Jones looks to make more history at expense of The Mauler
TORONTO — He has never been knocked down or taken down in his UFC career. His one loss was in reality a win, with his injured opponent needing surgery afterwards.
Light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones became the UFC’s youngest-ever champion in March 2011 when, at 23 years eight months, he defeated Mauricio (Shogun) Rua at UFC 128.
Now 26, Jones is the undisputed pound-for-pound king of mixed martial arts. And the American continues to rewrite the record book.
Jones (18-1) has lost just one round in his 13-fight UFC career. And the 205-pounder made former champion Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida pay for that first round at UFC 140 in Toronto, locking on a standing guillotine choke in the second round before dropping the unconscious Brazilian onto the canvas with a thud.
On Saturday, Sweden’s Alexander (The Mauler) Gustafsson becomes the latest to attempt to derail the Jones express when the two face off at UFC 165 at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. It will be Jones’ third championship fight in the Ontario capital.
At six foot five, Gustafsson (15-1) is a rare fighter who is taller than the 6-4 Jones.
A perhaps over-enthusiastic UFC TV promo calls the Swede “the toughest test of (Jones’) career.” The bookies aren’t buying it, installing Jones as anything from a 7-1 to 12-1 favourite.
For the champion, facing a fighter of similar stature means little other than a chance to silence critics who say he had yet to face someone of his body type.
Jones rejects any suggestion the two fighters are similar, pointing to the Swede tapping out to a Phil Davis anaconda choke with five seconds left in the first round at UFC 112 in April 2010.
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, knowing that I did that,” Jones told The Canadian Press.
“Height and reach are nothing,” he added.
“It’s your spirit, it’s your work ethic, it’s your level of belief ... It’s your story that makes you a champion, not simply just being tall with long arms. If it was being tall with being long arms, half the NBA would be world-class cage-fighters.”
Jones’ combination of size, youth and versatility have rendered him virtually unstoppable. Opponents have been unable to penetrate his prickly defence or survive his multi-faceted offence.
He can hurt you with punches, elbows, knees and kicks from a variety of angles.
And in recent fights, he has outshone his opponents at what they do best.
He outwrestled Chael Sonnen, a former U.S. Olympic alternate. And he submitted jiu jitsu black belt Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort, twisting his arm like a pretzel in a keylock.
Still, in a rare foray into deep waters, Jones had to escape a tight armbar in the first round against Belfort to continue his championship reign.
Jones is tied for most consecutive title defences (five) and most finishes (nine) in UFC light-heavyweight history. He already holds the record for most submissions (five) by a light-heavyweight.
According to FightMetric, Jones holds a combined 552-202 edge in significant strikes over his 13 UFC opponents. And 116 of those opponent significant strikes came in three fights — against Andre Gusmao (34) and Stephan Bonnar (37) in his first two UFC outings and former champion Rashad Evans (45) in a 2012 meeting.
His 10 other opponents failed to break the 20-mark in significant strikes, with five unable to land 10.
Veteran Vladimir (The Janitor) Matyushenko did not land one in a 2010 KO loss that lasted one minute 52 seconds. Jones finished him off with 10 elbow strikes in four seconds.
With three more significant strikes, Jones will move past Tito Ortiz into second spot for most by a light-heavyweight. Forrest Griffin tops the division with 796.
Jones has recorded 26 successful takedowns in his UFC career, well below the UFC record of 84 (in 20 fights) by welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
But Jones is so deadly with ground strikes that once an opponent is downed, he is usually out.
A former junior college champion wrestler, Jones turned his back on an athletic scholarship to Iowa when his girlfriend became pregnant. MMA was a way to pay the bills and he was good at it.