Last night Jon Jones turned out a rather routine performance against Rashad Evans at UFC 145 in Atlanta. Since then, well we knew Jones would win but most didn't know how he would win, although we played the role of fortune teller and we all had our opinions on how the fight would go, as in how would Jones dispatch of the smaller, and I mean shockingly smaller Rashad Evans. I knew Jones was a freakishly tall and rangy light heavyweight but I never realized how small Rashad Evans was. Anyway, the conversation about Jones being the greatest light heavyweight of all time have already started, not surprisingly but perhaps we should ask this one question before we continue the conversation about Jones' dominance: "Is Jon Jones a victim of circumstance?"
Is he plagued with the same problem a lot of great boxers have, for example the Klitschkos? The brothers have dominated every contender to come their way and are without a doubt the two greatest heavyweights of their era; but is that saying much? They weren't elevated to all time pound for pound status by the perfect rival who could match them on every perceivable level throughout their careers. Manny Pacquiao has Juan Manuel Marquez, Bernard Hopkins had Roy Jones, Roy Jones had James Toney and Antonio Tarver, Ali had Frazier, Erik Morales had Marco Antonio Barrera. That same question applies to Jon Jones: Who does Jones have to spark that memorable rivalry? We thought it was Rashad Evans but if last night told us anything it's that their rivalry was more superficial than official; more prepackaged hype than simmering blood feud. Evans is no more an equal to Jones than William Joppy was to Bernard Hopkins.
None of the former and current champions at 205 posed any real threat to Jones therefore fans of mma got their fill from Jon's masterful obliteration of "past it" PRIDE stars instead of a genuine back and forth down to the wire battle, of which we often see in boxing. MMA is a young sport, and perhaps Jones can't help but to be the one shining star piercing the sky during an overcast night. He's good, darn good, perhaps closer to greatness than anyone else in that sport not named Anderson Silva or George St. Pierre. Perhaps a fight with Silva is what needs to happen, perhaps a move to heavyweight where the fighters are a lot tougher, bigger, and more competitive; sooner rather than later Jones has a choice to make.
But for right now he is what we often see in boxing: An extremely talented champion fighting in a less than stellar division where most of the marquee names are no longer viable threats to the crown, perhaps even in their prime it wouldn't have mattered. Tony Thompson is fighting Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch. he says he's more focused now than in their first fight, perhaps that won't matter much either. When you stand alone, literally as the one true talent in an otherwise B to B- division, you have little room to argue uniqueness as a force of nature. Is it Jones' greatness or the division that was never really all that great to begin with? I say a lot of the former and a lot of the latter.
To borrow a line from Larry Merchant: The light heavyweight division in the UFC was an army of rabble in search of a leader, he was definitely in the house in Atlanta last night.