Could Jon Jones become the greatest fighter the UFC has ever produced? Photo by Ed Mulholland for ESPN.com
When I was 23 years old, I was struggling to figure out exactly where my life would lead. I had graduated from college, continued working a full-time job to pay the bills, and actively seeked out a "real world" job that paid a salary. In between the long hours of working as a car mechanic and running from interview to interview, I was enjoying my youth. I certainly wasn't stopping burglars from snatching purses or fighting inside an eight-sided cage for money.
But that's exactly what Jon Jones was doing on Saturday night. Hours before the event's card kicked off, Jones assisted in subduing a burglar with the help of Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn. As if the hype couldn't get any thicker, hours later -- Jones walked into the Octagon and demolished champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua in emphatic fashion, completely outclassing the Brazilian in every area of the fight. All of this at the young age of 23 years old, raising questions whether Jones has the potential to become a star that transcends the boundaries of our sport.
I'm always wary of reacting quickly to a performance, mainly due to the fact that we end up watching the same fighter falter in the future. Lyoto Machida is the perfect example of that. A man who was so elusive and quick, nobody could touch him. Except Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, who knocked him out in their second encounter. The same questions revolve around Jon Jones. Can he live up to the idea that he will sit atop the UFC's light heavyweight division for years to come? Are we crazy to believe he has the youth and skills to become one of the greatest the sport has ever produced?
Nobody is unbeatable in this sport. It's been proven time and time again that mixed martial arts is a sport that is far too unpredictable to consistently win at the highest level. But Jones has the opportunity to prove that adage wrong, and perhaps prove that he's one of the greatest athletes of all-time across all sports. This may be a different story if Jones were an older fighter, but the fact that he's attained the highest crown in the sport at only 23 years old makes this a very real possibility.
Rua, one of the sport's greatest light heavyweight fighters, had no answer for Jones. Jones' reach is an impenetrable wall of power, his striking is dynamic and continuing to improve, and his ground game is supplemented by his vaunted wrestling ability. When we look across the landscape of the division, nobody stands out as a Jones' beater. Phil Davis would be my pick in a few years if he stuck to a relentless wrestling-only gameplan, but I'm certainly not looking at Rashad Evans as the man who will stop Jones. In fact, even the UFC's brass isn't looking at Evans to provide the challenge, already asking fans if they want to see Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones on Twitter.
None of these are signs that Jones is going to become the Michael Jordan of mixed martial arts. But if anyone in the sport has a shot at perfection, it's difficult to look past Jon Jones considering he still has ways to improve his overall game. Jon Jones is here to stay. Don't be surprised if he creates a legacy for himself quickly.