Jon "Bones" Jones is one of the most highly touted rising stars in mixed martial arts, and believe me, the hype is real. The 6'4" light heavyweight with the longest reach in the UFC (84.5") is still only 23 years old. He burst onto the scene at UFC 87 but was still very raw. Ever since Jones teamed up with Greg Jackson's camp in the September of 2009, his potential has been harnessed and he has been refined into a harbinger of destruction.
Don't believe me? Take a look at Jones as he has progressed up the ladder to the top of the UFC's light heavyweight division. Every performance has been more dominating and every fight has been quicker than the last.
UFC 87: Jon Jones vs André Gusmão
Jones was a late replacement for Tomasz Drwal, taking the fight on just three weeks notice. Coming in as the heavy underdog against the undefeated IFL veteran, Jones displayed a wide array of strikes including spinning back elbows, spinning backfists, front kick, spinning back kicks and flying knees as well as a beautiful lateral drop takedown en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Jones was not perfect however. His pace definitely slowed in the final round, his wild style caused two low blows that almost resulted in a point deduction and his striking defense was rather porous. Jones ate some pretty big shots in the second round and actually lost the round on judge Jeff Mullen's scorecard.
UFC 94: Jon Jones vs Stephan Bonnar
Jones was thrown to the wolves in a battle of prospect vs veteran for UFC 94. Jones opened strong with one of the most visually entertaining first rounds I've ever seen. He used his wrestling much better here, throwing Bonnar around like a rag doll with hip tosses, a German suplex, a unique overhook toss and trip takedowns. Jones also landed one of his most exciting strikes, a ridiculous spinning back elbow that sent Bonnar face-first to the canvas and had UFC matchmaker Joe Silva screaming like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. It was the closest Bonnar has ever come to being legitimately finished in the UFC. While Jones shored up some of his mistakes from his previous fight, he gassed a little bit in the last two rounds.
UFC 100: Jon Jones vs Jake O'Brien
This time, Jones was paired up with a big, strong wrestler with decent boxing skills in Jake O'Brien. O'Brien was making the cut to light heavyweight for the first time but he could not take Jones down. Jones displayed a lightning fast sprawl and punished O'Brien from the outside with head, body and leg kicks. If Jones made a mistake in this fight, it was with his lead jab. He got in too close after landing it and ate several left hand counters from O'Brien early.
The second round was all Jones as he clipped O'Brien with a spinning back elbow. O'Brien got to his feet and quickly shot for a desperation takedown but Jones stuffed it easily and put the turtling O'Brien in a guillotine choke that forced the tap. This was Jones' first finish in the UFC, the first of many coming at 2:43 of the second round.
Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale: Jon Jones vs Matt Hamill
Before this fight, Jon Jones had moved to New Mexico to train with Greg Jackson and his team. This would be where Jones put it all together. Matt Hamill had no answer for the vast array of kicks sent his way. When Hamill shot in for a takedown, Jones avoided the single leg attempt, deftly hopping on one foot like BJ Penn and spinning away. Jones responded by grabbing Hamill by the back of the head, tripping his left leg and tossing the national champion wrestler to the canvas with ease. Even more impressive was Jones immediately taking the mount within five seconds of scoring the takedown. Jones then unleashed one of the nastiest displays of ground and pound, battering Hamill with punches and elbows with such force that he broke Hamill's nose and separated his shoulder.
Referee Steve Mazzagatti refused to stop the action and in a rare demonstration of frustration, Jones dropped two 12-6 elbows that busted Hamill's face and left him on the mat with pools blood in his eyes. It was an image of the violence Jones was capable of that was forever burned into our brains. The fight was ruled a disqualification victory for Hamill despite the fight being stopped because of a shoulder injury that was not caused by Jones' illegal elbows. Just about everyone unofficially credits this as a Jon Jones victory.
UFC Live on Versus: Jon Jones vs Brandon Vera
This was a battle of the rising prospect against the former prospect who had begun to flame out. Brandon Vera was a warning to Jon Jones about what he could become if he didn't utilize his incredible gifts, and Jones heeded it well. Jones immediately shot in for a takedown against Vera and kept him on his back for much of the fight. The only danger Vera posed was an illegal kick off his back to a grounded Jones which cost him a point. Once Vera was put on his back again, Jones showed that an elbow could do more than just cut a fighter.
Jones broke Vera's orbital bone with a nasty left elbow and followed it up with ground and pound to score a TKO over the former phenom in a nearly flawless fight.
UFC Live on Versus 2: Jon Jones vs Vladimir Matyushenko
By this point, Jones had looked so good in recent fights that no one gave the former IFL light heavyweight champion Matyushenko much of a chance. Jones stayed on the outside early, landing punches and kicks from a distance and avoiding any strikes from "The Janitor." After Jones landed a spinning back kick, Matyushenko threw a lunging left hook. Jones ducked it, immediately took Matyushenko down, passed to side control and put the Belarusian in the mounted crucifix. It was all over from that point as Jones pummeled Matyushenko with repeated short left elbows that hearkened to a more humane version of Gary Goodridge vs Paul Herrera to score a TKO victory. This was the second consecutive fight where Jones did not get hit with a single strike.
Jones will face what is expected to be his toughest test to date in Ryan Bader on Saturday night. What I find most fascinating about Jones is how he has finished his opponents at an increasingly quicker rate despite the level of competition rising.
André Gusmão - 15 minute decision
Stephan Bonnar - 15 minute decision
Jake O'Brien - 7 minute 43 second submission (guillotine)
Matt Hamill - 4 minute 14 second DQ (illegal elbows)
Brandon Vera - 3 minute 19 second TKO (elbow)
Vladimir Matyushenko - 1 minute 52 second TKO (elbows)
Will he continue his streak against Bader? I can't wait to find out.
Originally posted on The Toledo MMA Examiner