Five minutes into the UFC 140 main event, it seemed like Jon Jones might have finally met his match. Less than five minutes later, we were all slapping our collective foreheads for ever doubting the light heavyweight champion.
That's because after surviving a first round scare at the hands of former champ Lyoto Machida, "Bones" did exactly what fans have been seeing him do since he debuted for the UFC: dominate.
In the past year, we've seen the young champion run through Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, and Quinton Jackson. "The Dragon" was the icing on top of what has to be the most successful 12 month period in any fighter's career. Three of those men are former champions themselves and were at one point or another recognized as the best light heavyweight in the world.
That title now belongs to Jones. But besides being the best 205-pounder in the game, he might very well be the best fighter period.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Maniac jury, allow me to present the evidence.
Exhibit A: Level of competition
"Bones" is undefeated. That "L" on his record next to Matt Hamill's name? It's a mere technicality. "The Hammer" didn't beat Jones that night any more than he can hear the beat of a drum. Of the champ's 16 fights, 10 have been in the UFC, the highest level of the sport.
During his tenure, he has absolutely dominated each and every opponent he has faced. From Andre Gusmão in his Octagon debut at UFC 87 to last night's second round submission that put "The Dragon" to sleep -- a real life Skyrim hero! --, Jones doesn't seem to even break a sweat when he fights despite being inside the cage with some of the world's best fighters.
"Rampage" is the man who put Chuck Liddell on ice and unified the UFC and Pride Fighting Championships titles. "Shogun" went through a veritable minefield of light heavyweights in 2005 to win the Japanese promotion's grand prix that year. And Machida had lost only twice before last night -- to the two previously named fighters -- and is the only man to hold a victory over Rashad Evans.
Should Jones get past Dan Henderson and "Suga," there'd be nothing left for him to accomplish at light heavyweight. There'd be nowhere left to go but up.
Exhibit B: Youth
Jones is only 24-years old. You know what I was doing when I was that age? I was managing a clothing store at the mall and my biggest problem was running out of the t-shirt we were supposed to put on the front table. "Bones" is the youngest UFC champion in the promotion's history and already has enough talent to make most think there isn't a suitable challenge for him in his current weight class.
Being as young as he is, a move up to heavyweight could definitely be in the cards for him. He would give up the guaranteed size and reach advantage in some fights but would retain a lot of his speed. With rumors going around that Alistair Overeem might be out of his main event fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 141, it wouldn't totally surprise me -- giving his history of taking fights on like, three hours notice -- if Jones stepped in to take on the former WWE Superstar.
Likely? No, of course not. But not unbelievable!
Exhibit C: Move over Kenny Florian...
And finally, Jon Jones finishes fights. Georges St. Pierre is as dominant a champion as there ever has been but his 25-minute bouts aren't so much wars of attrition between him and his opponent but rather between fans and Mr. Sandman.
When "GSP" is taking guys like Dan Hardy and Jake Shields to a decision and the next time they step inside the Octagon, they're getting laid out by Carlos Condit or Jake Ellenberger, one has to question if "Rush" even entertains the notion of being ... well, entertaining.
Judges must love scoring the 205-pound champion's fights because essentially, they don't have to. They can catch up on their Twitter timeline, grab some nachos and a brewski or hit the bathroom when "Bones" steps up to the plate. He hasn't needed a judge to name him the winner of a fight in nearly three years.
Ever since his "loss" to Hamill, he's had six stoppage victories, three by knockout or TKO and three coming via submission.
Ever since "The Iceman" lost the title, the light heavyweight division has been the most chaotic in the promotion. While the 170- and 185-pound weight classes are secured safely with St. Pierre's and Anderson Silva's bussom, the 205-pound strap has been hot potatoing around from fighter to fighter, never sticking around longer than a couple of fights.
With his victory at UFC 140, Jones earned his second defense, something that hasn't been done in over five years. He needs only four more victories to break Tito Ortiz's record but he might not reach that goal. Are there even four more light heavyweights who would stand a chance?
After last night, methinks not.