He won the belt in brutal fashion and defended it for the first time in an equally dominant regard. Two former number one light heavyweights stood in front of him and they each were stopped, one by punches and the other by submission.
In doing so, he became the youngest champion in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history and one of only a handful of men to successfully defend the 205-pound title, the pinnacle achievement in a division that had become a game of musical chairs since Chuck Liddell lost the belt in 2007.
"Bones" looked to retain his title against Lyoto Machida at UFC 140, yet another match up against a former champion and universally recognized number one Light Heavyweight. In Jackson, Jones simply needed to avoid the PRIDE Fighting Championship veteran's heavy hands. "The Dragon" was a different beast altogether. Mixing karate, judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu with a little sumo thrown in for good measure, Machida is just about the picture perfect example of what mixed martial arts (MMA) can be.
Jones momentarily repeats his behavior from his previous fight with Jackson, almost crawling towards his opponent. He straightens out seconds later and begins stalking his opponent, perhaps playing right into Machida's gameplan.
The two fighters begin trading leg kicks with Jones adding a couple to the front of "The Dragon's" knee as he had against "Shogun" and "Rampage." Unsportsmanlike? Possibly. Legal? Absolutely.
A solid kick to the body for the challenger lands with a smack and he immediately tries to follow it up with a punching combination but can't get close enough to the lanky champion. A huge overhand right from Jones misses and "The Dragon" opens up with a flurry. The champion then begins to walk Machida down and throws a leg kick which the challenger counters perfectly.
A left straight from the challenger finds its way to Jones' jaw and "Bones" staggers back as the crowd erupts. Machida pounces but the champion recovers quickly and soon squares up against his opponent. Machida lands another solid body kick and as the opening round ends, many are wondering if the young prodigy has finally met his match.
The second stanza opens and "Bones" immediately takes the center of the Octagon as he did five minutes prior. The two light heavyweights trade leg kicks while Jones also unsuccessfully throws a spinning kick to the body and a kick aimed directly at Machida's head.
The champion and his challenger stand in front of each other, both almost waiting for the other to make the slightest mistake. They both move their hands around, slide their feet on the canvas and subtly shift their body in hopes of forcing the other to open themselves up to a possible killing blow.
The young champion throws a body kick which "The Dragon" catches and counters upon, following it up with a flurry of strikes, almost none of which connect with any consequence. Despite this, Jones continues to hold the center of the Octagon, unwilling to let the challenger dictate the pace of the fight.
Jones connects with a solid punch but Machida fails to react. Seconds later, "Bones" shoots in for a takedown which the challenger seems to defend. A slight adjustment from the champion and Machida is dumped onto his back. Many fighters have been in this position before, against the mat with Jones on top of them, and each bears the scars of the champion's almost deadly elbow strikes.
"The Dragon" is no different.
One swing of Jones' arms and his machete-like elbow slices Machida open and the canvas begins to turn a crimson red. The fight is momentarily stopped to allow a doctor to check the tiny chasm on the challenger's forehead and upon restart, the former champion is able to work his way off the cage and back to the center of the Octagon.
In an absolutely beautiful display of technical striking, Jones raises his leg causing "The Dragon" to think a leg kick is coming his way. Machida had done well and scored points countering the leg kick and was hoping to do so again. Instead, "Bones" put into place the gameplan that Rashad Evans was hoping to do when he faced off against Machida:
Counter the counter.
As the challenger comes forward with his strike, a left straight from Jones barrels its way into Machida's jaw and the former champion nearly faceplants onto the mat. As Jones lifts up his opponent, he throws a knee to the skull as he wraps his arms around "The Dragon's" neck.
Try as he might, the challenger is unable to escape the modified guillotine submission and seconds later, the oxygen supply to his brain is cut off and he passes out. As the referee breaks the hold to end the fight, Machida is unceremoniously dumped onto the canvas by the champion like a sack of potatoes.
Tomorrow (April 21, 2012), Jones takes on his third consecutive former champion in Evans. This bout is different from his previous three, however. There is bad blood between the two former teammates and a lot of trash talk has been thrown around in the months leading up to the bout.
Can Evans become the second two-time light heavyweight champion in UFC history? Or will Jones make it a clean sweep -- three for three -- on former champions?