UFC 140: The Complete Jon Jones Career Part 3

UFC 135 at the Pepsi Center on September 24, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. 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, and in part 2, we saw his arrival as the dominant young gun in the UFC.

Before we continue, one quick note from part 2. In discussing the Jones vs. Jake O'Brien fight from UFC 100, I made it sound like Jones got the TKO victory over JOB. That's not the case, as Jones finished him with a guillotine in the 2nd round. This is a significant switch for two reasons - first, because it was only the second time Jones used a submission for the win. Second, it's his first stoppage in the UFC. After 6 straight stoppage wins, his first two UFC fights went the distance. This time, Jones still used his striking to gain the advantage, but then switched to submissions to close the show, showing a nice change in his game-planning. Thanks to reader Eric H. for pointing it out. OK, back to business...

Today we wrap it up, as part 3 begins with the 11-1 Jones entering the biggest fight so far in his career - and no one even knew just how big it would be until it was all over.

Jon Jones (11-1) vs. Ryan Bader (12-0)
February 5, 2011 - UFC 126

Big, big fight here with two virtually undefeated young fighters both on a run through the division. It's great match-making where you know the winner will be a new name at the very top of the division.

This fight again continues the trend of Jones's last few fights, where he is much more focused and deliberate in his attack. At first, he uses little stand-up, instead preferring to keep the fight on the ground and use his superior side and top control to dominate Bader. Smart move there as Bader is also a wrestler, but has had the best success with his heavy KO power. Jones avoids those punches, keeping the fight down. As the fight moves into the 2nd, he does begin to stand more, adding in a little more flash. Jones throws a superman punch, and Bader tags him, but Jones walks through it with no trouble.

End comes about in a somewhat odd way, as Jones gets Bader down, then very subtly sneaks in a choke. Bader doesn't seem to ever realize what trouble he is in until he is tapping - at no point does he even truly try to defend the choke. It wasn't the most dramatic finish, but the way Jones quietly lured Bader in and slowly sprung the trap is impressive indeed. I remember being a bit let down by this fight live, but it's a very strong performance, and just shows how spoiled we had become by the fireworks of his previous fights.

Post-fight, Joe Rogan famously announces that Rashad Evans is out, and Jon Jones is now the #1 contender to the Light Heavyweight title and Shogun Rua, leading to both Jones's greatest opportunity, and opening the door for his greatest rivalry.

More fights, along with gifs, in the complete entry.

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Jon Jones (12-1) vs. Mauricio Rua (19-4)
March 19, 2011 - UFC 128

Six weeks after choking out Bader, Jon Jones is fighting for the belt in Shogun's first title defense.

This fight starts completely differently from the Bader fight, as Jones comes out swinging, pushing a fast pace with a lot of quick, flashy strikes. It's the kind of quick offense Shogun himself favored earlier in his career, but as a more seasoned (and battle-worn) veteran, no longer employs. They go to the mat, where Shogun tries to use guard to keep Jones at bay, but has no success. Ben Thapa broke this guard game down in a Judo Chop yesterday, which is well worth your time. They get back to their feet, Jones blasts Shogun against the cage, and though it took another two rounds, that moment is essentially the end of the fight. Shogun is hurt, comes out wobbly, and Jones just starts picking him apart.

Watching that slow dissection is a thing of beauty. Jones is just so deliberate in his attacks on the hurt Shogun. He throws every shot with power, carefully set up so that each shot does maximum damage. He also begins working the body in order to drain the gas tank of the already hurt Shogun. Jones is calm, focused, and surgical in his attack. Finally, Shogun gets stuck against the cage, Jones unleashes a final salvo, and the champion crumbles, defeated, to the mat. Jon Jones is the new champion.

I have to ask - is this the most dominant winning of a belt in UFC history? Sure there have been quicker flash victories, but there is something about the way Jones just demolishes Shogun over 3 rounds without ever being in even a second of trouble that is even more impressive than any 1 round KO or submission. Just an amazing performance.

And then... a whole lot of Rashad Evans nonsense over the summer. That is an issue that absolutely needs to be resolved, as fans are forced to wait for that confrontation will finally happen. In the meantime, Jones had a title to defend.

Jon Jones (13-1) vs. Quinton Jackson (32-8)
September 24, 2011 - UFC 135

If, for some reason, you were not all that impressed by Jones after the Shogun fight, then this fight should end any doubt in your mind. Jon Jones is for real.

What is amazing about this defense against Rampage is that it is almost as dominating as the Shogun fight, and yet Jones fights it in a completely different style. For Shogun, Jones was all about the wrestling, the top control, and the deliberate strikes. Against Rampage, Jones gives up the wrestling, and even his hands for the most part, and turns it into a kickboxing fight. Where he steamrolls.

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Of course, some of that switch comes as a result of Rampage. The former champion actually has a pretty good round 1 defensively, as he avoids Jones's previously unstoppable takedowns, and uses good movement to slip a lot of the punches. But he doesn't defend the kicks. Jones picks up on that, and begins using kicks to slice Rampage apart. And he does so with an enormous variety of kicks. He's got leg kicks, body kicks, front kicks, head kicks, side kicks, kicks to the knee, lead leg kicks, rear leg kicks... he throws from south paw, from orthodox... adds in elbows, jabs, knees...

In short, it is a striking clinic. Jones throws every kind of strike imaginable at Rampage, flowing them together seamlessly so that Rampage has no clue what to do. It is the best striking we have yet seen from Jones, and some of the best striking seen in the Octagon all year.

Plain and simple - this performance is brilliance.

Jon Jones (14-1) vs. Lyoto Machida (17-2)
December 10, 2011 - UFC 140

So, what to expect this Saturday? It's hard to say for sure. Jones has developed into an extremely well-rounded fighter, capable of wrestling, clinch-fighting, striking, or submitting opponents. But most importantly, he's developed into a supremely strategic fighter, who is not only capable of fighting in a way that plays to his strengths and his opponent's weaknesses, but also making adjustments mid-fight to respond to his opponent's own game.

Against Lyoto, I would look for Jones to mix in the striking from distance with takedowns to ground control. The one area he should avoid against Machida is the clinch and fighting inside, where The Dragon has been very successful in the past, and where Jones won't be able to use his reach advantage.

But who knows? Maybe that's exactly where Jones will take the fight, and maybe he'll control Machida from that very position. If this trip through Jones's career has taught us one thing it's this - Jon Jones evolves. He learns from his past, makes adjustments, and comes out stronger. Looking at his last few fights, that's a scary thought. Because just how much better can he get?

Thanks for reading - see you on Saturday.

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