Now that the dust is settled on decorated light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ decisive win over Daniel Cormier in the main event of last night’s (Sat., January 3, 2015) UFC 182 pay-per-view (PPV) event from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, MMA fans and media alike are fully entrenched in the discussion of whether or not Jones is now the greatest fighter in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA).
It’s a valid discussion considering that Jones essentially manhandled Cormier in the two specific areas that most believed “DC” held the advantage, the wrestling and clinch departments. But even though I picked Cormier to win, when “Bones” smothered and tired out “DC” before breaking his will with some emphatic late takedowns, it was clear that Jones was the best light heavyweight in the world by a large margin.
The only thing truly on trial was the debate over Jones passing Anderson Silva as the G.O.A.T. Jones extended the longest win streak in UFC light heavyweight history to 12 last night and stretched his record streak of title defenses to 8. He sits only one defense behind Georges St. Pierre and two behind Silva for the most title defenses of all time.
He also owns the record for most submissions in UFC light heavyweight history with five, and perhaps most impressively, he’s shown an awe-inspiring tendency to adapt, evolve, and dominate his opponents in their areas of strength.
By comparison, Silva has the record for the longest win streak in UFC history with 16, and also has the record for most consecutive title defenses with 10. The stats that shine through the most for “The Spider,” however, are rooted in his ruthless efficiency for finishing opponents on the grand stage. He has the record for most finishes in title fights with nine, and the record for most “Knockout of the Night” awards with seven.
So the discussion of who is the best MMA fighter of all-time may come down to two things: the level of competition they’ve faced and the judging criteria that you use.
If you judge based solely on level of competition, then Jones’ body of work that began in early 2011 and included consecutive wins over Ryan Bader, Shogun Rua, “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, and Cormier is probably more impressive than Silva’s celebrated streak that included wins over Travis Lutter, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, James Irvin, and Stephan Bonnar.
“The Spider” did beat legends like Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, and Vitor Belfort during that illustrious streak, but it’s safe to say that Jones owns a significant edge in overall level of competition. Top-ranked Alexander Gustafsson, who took Jones to the limit at UFC 165, probably has to be considered his biggest rival.
Although many fans still think “The Mauler” did enough to defeat Jones that night, “Bones” beat Gustafsson with an incredible display of heart and perseverance.
Chris Weidman is probably Silva’s greatest rival, and he’s been largely unable to mount any significant offense in two bouts against the young champion despite two fluky outcomes.
What Jones doesn’t own an edge in is pure, unadulterated knockout power and precision. “The Spider” could break out a creative knockout finish out of nowhere, and we may never see another fighter who can replicate that electrifying style.
Jones came into his time as champion finishing every fighter he faced as he cut a path through Bader, Rua, Jackson, and Machida in the same year.
He continued that trend against two fighters who normally fought at middleweight in Belfort and Sonnen, but probably the only knock on him since then (and it’s a small one) is that he hasn’t finished a fight.
Part of that could be an increase in competition as compared to the run of decorated but aging former champions; part of it could be Jones changing his strategy to fight a bit smarter in order to keep the belt.
In any case, he’s as dominant as they come and he only appears to be getting better. Jones promised he’ll get back to work as soon as he heals to sharpen his jiu-jitsu skills by getting his black belt as he aims to show us the best version of “Bones” in 2015. We’ll see if he can deliver on that promise when he faces off against the winner of Jan. 24’s pivotal UFC on FOX 14 main event between Alexander Gustafsson vs. “Rumble” Johnson.
True, there will probably always be that shadow of a doubt cast over Jones’ status as the greatest of all time until he beats Gustafsson convincingly, but again, Jones has already beaten his rival unlike Silva. He’s in his prime, and his body of work already proves his dominance over the true elite of the sport.
People may not like how he carries himself publicly, but his social media exploits simply don’t factor into the equation here. Silva is probably the most exciting fighter to ever set foot into the octagon, but after Jones sent Cormier packing at his own game last night, “Bones” became the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
He may never be the most loved or respected champion; maybe the role of heel is what suits him best anyhow. All personal feelings aside, Jones’ focus, mindset, technical ability, octagon intelligence, and growing track record already add up to make him the best of all time.
Silva will return to fight Nick Diaz in the main event of January 31’s UFC 183, and if “The Spider” can somehow make an improbable run to regain the title, he could reclaim the title of G.O.A.T. from Jones. But until that happens, it’s time to give “Bones” his due.
Do you agree that he’s become the best of all time?