Jon Jones’ Toughest Opponents Reveal Why He’s UFC’s King

Jon Jones

Getty UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is the toughest out in the UFC.

Just how difficult is it to defeat Jones? The 32-year-old superstar MMA fighter from Rochester, N.Y., hasn’t lost since he was disqualified for using illegal 12-6 elbows while pummeling Matt Hamill over a decade ago in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 10. Jones was just 22-years-old at the time and had dominated just about every single second of the fight.

Afterward, Jones actually got a whole lot better. He went on to become the most successful UFC fighter of the 2010s. Now, Jones hopes to keep that going over the next decade starting against undefeated light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 on Feb. 8 in Houston.

UFC 247 takes place February 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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What exactly is Reyes up against? Lots of tricks and subtle nuances are just the beginning. Jones is arguably the most perfect fighting machine ever seen in the world of MMA. In fact, he looks downright unbeatable in the UFC.

But that’s just our take. Here are other opinions from some of the best and most recent UFC fighters that have had to face the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

Gustafsson: Jones Does ‘Weird Things’

Alexander Gustafsson had the displeasure of facing Jones twice.

First, Gustafsson lost via unanimous decision back in 2013 in a close contest at UFC 165. While Gustafsson revealed to the world that even Jones could have an off night (especially if his opponent used a smart game plan like Gustafsson), he still ended up on the losing end of the decision.

The rematch happened five years later at UFC 232. This time, Jones dominated Gustafsson and stopped him in the third round. In short, nothing that had somewhat worked against Jones for Gustafsson the first time around was there to be exploited again in the rematch. Jones had become a much better fighter.

When asked ahead of Jones’ last fight about how anyone might beat him, Gustaffson said whoever does it would basically have to be perfect that night.

“He comes with weird things, weird angles, and throws a lot,” Gustaffson said. “(He) throws hard.”

And how to beat someone like that? Heck, it’s hard enough just to train for something like that.

“He’s very creative,” Gustaffson said.” It’s hard to train for a guy like that. You have to go in there and be open-minded and take it as it comes.”

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Smith: Jones Is ‘Built to Fight’

Released by the UFC in the same interview as the Gustaffson comments, Anthony Smith had much to say about what makes Jones the current king of the UFC. He should know Jones defeated Smith by unanimous decision at UFC 235 in March.

While the fight went the full 25 minutes, Jones dominated the action from start to finish. In fact, the only time the fight was in doubt was when Jones accidentally hit Smith with an illegal knee that could have gotten him disqualified had Smith not recovered.

After facing him, Smith said Jones was simply different than any other fighter he’d ever fought.

“Jon Jones is difficult to beat because he’s well-trained,” Smith said. “He trusts his team and you can tell that in his performance. He does exactly as they say when they say to do it.”

Moreover, Smith hailed Jones’ long limbs and sturdy 205-pound body that was somehow equally agile and powerful.

“Physically, he’s a gifted athlete,” said Smith. “He’s long. He’s tall. He’s athletic. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s heavy for the weight class but doesn’t seem to have too hard of a time making weight.”

All those things make Jones near-perfect for the light heavyweight division. But even worse news for opponents like Smith? Jones is one tough dude.

“He’s just built to fight, physically,” Smith said. “And mentally, as much as people pretend that he’s not, Jon has a little bit of dog in him. He can dig deep when he has to; we’ve seen him have to do it a few times.”

Santos: ‘I Wasn’t Expecting to Win’

Thiago Santos almost did the impossible at UFC 239 in July.

Employing an aggressive strategy that included heavy leg kicks and brutal Muay Thai strikes and counters, Santos managed to convince one of the three judges he deserved to win the fight after the five rounds were completed.

But Santos still lost. To add injury to the insult, he suffered torn ligaments in his knee during the fight that would keep him out of action for the rest of the year.

But even after everything was over, Santos said in a Q&A posted at ESPN that he wasn’t so sure he would have won the fight with two good knees anyway. Perhaps even more telling was that Santos admitted he didn’t actually think he had won the first fight at UFC 239 after it was over.

“When the fight was over, no, I wasn’t expecting [to win],” Santos said. “I still think I touched him more, but my knee got in the way. I thought he would win.”

Cormier: ‘It’s Going to Take a Heavyweight’

But perhaps the most revealing comments about Jones’ greatness came around two weeks before Jones vs. Reyes at UFC 247. In an interview with BT Sport, longtime rival Daniel Cormier admitted he wasn’t sure any 205-pound fighter could beat Jones.

“Obviously, you guys know my feelings towards him (Jones) but he’s good, man,” Cormier said. “I think it’s going to take a heavyweight. It will be one of those big, big guys that shuts the lights out. I just don’t know if those guys can beat Jones over 25 minutes.”

And that’s coming from Cormier, one of only four UFC fighters to ever become UFC double champion and the fighter who has gotten into more dustups with Jones over the last few years than probably either of the fighters can count.

“He’s a good fighter, he has so many weapons,” Cormier said. “Look at me, I feel I’m one of the greatest fighters of all time, and he beat me twice. That says a lot about who he is as a competitor.”

Jones: ‘I Think Everyone Has a Chance’

Still, Jones hasn’t let all these types of things go to his head.

Maybe that’s what keeps him operating at such a tremendously high level in the sport. In an interview posted by the UFC’s official news account on social media before his last fight, Jones said it wasn’t so much that he was unbeatable. Rather, it’s just that he works so hard at making defeating him as tough as humanly possible.

“I think everyone has a chance,” Jones said. “I know my job is to train extremely hard and to do all the right things to make their chances extremely slim.”

Of course, that’s easy to say when you’re the guy who basically never loses. Regardless, it’s some good insight into how the mind of one of the most successful fighters in combat sports history works as he heads into his next fight on Feb. 8.

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