Jon “Bones” Jones is widely recognized as the greatest MMA fighter of all time. He is a 29-year-old dominant athletic specimen who has never been beaten in his entire MMA career. He is 22-1 and his only defeat was by disqualification in a fight that he was dominating his opponent to a bloody pulp, but got DQ’d due to his opponent not being able to continue from illegal elbow strikes. He has made extraordinary fighters look below average inside the octagon.
Jones, however, does have one weakness: himself. The only man who has been able to beat Jon Jones is Jon Jones. His transgressions have often overshadowed his accomplishments. He is as much an enigma outside the octagon as he is inside the octagon to his opponents. The most tragic thing in life is a waste of talent, and Jones is talent personified. It's hard to believe that he is still only 29 years old because he has had such a long rollercoaster of a career. He is still a young man so he has time to redeem himself and put a stamp on his place in legacy, but given his track record, he also has plenty of time to wreck it even further. I know I speak for most people when I say let’s hope for the former instead of the latter.
Let’s take a look at 8 of his greatest moments and 7 of his worst.
29 BEST: UFC 152 - Jones vs. Belfort
At this point in his career, Jon Jones was public enemy number one to the MMA world. He had just gotten a ton of flak for him not stepping up to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 151. He had a ton of pressure to put on a good show in front of the fans at the Air Canada Centre and he delivered. He was facing an always dangerous legendary former champion in “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort. Belfort had Jones in huge trouble early with a deep arm bar. It almost looked like Jones’ arm was about to snap off. Jones got out of that and went on to dominate the rest of the fight. Jones eventually submitted the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in the 4th round with an americana. It was even more impressive, considering later it was revealed that Belfort had elevated levels of testosterone on a pre-fight drug test.
27 WORST: Jones Gets 5 Tickets In 1 Traffic Stop
Jon Jones was fresh off a year long layoff when he got pulled over one night in Albuquerque. The only reason this traffic stop was really even news was because Jones was on probation. The video of the arrest showed that this police officer was definitely no Jon Jones fan. Video showed them bickering and trading insults. It was not a good look for Jones or the officer. Jones was ticketed for drag racing, an ordinance against a modified exhaust, an illegible license plate, unable to maintain a traffic lane and exhibition driving. It was definitely excessive, but because it was Jon Jones, it drew major red flags. Fight fans were concerned that his upcoming fight was going to be cancelled or that he might find his way behind bars again. The UFC was once again forced to investigate the matter. The case is still pending but Jones was confident that this incident will not affect his probation.
25 BEST: UFC 87 - Jones vs. Gusmao
It was billed as a battle between two young prospects, but only one young fighter was able to steal the show that night. Those who witnessed the bout between Jon Jones vs. Andre Gusmao saw a glimpse of the potential of the 21 year old junior college wrestling champion. He showcased an unorthodox but effective striking attack that overwhelmed Gusmao. Jones was a late replacement for the fight, and though it was his UFC debut, the lights were not too bright for the young prospect. He displayed all the tools that eventually turned him into a champion. Any fighter knows just getting to the UFC is a major accomplishment, but to turn so many heads in your UFC debut had to feel great for the young Jones.
23 WORST: UFC 165 - Jones vs. Gustafsson
You know you must be pretty good if a fight that you won is one of your worst moments. Jones vs. Gustafsson was an epic war between two of the best young light heavyweights in the world, but it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Jones was a huge favorite coming into the fight and deservedly so. Up until that point he had absolutely obliterated all the high level competition he had faced. Chael Sonnen, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Shogun Rua, Vitor Belfort were all legends of the sport and Jones laid waste to all of them and made it look easy. Gustafsson did not have the name recognition that any of those guys did, and deservedly so, but on that night he looked to be the biggest threat of all. He bloodied and battered the champion and tested him in a way no one had ever seen before. A lot of people thought he actually won the fight. Jones later admitted that he was so beat up after that fight he couldn’t even wipe his own butt and had to have one of his coaches do it for him. Jones got the W on that night, but he hasn’t finished an opponent since, and it really showed the world that this guy can be beat.
21 BEST: UFC 197 - Jones vs. Saint Preux
This was a great moment for Jon Jones, not necessarily for the performance, but because of all that happened leading up to the performance. Jones was coming off a 16 month layoff because of the time off he had to deal with his transgressions. Also his mother had just got her leg amputated due to diabetes that week so you know he was fighting with a heavy heart. He had to adjust to a change in opponent as well. He was expecting to fight Daniel Cormier, a relentless grinding, wrestler, but now he had to adjust to a heavy handed south paw in Ovince Saint Preux. Jones admits that he did play it safe, but he did win every round and left the octagon with the Interim Light Heavyweight Championship. He truly did look like a changed man in the lead up to the fight and the majority of fans were truly rooting for him.
19 WORST: Failed Drug Test For Cocaine
In the lead up to Jones’ fight at UFC 182 against Daniel Cormier, he tested positive for cocaine metabolites. It was not revealed until days after the fight had happened. This incident really showed the whole world how immature he was more than anything. It was pretty hard to believe that a guy would do that so close to such a huge fight. What was more alarming was his stint in rehab afterwards. He stayed in the rehabilitation facility for all of one day. It appeared to the public that he really did not care to get help, and just went to rehab more for PR purposes than anything. Jones knew he was going to test positive because he had done it just days before the fight. Jon Jones was being just as reckless outside the cage as he was inside.
17 BEST: UFC 94 - Jones vs. Bonnar
At UFC 94 Jones faced his toughest test to date. It was a real step up in competition. Stephan Bonnar was a finalist on the original Ultimate Fighter and had shared the cage with some of the best the sport had to offer. Jones was an underdog in the fight as most pundits believed Bonnar’s experience would be too much for the 21 year old. Instead Jon Jones put on a highlight reel performance. He dominated Bonnar in a one side affair and it was that night where he truly captured the attention of the MMA world. His attack was too much for Bonnar as he pummeled Bonnar with a variety of suplexes, kicks, and elbows that the veteran just had no answer for. Stephan Bonnar probably still has nightmares of that night because was the MMA equivalent of being posterized. That was the first time where Jones really appeared to have the makings of a future champion.
15 WORST: UFC 151 Cancellation
UFC 151 was supposed to be a battle between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson, but when Henderson was forced to pull out of the fight due to an injury, Chael Sonnen offered to step in and fight Jones on 8 days notice. However, Jones, largely because of the advice of his coach, Greg Jackson, refused to take the fight. They didn’t feel they had enough time to adjust to the change in opponent. Dana White crucified Jones in the media for not accepting the fight. The UFC cancelled the event and for the first time in Jones’ life he was the villain. White even said that “UFC 151 will be remembered as the event Jon Jones and Greg Jackson murdered.” Jones was portrayed as cowardly and selfish as fighters and fans alike really gave him a ton of grief for not taking the fight.
13 BEST: UFC 135 - Jones vs. Rampage
They say a champion isn’t truly a champion until he makes his first title defense. On September 24 2011, Jon Jones did just that. He defended his title against a tough game Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. They had a fierce stare down at the weigh-ins where Jackson proclaimed that he was going to knock Jones out and end his hype. Rampage fought hard but the reach and versatility of “Bones” was just too much for the former champion to overcome. Jones dominated the fight throughout and finished Rampage in the 4th round with a rear naked choke submission. Jones proved that he was the real deal and all Rampage could do was tip his hat to the young champion.
11 WORST: 2012 DUI
Jon Jones was on top of the world. Fresh off his huge win against his rival, Rashad Evans, and being the first MMA fighter ever to be sponsored by Nike, Jon Jones got himself into a bit of trouble one early morning in May of 2012. Jones crashed his Bentley into a pole around 5:00 am in Binghamton, NY. He was arrested on the scene. He was very fortunate that he did not get himself or anybody else seriously injured. This was the first time that Jones’ image took a hit. It was a shock to most people that he would put himself in this kind of position. Fans were hoping that this was just a one-time occurrence of bad judgment, but it actually turned out to be a sign of things to come. This incident showcased just how reckless and immature Jones really was.
9 BEST: UFC 145 - Jones vs. Evans
On April 21 2012, Jon Jones fought his former friend, training partner, and mentor, in “Suga” Rashad Evans. The two had a much publicized feud, in which Evans ended up leaving Greg Jackson’s gym because of public comments made by Jones. Evans felt betrayed and the buildup to this fight was huge. Jones controlled the pace and the range throughout the fight. Jones’ reach was his biggest weapon in this fight as he was hitting Evans with hard elbows from a punching range. Evans had his moments as he hit Jones with some hard counter right hands, but Jones was always in control. It was the first time Jones went the full five rounds, and he looked extremely comfortable in the octagon throughout. Evans was a former champion, still in the prime of his career, who had a familiarity with the champ, so it was a great test for Jones and he passed with flying colors.
7 WORST: Failed Drug Test For UFC 200
Jon Jones was in the midst of making a remarkable comeback. The fans were all rooting for him, he claimed to be sober and a changed man and he looked hell bent on a mission to reclaim his championship that he never had lost. Jones was scheduled to headline UFC 200 against his bitter rival Daniel Cormier, until 3 days before the fight USADA announced that Jones had to be pulled from the event due to an alleged anti-doping infraction. It was later revealed that Jones tested positive for two different estrogen blockers. It put a black cloud on what had otherwise been a flawless fighting career. The man who was widely considered the greatest of all time now has his entire legacy under question due to this failed drug test, not to mention that he missed out on an eight figure pay day. It is important to state that this case is still pending and Jones has proclaimed that he did not knowingly take any performance enhancing drugs. Stay tuned to see how this story ends.
5 BEST: UFC 182 - Jones vs. Cormier
The January 2015 bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier was billed as a battle between two unbeaten bitter rivals, and the hatred was real. The buildup to this fight was unlike any other. The two got into an all-out brawl in the lobby of the MGM Hotel & Casino, in what was supposed to be a press conference to promote the event. It did just that. Another memorable moment in the buildup was when the two rivals finished up a segment on television, and as the thought the cameras were off were trading barbs to one another. The fight was a fairly competitive one early, but Jones turned it up in the later rounds as Cormier faded. He even outwrestled the former Olympic wrestler, en route to a decision victory that gave Cormier the first and only blemish on his professional record. Jones was not gracious in victory and Cormier was devastated in defeat. They say the winner of the fight is the winner of the argument, so this was a huge notch in Jones’ belt.
3 WORST: 2015 Hit And Run Incident
On April 26 2015, Jon Jones made what he said was the biggest mistake of his life. He was involved in a hit and run accident where he crashed his rented Buick SUV into another car driven by a pregnant woman. According to Albuquerque P.D Jones ran a red light and hit the victim’s car. He fled the scene of the crime only to return later to grab a handful of cash, then left the scene again. The victim suffered a broken arm and the police found a marijuana pipe in the car as well. This caused the UFC to suspend Jones indefinitely and to strip him of championship. He lost endorsements as well as got sentenced to eighteen months of probation where he was required to make 72 appearances doing charity work and speaking to children. It truly was a life changing event and the biggest wakeup call of his life. He claims to have been sober since then and has vowed to make significant changes in his life. Prior to this, people were weary of Jones, but this level of recklessness even shocked some of his most stout supporters. It was shocking to see a guy, who once had the world in the palm of his hands, do everything he could to try and throw it all away.
1 BEST: UFC - 128 Shogun vs. Jones
On March 19, 2011 Jon Jones went head to head with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Shogun was by far the most accomplished and most talented fighter Jones had ever faced. He was the UFC champion as well as a former Pride Grand Prix champion. He was known for his devastating striking ability and on that night in New Jersey, the 23 year old phenom from nearby Rochester, New York, dismantled the legend and became the youngest champion in UFC history. It wasn’t shocking to see Jones win, but it was shocking to see him absolutely destroy the champion in the manner that he did. Shogun never had a chance, as Jones battered and bruised the champion with knees and elbows for three rounds until the referee mercifully stopped the bout in the middle of the third round.
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