SBN coverage of UFC 145: Jones vs. EvansAfter what felt like an eternity, the drought officially ended, and everyone's favorite arena for human cockfighting has returned. The MMA world is unique in its ability to keep turning even when absolutely nothing is happening. Ultimate Ball, Alistair Overeem, and Quinton Jackson insured that we were still able to laugh at, cry over, and lament what MMA has to offer (respectively).
For those bored by the activities replacing the absence of action on the octagon, thank your lucky stars for the new season of Game of Thrones, and The Raid which is still playing at select theatres near you. And thank your lucky stars for Jon 'Bones' Jones.
At this point it's clear to everyone that Jon Jones is better than his contemporaries. And by a wide margin. Count me in the minority who felt like there was absolutely nothing "disappointing" or "anticlimactic" about Jones' performance or the fight.
It was a brilliant display, made all the more impressive by the fact that Rashad Evans has come into his own as an elite fighter. He utilized his jab, threw standing elbows like overhand rights, and his arsenal of kicks seems to expand by the minute.
More after the jump...
And yet for a fighter primed to be a star, observers speak of him like he's in limbo. We've heard this story before. Following Georges St. Pierre's dominating win over B.J. Penn at UFC 94, fans began to clamor for a move to MW for a superfight with Anderson Silva. At this point, it's a meme for all champions to consider moving up in weight once they've defended their belt as the list of challengers wane.
And so now Jones will hear plenty of whispers in his ear about moving up to HW.
I'm not here to question Jones' legacy. But I would like to question how observers choose to define his legacy so early in his career. Mike Chiappetta is talking about Jones as a potential G.O.A.T contender at MMA Fighting. I don't take issue with the claim on its surface. Jones is absolutely on the path towards being a potential "GOAT".
But let's not predetermine his status. He's defended his belt three times, and has been champion for a full year. In contrast to some of the candidates for the greatest of all time status, Chuck Liddell reigned LHW for three years. Fedor's historic run lasted from 2003 until 2010. Anderson Silva began his career as a top WW only to win championship gold at MW in 2006, and hasn't lost since. Has Jones achieved an approximation of any of this?
If anyone's credentials transcend length of time as a factor in applying the term "greatness", it's certainly Jones. After all, he already has almost as many fights as Liddell had during his run. And compared to Fedor, his competition has been stellar across the board defeating four former champions at a time when being a former champion meant something.
But is that enough? Of course not. No reasonable person actually thinks Jones is already there. But reasonable people are itching to see him leave LHW for the greener, more well fed pastures of heavyweight mixed martial arts. In part because they feel like the writing is already on the wall.
But also because people want to see Jones challenged. I don't know where this comes from: that in order to be "challenged" you have to bite off more than you can chew. MMA fans can be a bitter bunch, and my own personal theory is that its tied to its unique history of seeing our favorite fighters stumble: every hero has been slain at some point. 'Fate better fight fair' is their mantra: if quiet and beloved heroes like Fedor and Wanderlei could fall, fate better make damn sure it will happen to the UFC's polarizing golden boy. Right?
Whatever the case, let Jones' legacy be defined by duration, and achievement. Observers may not have the patience for the former, but it's the only way to allow him to fulfill the lofty ambitions we all expect from him.
This to me, is one of the important factors in determining true greatness. "Of all time" is not just a string of words attached to the acronym, the "GOAT". It's a reference to being able to sustain dominance. The challenges a fighter faces aren't always the most obvious. This is especially true of the champions. We've seen plenty of champions lose as much to a well timed right hand as to complacency (Chuck Liddell and Takanori Gomi spring to mind).
"Know your limits master Wayne", a wise butler of a fictional crime fighter once said. The sky's the limit for Jones, but it doesn't mean it can't fall on him if he's not careful.