There was a point on Saturday when Jon Jones could have lost his UFC light heavyweight title to Anthony Smith, and it wasn’t anything to do with being in danger of a knockout or submission.
During the fourth round, Jones landed what looked to be an accidental but illegal knee to his opponent’s head, which put the entire fight in jeopardy.
Smith could have opted for a DQ win, but ‘Lionheart’ brushed off the knee and continued into the fourth and fifth rounds, ultimately losing a clear-cut unanimous decision.
Speaking of that ‘nerve-wracking’ moment in the fourth round, ‘Bones’ said he had flashbacks of his 2009 fight against Matt Hamill, which he lost via disqualification after landing a series of illegal downward elbows in the first round.
”It was nerve wracking. It was nerve wracking, really,” Jones said at the UFC 235 post-fight press conference in Las Vegas, per MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz. “I just started to pray. I was just hoping that it wouldn’t go down like that. I had flashbacks of the Matt Hamill fight and I was just thinking, oh my goodness, please, tell me this isn’t going down like this. I was just looking at Anthony and I felt like we locked eyes at one moment and I kind of gave him one of these, like, ‘you’re alright, get your a** up’ [laughs]. Sure enough, he showed the heart of a lion.
”Hats off to Anthony, man. He could’ve done the easy way and took that option out, but instead he stayed in there. I owe him. I owe him a beer. At least a beer.”
Jones assured the media his illegal knee was unintentional, claiming that he misread Smith’s body language.
”The illegal knee was totally unintentional,” Jones said. “In the moment I felt his body language rising, and I thought I was gonna time a great head shot right after he got off of his palm. To my understanding, on his finger tips he’s considered standing. His body came up, I threw the kick, I guess his palm was still down. Totally unintentional.
”Hats off to Anthony Smith for having a lion heart. I mean, I think the average person would have used that as a way out and became a world champion. He was tired, he had been hit with a kitchen sink, and, I mean, I did an illegal blow. And he decided to allow the fight to continue and I’m so proud of him for just being a real warrior out there and continuing the fight.”
With the win, his first title defense in over four years, Jones reestablished himself as the most dominant light heavyweight champion in the UFC.