Jon Jones is "the future."
Or, as esteemed mixed martial arts trainer Lloyd Irvin tells the Wall Street Journal, "Bones," 23, is a "next-generation fighter."
Hyperbole or not, he's certainly come a long way since his professional debut (see video here), which was remarkably less than three years ago (April 12, 2008). Even in defeat (Matt Hamill), he's sliced through an impressive list of fighters like a hot knife through butter.
So what's it like to fight a shape-shifting cyborg from the future?
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) rockstar, Stephan Bonnar, who dropped a decision to an up-and-coming Jones at UFC 94 back in Jan. 2009, tries to explain:
"I've never seen anyone throw anything like that. I didn't even know it hit me. I was laying there thinking someone from the audience threw a bottle or something.... He was like 10 feet away from me and he threw this step-forward back kick and it landed. I went to counter him and I'm like 10 feet away from him. It's something you're not used to dealing with. I mean, 85-inch reach? That's incredible."
Colorful tales from those who have been locked inside a cage with Jones, a national junior college wrestling champion who hails from Endicott, N.Y., certainly contribute to his "out of this world" abilities.
The stats, however, underscore his precocious talents.
Jonathan Snowden makes the case:
"Looking at a snapshot of Jones's career, provided by the amazing team at FightMetric, the numbers are staggering. Jones has landed twice as many strikes as his opponents in a seven fight UFC tenure. He's taken down opponents with an almost 70 percent accuracy rate, one of the best in UFC history. Almost a third of those takedowns were "slams" a takedown that sees a fighter take an opponent completely off both feet before depositing him on the mat. Conversely, no opponent has managed to put Jones on the mat. This includes a collection of great wrestlers like Ryan Bader, Matt Hamill, and Vladimir Matyushenko."
Anecdotes and raw data can still only take us so far.
Perhaps, therefore, it's no coincidence that a title fight literally fell into the lap of Jones, who is scheduled to challenge 205-pound champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128 this weekend (March 19, 2011) from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
His training partner, Rashad Evans, had waited months to battle the Brazilian. Jones, accordingly, had been studying Rua, mimicking the former Chute Boxe wrecking machine to prepare "Sugar" for his date with destiny.
Then, just like that, it's Jones, not Evans -- who teaked his knee while training -- who fate has dealt a favorable hand. As a result, all of the pieces have seemingly fallen into perfect place for Jones as if it were all planned, well, in the future.
Sounds like an excellent adventure.