UFC Live on Versus2 Jones vs. Matyushenko via UFC.com
This weekend, Jon Jones will defend his UFC Light Heavyweight title against Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC 140. To gear up for this huge title fight, we are looking through the complete career of the young champion. In part 1, we watched Jones's meteoric rise from debuting fighter to exciting UFC prospect.
Now, in part 2, we pick up with the 7-0 Jones taking a big step up in competition, and doing so on the biggest stage of his extremely young career - the PPV card of UFC 94 and the heavily hyped Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn rematch.
Jon Jones (7-0) vs. Stephan Bonnar (11-4)
January 31, 2009 - UFC 94
For a large percentage of fans, this is the fight that introduced Jonny "Bones" Jones, and for good reason. UFC 94 was a major event, featuring the only clash between two reigning UFC champions. Jones's fight would be seen by literally a million people, placing him on the kind of grand stage few athletes ever reach, and even fewer less than one year since turning pro. With this stage before him, Jones did not disappoint.
There is, of course, one moment that stands out in this fight - a moment that has become iconic in Jones's career. The unknown fighter grabs his veteran opponent around the waist and hoists him overhead in a German suplex that would have made Karl Gotch proud. Moments later, Bonnar regains his feet, throws a kick, and Jones blasts him with a spinning elbow that sends him crashing to the mat with a violent thud. Joe Silva's reaction in the background says all you need to know - this was an authentic "Holy S*" moment and the singular move that spectacularly announced Jones's arrival.
Of course, there's much more to this fight. Jones states pre-fight that he is out to show his technique, not just his wild side. And, to some degree, that's what he does, focusing on a wide variety of throws, primarily from the clinch. This shows an increased maturity to his game as he is playing to his strengths and not forcing a wild stand-up duel against an opponent who thrives in those duels. We do see Jones tire a bit here, but it only comes after really pushing hard for the first 2 rounds.
Smart performance, capped by a highlight reel for the ages. Welcome to the big leagues Jon Jones.
More fights, along with gifs, in the complete entry.
Before we move on, let's relive some highlights. First, here's that German suplex. Note the beautiful bridge, and the way Jones keeps his hands locked, rolls over, and starts to bring Bonnar back up. I think he is actually going for the Chris Benoit style rolling German suplexes here, which is... well, it's insane and brilliant to even contemplate.
Next up, the elbow. He's caught Bonnar's left leg, then quickly fires off a shot that Stephan never sees coming. Yes, it connects with the back of the head somewhat, though I don't fault Jones there, as that comes because Bonnar begins leaning down. The force with which Bonnar crashes to the mat is just nasty.
And finally, one quick throw from the Thai clinch. I marvel at the ease with which Jones chucks Bonnar here, like he's throwing around a man 3 weight classes below him.
Jon Jones (8-0) vs. Jake O'Brien (11-2)
July 11, 2009 - UFC 100
Jones follows it up by earning a spot on the historic UFC 100 show, though it was such a stacked card that he is sadly relegated to the prelims for the 2nd, and final, time in his career. This time, Jones focuses much more on his striking, which again shows an improved sense of game-planning. O'Brien is a solid wrestler, so why not fight him where he is less comfortable - on the feet? The big development in his stand-up game here is his new emphasis on reach. Jones's reach is one of his best natural tools, and this is where he really starts using it, as his strikes accentuate that distance. He uses a lot of lunging jabs, as well as kicks from the lead leg - both of which allow Jones to land while outside O'Brien's range. He also starts heavily using that nasty kick to the knee here, which is a great, but vicious, attack. Jones keeps up a steady stream of strikes until O'Brien just can't hang anymore, wilting under the constant pressure.
Jon Jones (9-0) vs. Matt Hamill (7-2)
December 5, 2009 - UFC Ultimate Fighter Season 10 Finale
And now we come to this.
This was meant to be the big Jones coming out party where he firmly established his place as THE dominant young name in the UFC. It wasn't to be. Chances are you know the story - Jones dominates, takes Hamill down, and begins the ground and pound. When the fight is not stopped, Jones ups the fury of his attack, switching to illegal 12 to 6 elbows that cause referee Steve Mazzagatti to step in. When Hamill can not continue, the fight is ruled a disqualification win for Hamill. You can see the fight ending elbows on the right.
So what to make of this whole situation? For my money, though some are slow to call this a real loss, I do see this as a legitimate blemish on Jones's record. Hamill may not have "won", but Jones's inability to follow the rules and keep his cool cost him, and that's a loss in my book. Jones seems frustrated by the fight not yet being stopped, and his response is to throw these illegal elbows. What is truly unfortunate is how unnecessary they were. Hamill was nearly done, and had Jones remained patient, the fight would have been stopped soon. The elbows were a lapse in focus, and at this level, you can't afford a mistake like that.
Other quick notes from the fight - Jones again shows a big reach on the jab, but is still keeping his hands low and clowning his opponents a bit.
Jon Jones (9-1) vs. Brandon Vera (11-4)
March 21, 2010 - UFC Live on Versus 1
After that last mishap, we get the Jon Jones Coming Out Party, Take 2, this time as the first headlining fight on Versus. It's funny looking back on this just how big a deal this was - today it's a laughable mismatch, but at the time, it was such a great, anticipated fight.
Jones comes in seemingly on a mission, knowing that the Hamill fight was a bump and needing to get that behind him. He is deadly in his focus here and turns in what can only be described as the best performance of his career. His takedowns are absolutely unstoppable. On the mat, he completely controls Vera, despite Joe Rogan's attempts to make it sound like Vera is getting him in trouble with a stealthy armbar attempt.
And then, from that ground control, Jones lands one of the single nastiest ground and pound elbows I have ever seen. Check out the force behind that shot, as it just slams into Vera. The pain is immediate, as Vera shows the kind of anguish you almost never see inside the Octagon. As it turned out, Jones had broken bones in Vera's face in three different places. And he had done so seemingly with ease.
Jon Jones (10-1) vs. Vladimir Matyushenko (24-4)
August 1, 2010 - UFC Live on Versus 2
The new, more focused Jones returned against Matyushenko for the next Versus card. At the time, this seemed like, at best, a step sideways for Jones, if not a step backwards. Fans were eager to see this surging phenom move up the ranks, and a fight with a solid journeyman like The Janitor just wasn't going to cut it.
It played out pretty much exactly as many suspected it would. Jones has not even a moment of difficulty dispatching his veteran opponent, coming in with a clear gameplan to take him down and pound him out ASAP. And that's exactly what he does, finishing with a flurry of elbows from the crucifix position (but, of course, all legal ones this time). The phrase "imposing your will" gets used a lot in MMA, but that is the best way to describe this one - Jones imposes his will on Vladdy, making the fight go the exact way he wants.
Clearly, it was time for something bigger. And for Jon Jones, 2011 would prove to be big indeed.
Check back Friday for part 3.