A Closer Look at Jon Jones’ Title Wins

Jon Jones
HOUSTON, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 08: (EDITOR'S NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white.) Jon Jones walks to his corner in between rounds against Dominick Reyes in their UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout during UFC 247 at Toyota Center on February 08, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

When Jon Jones proclaims that God put him on the earth to fight, he has a point. Jones’ title wins now number 15, surpassing George St-Pierre. We take a quick look at a few standout performances.

Shogun Rua

Jones made history when he fought Mauricio Rua for the light heavyweight title at UFC 128. He became the youngest light heavyweight champion in UFC history. More impressively, he opened the fight with a flying knee. To say the least, no one expected a 23 year old to open a fight against Shogun Rua that way. It marked the beginning of a long series of title wins for Jon Jones.

Quinton Rampage Jackson

Rampage Jackson was the second of Jones’ title wins and his first defence.  The former pride fighter was a formidable force by any standard. Rampage already held two victories over Chuck Liddell.

Jones had already displayed his dominance going into the fight. However, the expectations were not as one sided as they often are today. Jones put Rampage into a rear-naked choke early in the fourth round of the fight. The squeeze got tighter and tighter as a small rivulet of blood ran down Rampage Jackson’s face. Jackson had no choice but to tap.

Lyoto Machida

Lyoto Machida was one of the best karate practitioners in the UFC. In the lead up to the fight with Jones, he emphatically said that he was not particularly impressed with Jones up until that point.

The fight ended in the last minute of the second round. Jones caught Machida in a standing guillotine choke. As the referee checked for signs of life, Machida gave none. This led to the referee signalling the end of the fight. Jones would release the choke and walk away as Machida’s now lifeless body fell to the octagon floor.

If Lyoto took Jones lightly before the fight, he certainly had no choice but to pay respect after the fight.

Alexander Gustafsson 1

Jon Jones faced Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. Gustafsson is one of the best boxers that the UFC’s light heavyweight division has produced. Going into the fight, the media and fans at this point were squarely in Jon Jones’ corner.

At this point, Jones’ days of being the upcoming underdog are long gone. Jon Jones may have thought of his viking challenger as nothing more than a stepping stone. But the viking would prove to be one of the most challenging of Jones’ title wins.

Jon Jones was taken down for the first time in his career. Gustafsson defended several of Jones’ takedown attempts. At the end of the third round, the vast majority of fans were scoring the fight in favour of Gustafsson.

Jones recovered when he landed a spinning elbow that hurt Gustafsson significantly. He managed a headkick that landed flush. At the end of round 4, Jones landed a flying knee. Jones rallied back.

The judges ruled in favour of Jones. But the glory of the night was shared by both men.

Rashad Evans

Rashad Evans is a hall of famer. Before earning his opportunity against Jones, Rashad Evans scored wins over the likes of Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz. Evans and Jones were scheduled to face each other a few times before the fight actually took place at UFC 145.

Jones has many tools in his arsenal as a fighter. It’s one of the biggest reasons for his success. He also knows when and how to use them. In this fight against Evans, it would be a series of elbows, knees and strikes that would get the job done. Jones earned a unanimous decision victory.

Daniel Cormier 1

Daniel Cormier is hailed as the man to truly expose the dark side of Jon Jones. Going into the first match, Cormier was the relatively underdog. The build-up to the fight saw heated exchanges on Twitter and a brawl that broke out at a UFC media event.

Jones picked up the win by unanimous decision. However, he continued to berate Cormier on Twitter and on television. The fight would ultimately set the two on a path for future confrontations.

Daniel Cormier 2

In a much awaited rematch, Jones and Cormier faced off again. The Olympic wrestler and Jones had built up a big rivalry. Many called it the biggest rivalry in the sport. Both fighters initially attempted to keep the fight standing, but the momentum would swing seriously when Jones landed a head kick that caught Cormier. As Cormier wobbled, Jones would follow it up with a leg kick, and then some ground and pound.

The fight is likely the last we have seen of this legendary rivalry as Cormier has indicated that he will in all likelihood retire, except for a possible rubber match with Stipe Miocic.

Alexander Gustaffson 2

In Jones’ comeback fight after a long suspension, Jones was itching to regain his title. Memories of the first battle between Jones and Gustafsson were fresh in everyone’s mind. Many fans were hoping that Gustafsson would pull out the upset victory.

However, this time Jones was able to get the better of the exchange on the feet and finally take Gustafsson down. Jones then rained down some incredible ground and pound. The fight was stopped and Jones signaled that he had returned.

Anthony “Lionheart” Smith

Anthony Smith had spent the majority of his career at middleweight at 185 lbs. The weight-cuts came with a price. In 2018, Smith decided to move up to light heavyweight, debuting against one of Jones’ conquests, Rashad Evans. He earned a first round knockout victory. Smith then went on to conquer Shogun Rua in a similar fashion. All it took was one more win, this time against Volkan Oezdemir and Smith found his title opportunity.

At UFC 235, Smith was unable to mount the same level of offence against Jones that he was able to against his other opponents. However, Smith had an opportunity to seize a victory. Jones inadvertently landed an illegal blow to Anthony Smith. It was a real moment of truth, where Smith when presented with an offer from the referee, could have taken it. He could have become only the second person in history to defeat Jones and the first to win the light heavyweight title against him. Instead Smith chose to continue. History will not record the valiant choice that Smith made but Jones will be thankful for it.

Thiago “Maretta” Santos

Thiago Santos was another of Jones’ title wins which came against a middleweight who moved up in weight class. Maretta is the Brazilian term for sledgehammer. It’s a fitting moniker for the Brazilian who amassed a string of highlight reel, powerful knockouts prior to earning his title shot against Jones.

The fight was competitive to say the least. While Jones edged out a clear decision, Santos put on a valiant effort. Jones delivered significant damage to both of Santos’ knees. At one point it was unclear which of Santos’ knees had taken more damage, leading a few fans to speculate that Santos was not only standing, but fighting the very best in the world with two broken knees.

Dominick Reyes

The latest of Jones’ title wins came at UFC 247 and was a reminder on how dominant the champion truly is. Dominick Reyes connected early in the first round with his left. He followed up with a barrage of strikes. The second round saw even more dominance from Reyes.  The third round continued with Reyes outstriking Jones. Jones did manage to get Reyes in the clinch but Reyes powered out of it with ease. The championship rounds told a different story. Jones managed to outstrike Reyes, and even landed a few takedowns. Dominick Reyes, a multi-sport athlete was undefeated going in. While a few expected him to emerge victorious, Dominick Reyes definitely exceeded expectations. Many fans scoring the bout had it in favour of Reyes. The crowd also showed their appreciation for Reyes. However, the judges voted in favour of Jones and the record-breaking title streak continued.

Parting thoughts

Fans of the sport are aware that Jon Jones has had issues outside the octagon. Most of these issues have been substance issues. Jon Jones has used recreational substances. He has also used performance enhancers. Perhaps the largest setback in his career occurred in the wake of his second fight with Daniel Cormier. Jones tested positive for Turinabol. He was then required to serve an 18 month suspension. USADA later reduced the period to 15 months in exchange for Jones providing “substantial assistance” to USADA. There have been a few other incidents too.

Jones’ public image has been under constant scrutiny. The champion is not taking this lightly. Jeff Novitsky, a prominent senior official from USADA, recently tweeted that Jones has been tested 42 times last year. Three different organisations (the USADA, CSAC and the NSAC) conducted these tests. Novitsky further clarified that these tests were “no-notice” drug tests. According to Novitsky, Jones is now the most tested athlete in any sport in a single year.

A few months ago, Jones spent a small fortune on charity when he bought clothing for several homeless people. While the asterisks remain, this is a concrete step towards building a stronger better legacy. As the sport grows, so do the personalities. Jones’ title wins may only be a small part of his overall legacy.
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