“He might be the greatest talent we’ve ever seen in the UFC.” Those were the words of UFC color commentator Joe Rogan following Jon “Bones” Jones‘ absolute decimation of MMA legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua Saturday night in Newark, N.J.
That’s a big statement to make, especially since Rogan has been working for the UFC since 1997 and has called upward of 1,000 fights.
Rogan has seen a lot of fighters come and go, a lot of legends walk into that Octagon. Could Jon Jones really be “the greatest talent” the UFC (and MMA) has ever produced?
Yes, he could be.
But no, he’s not yet.
He is definitely off to one hell of a start, but it is still too early to speak in such absolutes.
He has only had 14 fights, eight of which have been in the UFC.
Let’s look at Jon Jones’ (13-1) opponents thus far inside the Octagon:
- Andre Gusmao (Unanimous Dec.) – Aug. 2008 at UFC 87: Seek and Destroy
- Stephan Bonnar (Unanimous Dec.) – Jan. 2009 at UFC 94: St-Pierre vs. Penn 2
- Jake O’Brien (Submission Rd 2) – July 2009 at UFC 100
- Matt Hamill (DQ Rd 1) – Dec. 2009 at TUF 10 Finale
- Brandon Vera (TKO Rd 1) – March 2010 at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones
- Vladimir Matyushenko (TKO Rd 1) – Aug. 2010 at UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko
- Ryan Bader (Submission Rd 2) – Feb. 2011 at UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort
- Mauricio Rua (TKO Rd 3) - March 2011 at UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones
Jones’ shut-out against Bader was highly impressive. Bader (12-1), a high caliber wrestler with big power, was ranked at number seven and was undefeated coming into the fight (Jones was ranked number five going in).
Shogun was ranked as the number one light heavyweight prior to UFC 128. The relative ease with which Jones handled Shogun was phenomenal to watch.
There is some question as to how healthy Shogun was coming into the fight. He seemed to be mentally ready, but he was coming off a surgery and had not fought since he won the title in May 2010.
However, would it have made any difference if Shogun was a 100%? Would the outcome have been different? It’s hard to say, but in the end, it’s all part of the game. And as the old saying goes, “No one is ever at 100% coming into a fight.”
As of now, Jones only has two wins over top-10 fighters. So although he has defeated both of them in spectacular fashion, any sort of G.O.A.T. talk at this point is unwarranted.
But, it is quite understandable why this sort of talk is starting to happen.The way in which Jones has made very tough and tested men look amateurish is what is so impressive about what he has achieved so fast.
Jones’ next bout will be against the number two ranked light heavyweight, Rashad Evasns. And while no date has been announced for their fight yet, at least one bookmaker has already released the line. BetonFighting.com has the odds:
Rashad Evans +375 vs. Jon Jones -525
Those are heavy odds for Jones, but after the way he has performed, how can one argue with it?
Evans holds a record of 15-1-1, with his only loss coming against Lyoto Machida via knockout in May 2009. And then he has a July 2007 draw against Tito Ortiz.
On paper, one could confidently predict Jones will run through Evans the same way he has run through everyone else. And it would be hard to fault someone for thinking that.
There are a couple of differences about Evans. Of course, the major difference between Evans and every other opponent Jones has faced, is that they are training partners. Evans says he knows Jones’ weaknesses — of course, that works both ways. Jones knows his as well.
Evans may have the fastest hand speed of anyone Jones has ever faced. Evans’ punches are extremely fast and extremely hard, and if he connects with one of those overhand rights the way he did against Chuck Liddell, it will put anyone to sleep.
Evans may be the best wrestler Jones has faced. Up until this point, Jones has relied heavily on taking his opponents to the ground and working from top position or setting up a submission.
Evans will present a different challenge in this respect, and if Jones is unable to get Evans to the ground, or if Evans can score his own takedown, it could change the whole game.
Or not. It is also very possible Jones could pick him apart on the feet, use his unorthodox striking and work from the clinch, and never even take it to the ground.
Is Jones the greatest fighter of all time?
Is he the most promising fighter, the fighter with the most potential, to ever step inside the Octagon?
He just might be.