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For the new guys: Who is Jon Jones?

With the return of Jon Jones rapidly approaching, it’s occurred to me that many fight fans, especially those that have discovered the sport more recently, don’t exactly know what Jon Jones is all about. Jones is set to finally return to the sport he’s dominated after a three-year layoff as he is set to face off with former interim champion Ciryl Gane at UFC 285. Jones is one of the greatest and most controversial figures in MMA history so let’s let all you youngin’s know what Bones is all about.

Jon Jones: The Great

Jon Jones was the best fighter in the world at one point in time. When he was making his rise, he was known to be one of the most brutal and vicious fighters the UFC’s ever seen. He became the youngest champion in UFC history, a record that still remains, against Shogun Rua. That fight saw Jones, 28 years old at the time, open up the fight with one of MMA’s most dangerous fighters with a flying knee. Eventually, Jones put Rua away in the third round and took home the title.

Jones would only become more brutal from there. He took on Lyoto Machida and choked him out in the second round with a standing guillotine, dropping Machida’s lifeless body on the floor. He notched wins over Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, and Vitor Belfort in that time as well.

One of Jones’ more interesting fights was against Chael Sonnen. There he broke his toe in the first round and was unable to stand. If the round were to end and he couldn’t stand, Sonnen would be named the victor and Jones would lose his belt. Jones turned up the heat with the bone sticking out of his toe and put Sonnen away at 4:33 in the first round.

The best moment of the career of Jon Jones was when he beat Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. Incidentally, this was the first fight I ever watched in MMA and have been hooked ever since. Watch the video below and you’ll understand why. The fight is arguably the greatest fight in UFC history.

After beating Gustafsson in such a close fight, Jones dominated Glover Teixeira in his first bid at the title. Next up, another well aged win: Daniel Cormier. In another very close fight, much like the Gustafsson fight, Jones eeked out a win and put another name on the resume that would age well.

The Bad: Picograms, Hit and Run, and Close Fights

Unfortunately for Jones, he would make a terrible decision and hit a pregnant woman in a car and fled the scene of the crime only to return to the scene, grab some weed out of his glove box, then flee again. He was a wanted man for a couple days and it was a very wild time in the MMA space. The UFC would strip him of his title and remove him from his upcoming fight with Anthony Johnson.

Cormier would go on to win the belt and Jones would be scheduled to rematch him at UFC 197. Cormier pulled out due to an injury and Jones fought Ovince St. Preux of all people for the Interim Light Heavyweight title. He won in a lackluster performance.

The UFC had big plans for UFC 200 as they booked Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones again to unify the titles. Jones would fail a drug test, just another blunder in his career. He was stripped of his interim title and received a year suspension from USADA and the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Once again, Jones was booked to face Daniel Cormier after ruining UFC 200. This was UFC 214 and he took on Daniel Cormier with Cormier walking him down. Jones, prophetically, called his shot and told Cormier that he saw openings in Cormier’s fighting in 2014 and Cormier “Don’t think you’re going to kick me in the head with your left leg.” Three years later Jones did just that.

But that ugly cloud of Jon Jones would return as Jones failed a drug test again and the fight was overturned to a no contest. Jones would get off the hook however with USADA saying that his failure was from him “pulsing” meaning his failed drug test from the UFC 200 matchup a year ago hadn’t exited his system completely and could come back occasionally.

Finally, Jones returned again with what was his last great performance. He rematched Alexander Gustafsson in 2018, arguably a fight that featured a Gustafsson past his prime and Jones knocked Gustafsson out in round 3.

Tough Times for the King

Then the tough times would begin for Jones as he had three close fights with fighters that he should never have had trouble with. Anthony Smith was kicked low, and referee Herb Dean literally told Smith that if he said he couldn’t fight that Smith would be the winner. Smith courageously fought on and lost a boring decision. Jones had no business being in the cage that long with Smith.

Next was Thiago Santos. This one was a split decision that Jon Jones lost in many fans’ eyes. Jones struggled with a Santos who tore literally every ligament in both his knees and fought to the end. He then took on Dominick Reyes in 2020 and went life and death with him, another fight fans swear Jones lost.

Those last two fights were the most-rough as Santos has gone 1-4 since then and his only win was a boring decision over Johnny Walker. Dominick Reyes hasn’t won a fight and has suffered some brutal knockouts. He was blasted by Jan Blachowicz, Jiri Prochazka, and Ryan Spann and all three looked very bad.

Jones has been teasing heavyweight since 2013 and UFC 285 will mark the day he finally steps foot in the cage as a heavyweight. His challenge is tough, and he hasn’t looked great in his last few fights but hopefully this new challenge brings out the best in Jon Jones. The sport is better for it. Make no mistake, Jon Jones was a bad man. He was the next Anderson Silva before the controversy struck. Hopeflly he’s more mature now and can wind the clock back and show all these newcomers in the pound for pound rankings who the king is.

Alexander Volkanovski is on notice.

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