Gregory Payan
Magnificent 7: A review of Jon Jones’ record-breaking title reign
Is UFC champ Jon Jones the greatest ever? He certainly makes a great case.

A CURSORY GLANCE over any of the difficultly-defined but perpetually-debated MMA pound-for-pound rankings can guarantee just one certainty.

Jon Jones is at the summit. And with good reason.

At this moment in time, regardless of weight class, the UFC’s light-heavyweight champion is without peer. This assertion also extends to anyone who came before him. Even other previously long-reigning title holders, such as Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, did not possess the comprehensive skill set that Jones does.

At 27, Jones has already surpassed Tito Ortiz’s six title defences at 205lbs. His win over Glover Teixeira last April took his total to seven and counting.

He is heavily-favoured to extend the streak against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 in the small hours of Sunday morning.

Aged just 23, Jones became the youngest-ever UFC champion when he usurped Shogun Rua via a brutal third round TKO at UFC 128 in March 2011. At the time, he’d been fighting professionally for less than three years.

Since then, he has worked his way through a host of the sport’s elite and, on most occasions, made it look very easy.

Here, we look back on Jones’ incredible body of work since assuming control of the division.

1. Quinton Jackson. UFC 135. 24 September 2011

Ahead of his inaugural title defence, Jones was dismissed by Jackson as nothing more than hype. How wrong he was.

‘Rampage’, the first of four former champions to be defeated by Jones since he won the belt, barely laid a glove on him.

For the first three rounds, Jones expertly picked apart his opponent at range. In the fourth, he took Jackson to the mat and finished him with a rear-naked choke. To this day, Jones is one of only two men to submit Jackson.

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2. Lyoto Machida. UFC 140. 10 December 2011

Prior to the bout, questions remained about whether or not Jones could take a punch. In the first round of his contest with Machida, he was hit by a flurry of them and looked no worse for it.

Jamal Brooks / YouTube

In the second, Jones opened up Machida’s forehead with a short shot, then in the scramble, he locked in a standing-guillotine and choked him unconscious. The sight of Jones casually walking away from Machida’s limp body as he fell to the ground revealed a genuine ruthless streak within the champion.

3. Rashad Evans. UFC 145. 21 April 2012

Much like his forthcoming bout with Cormier, there was no shortage of ill will between Jones and Evans. The two were former friends and training partners at Jackson/Winklejohn MMA and had allegedly sworn to never fight each other.

When Jones won the title, Evans departed the training camp acrimoniously. The verbal sparring was relentless.


In reality, that was about as competitive as it got. Using his range and incredibly diverse striking, Jones punished Evans at will. He was awarded a unanimous decision by the judges.

4. Vitor Belfort. UFC 152. 22 September 2012

Belfort moved up from middleweight to face Jones after Lyoto Machida had turned down a rematch due to lack of preparation time. However unlikely it seemed from the outset, Belfort became the first challenger to put Jones’ reign in peril.

In the first round, Belfort caught him in an air-tight armbar from which there looked to be no escape. Jones allowed his arm to become hyper-extended and eventually wriggled free.

UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship / YouTube

Despite Belfort’s attempts to get the fight back on the mat, Jones dictated the remainder of the bout. In the fourth round, he submitted Belfort with an Americana (a derivative of the kimura).

5. Chael Sonnen. UFC 159. April 27 2013

In this case, the back-story is infinitely more interesting than the fight proved to be.

Jones had been expected to face Dan Henderson at UFC 151 but the latter was forced to withdraw due to injury. Sonnen, a middleweight who had just lost a title fight against Anderson Silva, offered to face Jones on extremely short notice.

Jones and his camp declined the fight and the event had to be cancelled which rendered Dana White and the entire MMA world apoplectic. Sonnen, as is his way, seized the opportunity to talk his way into a big fight by incessantly insulting Jones. The two were then matched as opposing coaches on TUF 17.

Fight Now TV / YouTube

When they met at UFC 159, Jones took Sonnen to the ground and pounded him into pulp in just under a round. While handing out the beating, Jones incurred a gruesomely dislocated big toe which was as close as Sonnen got to hurting him.

6. Alexander Gustafsson. UFC 165. 21 September 2013

Quite possibly the greatest light-heavyweight title fight in history and, without question, the sternest test Jones has ever faced. Never before had Jones encountered an opponent of similar height and reach which evened the playing-field to a notable degree.

In the opening two rounds, Gustafsson outboxed Jones and become the first man to ever take him down. And, for a time, an epic upset looked to be in the offing. However, in the second half of the bout, Jones rallied.

MMA - Mixed Martial Arts / YouTube

As Gustafsson slowed, Jones fired off a series of brutal shots, including a spinning back elbow into the centre of the Swede’s skull.

When the 25 minutes had elapsed, both men were a bloody mess and nobody dared hazard a guess as to how the judges would score the fight. They gave Jones the nod via unanimous decision and, in turn, he equalled Ortiz’s record.

7. Glover Teixeira. UFC 172. 26 April 2014

While Teixeira had certainly earned his shot at Jones, he offered him little more than a vigorous sparring session. Jones used the bout to demonstrate his ability to box accurately in close quarters, which would have been considered a strong point of Teixeira’s. The champion cruised to another unanimous decision victory.

Lamar Jude / YouTube

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