ESPN 2012 Cross-Sport Power Rankings: UFCs Jon Jones hits list at #18

Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

ESPN has named its top 20 "Athletes of the Year" for 2012. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones has made the cut, ranking in the bottom half thanks to his continued dominance inside the Octagon.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones had perhaps the most impressive mixed martial arts (MMA) run ever in 2011, winning all four fights, claiming the 205-pound championship and leaving three former legends in his wake.

And he did it all in less than one hour of combined cage time.

Despite a few setbacks, namely his Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrest in Binghamton, N.Y., and the UFC 151 cancelation fiasco that was unfairly foisted upon his broad shoulders, "Bones" kept his focus and continued his assault inside the Octagon in 2012. He kicked-off the campaign with a solid win over former friend and bitter rival, Rashad Evans, at UFC 145 in April and then followed it up five months later with a gutsy performance at UFC 152 with a fourth-round submission victory over Vitor Belfort.

Not too shabby.

It was impressive enough to catch the attention of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, which included Jones in its year-end "Cross-Sport Power Rankings: 2012 Athletes of the Year" award, ranking him number 18 between the NFL's best (and apparently most resilient) tailback, Adrian Peterson, and golf's most promising young talent, Rory McIlroy.

Not sure how a golfer beats them both out, but regardless, here is how ESPN celebrated the UFCs 25-year-old phenom:

"Jon Jones only fought twice in 2012, but with dominating wins over Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort, he cemented his status as the best fighter in UFC. He also proved how dominant he is -- though not in a good way -- when he almost single-handedly collapsed the UFC 151 card."

Little bit of a back-handed zing, but his inclusion on the list is remarkable and impressive regardless. And if he keeps kicking ass into the future the way he has in the past, perhaps it's only a matter of time before he ranks ahead of the list's top name, "King" Lebron James.

Jones will return to mixed martial arts (MMA) action on April 27, 2013, against Chael Sonnen when the pair are done filming The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 reality show on FX.

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