Jon Jones (2011) vs Mauricio Rua (2005): Who had the more impressive year?

Four fights, four finishes, three of them title fights against three former champions, all in a span of ten months.

That's the 2011 year Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had, which is undoubtedly the greatest year in the promotion's history.

At the young age of 24 and only three years into the sports of mixed martial arts (MMA), "Bones" is on the highest of highs and just getting started with plenty of years ahead of him to add to his ever-growing and impressive resume.

The young UFC champion might have had the best year in UFC history, but does he have the best year in MMA history?

If we take a trip back in time, six years to be exact, before Jones was running wild in the UFC light heavyweight division and beating his opponents with relative ease, there was another light heavyweight setting the MMA world on fire.

That man was Mauricio Rua.

In 2005, before "Shogun" brought his talents stateside to the UFC and claimed the UFC 205-pound title, Rua was a human wrecking machine in Japan's premiere MMA organization, PRIDE FC.

Winning five fights in the span of six months, running through a who's-who of the top mixed martial artists on the planet in Pride's 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix, which included defeating two opponents in one night to become the youngest PRIDE FC champion ever; Rua had an equally impressive year that mirrors that of Jon Jones' 2011 year.

Ironically enough, both did it at the age of 24 and both became the youngest world champions in their respective organizations.

So the question remains, who had the more impressive year?

After the jump, I'll compare the two extraordinary years that these two great mixed martial artists had.

On February 20, 2005, before throwing his name into the tournament style Grand Prix, Rua took on Hiromitsu Kanehera at PRIDE 29; making short work of him in only one minute and 40 seconds into the opening round via soccer kicks, which were allowed in PRIDE.

Two months later, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt took on Quinton Jackson in the opening round of the Grand Prix at Pride Total Elimination 2005. Again, Rua would make short work of his opponent, as he defeated "Rampage" halfway through the first round using his vicious soccer kicks.

After taking 63 days to recover, Rua drew fellow Brazilian Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the second round at Pride Critical Countdown 2005. In what proved to be a very close contest, "Shogun" and "Lil Nog" put on a back and forth striking and grappling clinic through 20 minutes of action that became known as one of the best fights in MMA history.

When the final bell rang, the judges awarded the unanimous decision to Rua.

In June of 2005, just two months later, at PRIDE Final Conflict 2005; Rua was matched up against Alistair Overeem for a chance to earn a trip to the championship round. Alistair proved to be a worthy opponent throughout the first five minutes of the round, but "Shogun" turned up the intensity and finished Overeem via technical knockout at the six minute mark of the first round, advancing him to the Grand Prix finals against Ricardo Arona.

There was one catch though; the finale was scheduled for the same night.

After taking time to rest and recover from the previous bouts, the two competitors stepped into the ring, both ready to make history. The end to a goal that started six months prior came swift and quick as Rua ran through Arona in just under three minutes of the first round to become the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion, capping off one of the most impressive runs in mixed martial arts history to date.

Six years later, in today's premier MMA organization, the UFC; Jon Jones had an equally impressive 2011 year.

His ran began on Super Bowl weekend, February 5, 2011, against another up and coming prospect in Ryan Bader. Jones made short work of his opponent as he convincingly defeated the previously unbeaten Bader in the second round with a guillotine choke.

After the fight, "Bones," due to an injury to Rashad Evans, was surprised with the news that he was to be awarded a chance to vie for the UFC's 205-pound title just a month later.

His opponent?

None other than Mauricio Rua, who at the time was the UFC light heavyweight champion.

In what many would perceive as somewhat of the passing of the torch, at UFC 128 on March 19, 2011, Jones became the youngest UFC fighter to hold a world title by destroying "Shogun." From the opening bell, Jones tagged Rua repeatedly and often, not allowing the champion to get off any offense of his own. In the third round, Jones stepped on the gas and unleashed a barrage of strikes that forced the referee to step in and save a bruised and battered Rua.

Six months later on September 24, 2011, Jones was set to defend his title for the first time against former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson at UFC 135. "Rampage" who claimed to be in the best shape of his career, seemed to be the young champion's toughest test to date. In the fourth round, "Bones" found a way to take the fight to the ground and eventually submit Jackson, the first to do so in over a decade, to retain his title.

This time, there would be no long layoff for Jones, as he was immediately set up to take on yet another former UFC champion in Lyoto Machida three months later at UFC 140 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

After what proved to be a very competitive opening round, it seemed as if Jones had finally met his match. Not backing down, the crafty Machida tagged Jones, in what could very well be the first and only time the young star had seen trouble in the octagon.

In the second round, Jones adjusted and persevered, putting "The Dragon" to sleep via standing guillotine; capping the greatest single year run in UFC history.

Six years apart, two of the best 205-pound mixed martial artists in the world displayed unmatched skill, technique and will two put on two of the best single year runs in MMA history, forever cementing their place amongst the greatests light heavyweights of their era.

One, Rua, displaying his excellence Far East in "The Land of the Rising Sun" with little to no stateside exposure, the other, Jones, doing it at a time where MMA is at its highest point, with mainstream exposure worldwide. Both doing it against the highest level of competition.

So I leave it you, in comparison, who had the best single year in MMA history, Mauricio Rua in 2005 or Jon Jones in 2011?

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