Since early on in his historic title reign, fans have pondered what it would be like to see Jon Jones go up to compete in the heavyweight division. Perhaps much more so than the man himself.
Jones, the reigning two-time UFC light heavyweight champion, has recently played with the thought of moving up once again. This time for a possible fantasy clash with the devastating Cameroonian power puncher, Francis Ngannou. However, negotiations seemingly couldn’t be agreed upon between the champion and the UFC brass.
Therefore, Jones will be sticking with light heavyweight… assuming he sticks around at all.
Throughout his career, Jones has been criticized by some for not ever making this move and fighting several fighters that came up from lower weight classes. Ultimately, the number of heavyweights that “Bones” has already fought and defeated will surprise you. Whether the opposition competed in the highest division before or after their encounters.
Overall Jones has fought 14 fighters that have competed at heavyweight at some point or are about to during their careers. That’s half of his 28 career bouts and two of those bouts were rematches.
To get the “about to” right out of the way, today it was announced that Jones’ longtime rival Alexander Gustafsson will be coming out of retirement. An absence from the sport that lasted just over a year.
Instead of returning to the division that he made his name in, Sweden’s “Mauler” is going to come back to fight at heavyweight for the first time. In doing so, he’s expected to take on a former UFC champion in Fabricio Werdum. If that fight can’t be made, it appears Gustafsson will instead face Ovince Saint Preux… another former victim of Jones who just recently made his heavyweight debut.
Of the 14 one-time or another fighters that Jones has fought, Saint Preux and Gustafsson will make for two out of the five that made the move to heavyweight for the first time after fighting Jones. The others being Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Chael Sonnen, and Ryan Bader. The latter being the current Bellator heavyweight and light heavyweight champion. With the former, their transitions came in the respective twilights of their careers.
Between those five, only Saint Preux and Gustafsson managed not to be finished by Jones when meeting with the future UFC Hall of Famer. Although with Gustafsson, he was finished by Jones in their rematch via third-round TKO.
As for those who were heavyweights prior to taking on Jones, that leaves the majority which is nine. Daniel Cormier happens to be the lone previous heavyweight titleholder as he held the Strikeforce title. Vitor Belfort won the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament in 1997 but there was no belt to be awarded to the winner.
Post the Jones rematch, Cormier also happened to find success at heavyweight as he would return to his original division just one fight after his last time facing the JacksonWinkMMA product. In doing so, he’d become a dual division champion by taking out the UFC champion in Stipe Miocic.
When it comes to the group of fighters that would return to heavyweight later on, alongside Cormier would by Brandon Vera. Ahead of facing Jones, Vera was a hot rising prospect with high hopes of becoming a dual division champion in the UFC at light heavyweight and heavyweight.
Unfortunately for “The Truth”, neither would come to fruition. Instead, four fights after losing to Jones and Vera made his way to ONE Championship in 2014. One year later he would become their first and only champion at heavyweight as he still holds the belt to this day.
Fought at heavyweight prior to facing Jon Jones:
- Stephan Bonnar (15-9 overall, 12-4 before facing Jones)
- Jake O’Brien (15-4 overall, 11-2 before facing Jones), 12 fights at heavyweight
- Vladimir Matyushenko (27-8 overall, 22-4 before facing Jones), 10 fights at heavyweight
- Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (26-11-1 overall, 19-4 before facing Jones), 1 fight at heavyweight
- Rashad Evans (19-8-1 overall, 17-1-1 before facing Jones), 1 fight at heavyweight
- Vitor Belfort (26-14 [1 NC] overall, 21-9 before facing Jones), 11 fights at heavyweight
Fought at heavyweight after facing Jon Jones:
- Ryan Bader (27-5 [1 NC] overall, 12-0 before facing Jones), 4 fights at heavyweight
- Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (38-14 overall, 32-8 before facing Jones), 5 fights at heavyweight
- Chael Sonnen (31-17-1 overall, 28-12-1 before facing Jones), 2 fights at heavyweight
- Alexander Gustafsson (18-6 overall, 15-1 before first facing Jones, 18-4 before second Jones fight), next fight will be heavyweight debut
- Ovince Saint Preux (24-14 overall, 19-7 before facing Jones), 1 fight at heavyweight
Fought at heavyweight before and after facing Jon Jones:
- Parker Porter (10-5 overall, 2-0 before facing Jones), 1 fight at light heavyweight (vs. Jones)
- Brandon Vera (16-8 [1 NC] overall, 11-4 before facing Jones), 15 fights at heavyweight
- Daniel Cormier (22-2 [1 NC] overall, 15-0 before first facing Jones, 19-1 before second Jones fight), 16 fights at heavyweight
We have an idea of how Jones might do at heavyweight just going off of his skillset. And there’s a decent sample size to look at on his resume already. Though, the question remains if it’s quite enough until he actually makes the move… if he ever does at this point.
As we know, not everyone in the land of giants is shaped the same in that wide range of 207 to 265-pounds. Take the aforementioned Ngannou as a great example. We’ll never be seeing him make 205-pounds, so the only chance of seeing that fight with Jones is if the current champ decides to say goodbye to weight cutting.
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.