I can remember the moment clearly. It wasn't that long ago but it was still a moment you remember. A week before one of the greatest eras a fighter in MMA ever experienced officially ended another was being jump started. Jon Jones just finished dismantling Ryan Bader. The word had already spread, but the moment Dana and Shogun stepped in to the Octagon to offer this spectacle of a young fighter the chance of his lifetime, the Jones era had begun and it was seeped with drama. It was meant to. This was a long time in the making, the Jon Jones era was being created.
This is not a Jones bashing piece. This is a look at the simple realities. Jon Jones is an excitingly talented fighter. He has been called the figurehead of the "New Breed" and it's hard not to agree with that statement. He brings a completely different style to the cage. But, let's be clear, his style works because of his 6' 4" frame and 84.5" reach. I would say more than anything else, this is what makes Jones an exceptional fighter today. And that's not a knock, it's reality. Is Wilt Chamberlain any less of a player because he was considerably larger than just about everyone else in the NBA? No. Nor is it a knock against Jones that few in the light heavyweight division can match his length which gives him such a commanding advantage.
The UFC is putting a ton of money and time into Jon Jones and his "era" because they are almost guaranteed they will have one. Let's look at the path Jones was put upon. It began with Shogun. Many said Shogun looked slow, still hurt, ring rust, etc. I felt Shogun needed to change up his training camps after his fight with Jones but the Rampage fight only confirmed what the Shogun fight did. Shogun was giving up 8" in reach. Rampage? He was giving up 13", 13! I didn't think Rampage looked bad in the Jones fight. I was amazed that he escaped Jones' mount without the ref pulling Jones off of him signifying a TKO. That was amazing. But, as a Jackson fighter will do, Jones kept out of danger by constantly winging leg kicks, push kicks, jabs and easily sliding away from any combo Rampage threw at him. A 13" reach advantage is almost impossible to overcome, especially when there is the talent Jones has behind it.
Next up for Jones? Rashad, who is giving up 11" to Jones. Rashad will test Jones on the ground but Jones can keep it from ever going there by keeping distance, just like he did with Rampage. I have little hope for Rashad in that fight. Then, who is next? Let's say Hendo takes out Shogun, not a prediction, just for fun. What the hell is Dan going to differently from what Rampage did with basically the same reach disadvantage? Nothing.
So, in his title run Jones will have defeated Shogun, Rampage, Evans, and Henderson. That puts him in rarefied air, he will be listed among the greatest this sport has known. The UFC, especially with FOX behind them now, will have a gigantic star for years to come. That is how you create an era.
In the meantime, somewhere in Chula Vista, California another long and strong light heavyweight slowly climbs the ranks. While Jones faced guys like Vera, Matyushenko , and Bader in the lead up to his title shot, Phil Davis has defeated the likes of Stann, Gustafsson, Boetsch, and Lil' Nog. He is years away from a title shot, and will have to keep winning to get it, naturally. But, there is a case that could be made that while Jones was fed a steady diet of gatekeepers till his fight with Bader, who really isn't that great to begin with, Davis has been cutting his teeth against the younger lions and was just as deserving, if not more than Jones, at getting that title shot earlier this year. It's a matter of right place and right time. It's also a matter of marketability. Davis hasn't gotten the "star" treatment yet, he wasn't put on the path of an "era". He is working his way up the way fighters normally do, rightfully do. Like JDS has. This is how a fighter should be brought along to the highest ranks of the division. Except when there is money to be made and honestly you can't blame anyone for that. This is a business. The Jon Jones era has and will be built on the backs of the previous generation of stars. But, his greatness will only be validated when he defeats someone from this "New Breed" that he has come to represent. Till then, enjoy the hellbows. There will be plenty.