Champ tested early, but ultimately is dominant again
It’s doubtful that during his pre-fight meditation ceremony, Jon Jones was watching “Predator.” But he may have taken a few cues from Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 shoot-’em-up movie, in which Arnie’s character Dutch gets what we’re led to believe is the toughest test of his life before realizing he can beat the alien.
Schwarzenegger sees the Predator has been cut and says, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” After a challenging first round Saturday against Lyoto Machida at UFC 140, Jones came on like gangbusters in the second round.
“I’ve never fought anyone like him, so the first round was very, very confusing for me,” Jones said at the post-fight press conference in Toronto. “In the second round, once I cut him with the elbow from the top position, that’s when my confidence really started to skyrocket and I realized that on the ground, I would have a pretty safe avenue of success there. And seeing his blood really let me know, ‘He bleeds – let’s do this.'”
And do this, he did. Jones sliced Machida’s head open with a vicious elbow, and when the fight moved back to the feet it was sheer strength that gave him a standing guillotine that put Machida out. Jones became the first light heavyweight champion to successfully defend his UFC title more than once since Chuck Liddell.
The win capped off an impressive year for Jones that featured a submission win over the previously unbeaten Ryan Bader to get a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua just six weeks later. And at UFC 128, he dominated Rua to win the belt – becoming the youngest champion in UFC history. At UFC 135 in September, Jones was taken into the championship rounds by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, but still left with a decisive submission victory.
And with a third title fight in 2011, the win over Machida already has his boss talking in superlatives. UFC president Dana White had been cautious in his praise of Jones going into the Machida fight – but now is as big a believer as most of the rest of the MMA world has become.
“I’m done with the whole, ‘If he gets through this next one like he has all the other ones …'” White said. “He’s the real deal, man. He went in there tonight against a highly motivated, in-great-shape Lyoto Machida. Lyoto Machida came to fight tonight, and (Jones) looked phenomenal. Jon Jones is the real deal. He’s had an incredible schedule this year, fighting all the best in the world. (It was a) big night for ‘Bones’ Jones, and the kickoff to what I think is going to be an amazing career.”
White will even go so far as to say Jones could eventually supplant Anderson Silva, whom White steadfastly believes is the greatest MMA fighter in history.
“He continues to prove his dominance and how amazing and talented he is,” White said. “The one thing about Jon Jones that I don’t always like to pump it up and talk about it is, he’s a young guy. He’s got a lot of things to learn in the sport still – more than just fighting. But the potential is unbelievable. If he stays on the right track and does the right things, this guy could go down as the greatest ever. I just don’t see anybody beating this guy anytime soon.”
Jones said he heard rumbles in the press going into UFC 140 that he had never been tested – that he had never really taken a punch to find out if he had a chin. But Machida landed as many punches – eight – in the first round as Jones did, and his were arguably more effective, wobbling Jones’ legs and sending him scrambling backward at one point. And Jones not only survived, but seemed to shrug off the challenge once the second round started as if it was a foregone conclusion what he was about to do.
“That’s definitely something that was kind of made up by media – that I couldn’t take a punch,” Jones said. “I felt as if it was something to address, just to kind of quiet more critics. I train with guys like Andrei Arlovski, Travis Browne – these guys hit really, really hard. So I knew that I could take a punch and I’m glad I got to prove it tonight. That’s what Greg Jackson said to me backstage. He said, ‘You really proved that you can keep your composure through adversity. Getting punched at practice and getting punched in the Octagon is completely different. You handled it like a champ.’ That’s what he was most proud of, that I kept my composure and didn’t panic or anything.”
Jones said the win was one he and coach Greg Jackson said before the fight could change him and be a career crossroads for the positive, including the fact that Machida is a lefty and presented a physical challenge that Jones had not yet seen.
“The truth is, I’ve never fought a southpaw ever before,” Jones said. “The battles I had to go through mentally, to train my butt off again, for a third world title in one year, the battles I had to go through mentally to be a tricky southpaw who knows himself and who is disciplined and a hard worker – I just went through a lot this training camp. And Greg and I, we had it official that this will make me grow. And I did grow. I took a big hit, and I fought a southpaw and I finished out this year. It’s been a great year.”
Jones likely will get at least five months off before meeting the winner of the Jan. 28 UFC on Fox main event between former friend, training partner and now biggest rival Rashad Evans and Phil Davis.