At just 26 years old, Jon Jones doesn't have much left to prove in mixed martial arts (MMA). He has beaten every fighter Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has put in front of him, excluding a disqualification loss in a fight he was dominating against Matt Hamill.
Throughout his MMA career, "Bones" has not met a challenge he has been unable to destroy, and that isn't likely to change later tonight (Sept. 21, 2013) in the main event of UFC 165, which takes place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
His latest opponent, Alexander Gustafsson, is a good fighter, don't get me wrong, but his chances of defeating Jones are small. Other than raw knockout power, there is no notable advantage that Gustafsson has over Jones.
So, why is Jones is the most interesting "Fighter to Watch" later this evening on pay-per-view (PPV)?
That's because his dominance has drawn a clear line as to where one era ends and a new one begins. If he defends his title for a sixth time, he will have accomplished all there is to accomplish in the Light Heavyweight division, beating Tito Ortiz's record of five title defenses in the weight class.
Jones is the embodiment of MMA at a level that the old guard simply could not reach. His athleticism and physical attributes alone make him something special, but his ability to improvise and integrate techniques in the cage against the best fighters in the world is truly a sight to behold.
And while the older generation of fighters starts to decline, it is very interesting to see where these men stand. While Jones is on top of the world, the man whose record he is about to break is fighting for relevancy in the main event of a doomed Bellator PPV event, where he'll fight the man that Jones utterly dominated two years ago. Besides the Tito Ortiz vs. Quinton Jackson fight, Mauricio Rua is scheduled to fight a sub-Top 10-ranked opponent, and that's really it for the once-greats.
I firmly believe that the reason that Jones is so hard for MMA fans to enjoy is not just because of his personality (which plays a part), but because he is the man who puts into perspective just how far their former idols are from being at the top of the sport. His success, which is arguably greater than theirs, is something that very few could have contemplated and very few will replicate.
As Jones looks for his sixth straight title defense, questions about his career are not how long he has left, but where he will decide to make his path. Jones isn't even at his peak, and his success rivals any and all of the most successful Light Heavyweights in the history of the sport, and that is not up for argument. Now, if he is to beat Gustafsson in the way that many think he will, he could conceivably dominate anyone he comes up against thereafter.
If he elects to remain in the division moving forward, the only remaining challenge for the foreseeable future is Glover Teixeira, who is an opponent that Jones could easily dispatch of. At the moment, the most likely scenario involves Jones defending his title against Teixeira and then moving up to Heavyweight and seeing what he could accomplish in that division.
Unless, of course, Daniel Cormier is able to enter the equation.
Simply put, the future is wide open for Jones. He has achieved more than any fighter of the past generation and he is only 26 years old. Whether he moves to Heavyweight or not, his legacy will very likely be sealed with a win over Gustafsson at UFC 165 later tonight in Toronto.
From there, the only way to go is up.