guy with blood in his eyes and verbally asking him if he was okay. Fast forward to the day before Jones would take on Matyushenko. Me and a couple buddies were in San Diego for a leisurely vacation and we stopped by a bar called the Gaslight. As we are sitting there my buddy nudges me and says "dude, that is literally Dana White behind us." Needless to say I panicked. I turned around in my seat, as calmly as I could and asked for a picture with him. He kindly obliged, and we shook his hand and decided not to bother him. I was sitting with my back to him, and there was a TV over his table, a promo for Silva vs Sonnen came on and I turned around to watch it. As I watch it i mutter "I hate Sonnen so much." To my surprise White replied with "Why?" This started a damn near hour conversation with Dana White about GSP, BJ Penn, Kenny Florian (who he called a choker). When we started talking about the fights the next day, he was insistent that Matyushenko would be a good match up. Me and my buddy were insistent that White just threw a sheep to Cerberus. We all know what happened. Dana ended up leaving but he generously paid our bar tab. (seriously...that happened) What I'm getting at is that I knew he was something special.
I cheered after Jones handled Bader, and got even more excited when they offered him the title shot. Then things got ugly. The whole Rashad, Jones beef, which led to Jones ducking him claiming a nagging injury which he laterd decided not to deal with. I started realizing that Jones is not that mature. His out of cage demeanor continued to frustrate as he refused to sign a plastic replica belt because the kid hadn't earned it. I thought "what an ass!" When he got into the cage though, he was a destroyer. Then I watched him run away from Rampage, and put a hand with outstretched fingers into his face to keep him at range, and I realized that he is kind of an asshole in the cage too. I watched his previous fights and realized...the back elbow that hit Bonner was directly to the back of the head, the 12-6 elbows were obviously illegal, he was headbutting Bader in the sternum. He is a dirty fighter. While some of his techniques are legal, they are still a little dirty, like front kicks to the knee, and holding his hand out. I feel he has no respect in the cage for his opponent, crawling at them in the opening frame, and ruthlessly dropping a limp Machida to the canvas and casually walking off. He shows his age a lot recently, and it is not good for his image.
A lot of people see Jones beating the best in the world, but lets face it, he is a young guy that is beating old veterans. His first four wins were against lower level competition, which is to be expected, and his title fight was against a bloated, fresh off of a surgery Shogun. If you have been following MMA at all you should know that when Shogun is injured, or it is his first fight coming off of a surgery, he is worthless. Rampage, while I am a huge fan, I must admit he is rather one note. He is a boxer. He is old. In that fight I felt Jones looked like shit. He was running, taking one shot and moving out, couldn't get a take down, and after the fight could barely walk. He got the win, but it wasn't thrilling for me. He fights Machida, and looks awful in the first, getting lit up. Catches a very strange take down and lands an elbow. A lot of people are saying that the elbow made Machida quit. That is absurd. The sequence that followed saw both fighters throw hard left hands, with Jones catching Machida a split-second earlier. It reminded me of Condit and Hardy. If the punch by Machida had landed first, we would be talking about a completely different outcome. Yet as we know he still got the win. Now the internet explodes with talk that he is the greatest. Why are people so quick to cast away Anderson Silva, GSP, and the other veteran champions. Since when does 2 title defenses make you the best in the world, if that was the case Cruz, Aldo, Edgar, GSP and Silva are all higher ranked than him because they have defended their belt more times. I feel it speaks more about the weight-class he is fighting in, rather than Jones being as good as everyone is making him out to be. Take the lightweight division for example, the lightweight division has no shortage of contenders, and the ladder keeps shifting every fight, it is still not clear who gets the next shot, and it continues to be a confusing weight-class to analyze. All of the other weight-classes have multiple people fans can think of that could compete for the belt. Light heavyweight is not like that. For years the top contenders have stayed there, and there is a huge disparity between the top and the rest. The fact that Jon Jones has cleared out a division after a title fight and 2 defenses says more about the weakness of the division than the strength of Jones. It took Anderson Silva 5 years to clean out the division and once again we see him with a line of challengers. With Jones you really have to stretch to even attempt to come up with a worthy challenger. Of course there is Rashad, but past him people are turning to people like Phil Davis, and Gustafsson, pegging them as the next generation along with Jones. The problem with them is that they are also very one dimensional fighters. Davis a wrestler, and Gustafsson a kick boxer.
What I cannot understand is how people are showering Jones with praise when he doesn't have the accomplishments to receive them. I admit he is great, he has physical gifts that give him a huge edge over his competition, and he has the skills to take advantage of those gifts. His legs are freakishly disgusting but that's beside the point. Anderson Silva has fought all over the world, beat the best, most times in stunning fashion. He has had a very long successful career. Yet this young kid who has been training for around 5 years, fighting in an old division with few contenders is regarded as better? I can't understand that. While he certainly has the tools and potential to become the greatest of all time, he isn't there yet. He needs more fights, more accomplishments and more humility.