Former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida was expected to be Jon Jones' stiffest test to date when he challenged for "Bones'" title last night (December 10, 2011) in the main event of UFC 140.
And he was -- well, at least for five minutes.
Despite "The Dragon's" best effort, a terrific training camp and being in incredible shape, he would be Jon Jones' shortest title fight to date.
That makes three legendary champions finished in three tries for the 24 year old superstar.
So what key adjustment did Jon Jones make that helped him gain a victory? And what's next for both men?
Jon Jones came out to strike in the first round against Machida, wading forward looking to utilize his 10.5 inch reach advantage, and it wasn't the best idea in the world. It appeared that "Bones'" plan of attack was to utilize his kicks early targeting Machida's lead leg. He landed a few stiff strikes, but Machida remained elusive and kept his distance.
When Jones got a little frustrated and began to close the distance, perhaps getting a little cheeky with his attack, Machida finally pounced, exploding forward the second the champion threw a leg kick and cracking him with a big straight left hand to the jaw that sent him reeling at least temporarily.
This strike was definitely the hardest that Jon Jones had ever been hit in the UFC but "Bones" went to his instincts, closing the distance with a clinch and he immediately recovered.
Machida stole the round with that strike.
As Machida was brimming with confidence in the beginning of round two, Jones seemed a little more tentative with his striking, but at the mid-point of the round, the tides changed drastically.
As Machida tried to come inside and land a hook, Jones ducked into him and forced a clinch. Within seconds, he pushed forward with a failed trip takedown attempt but the second that didn't work, he was in prime position for a full double leg takedown and he proceeded to yank "The Dragon's" legs out from under him with great force to put him on his back.
Look closely, and you'll see that the instant Jones had Machida on his back, he attacked with an elbow and that single short blow was the strike which opened a nasty cut on the former champion's forehead, which only emboldened Jones.
Machida worked his way back to his feet, but he was bleeding heavily from the gash and was still in Jones' clutches. After a few heavy knees to the legs and body, he was able to back away and reset.
The next time Machida pounced with a lead left hand, he was greeted with a huge right from Jones which stunned him and temporarily dropped him.
As Machida tried to get to his feet, Jones swarmed him, wrapping up his neck with a modified standing guillotine choke which twisted his head in a painful position and he pressed him heavily against the fence.
With Jones' long limbs, the torque was unbearable and within seconds, Machida's right hand goes limp signalling that he had lost consciousness. As referee John McCarthy stops the bout, Jones dropped the former champion on the canvas in a heap, walking away like an action movie hero from an exploding building.
So much for Jon Jones' toughest test.
For Lyoto Machida, he fought the typical Machida style and it appeared to be working after about seven minutes. He had Jones flustered in the stand-up but unfortunately for him, striking is just one facet of "Bones'" lethal arsenal of attack. Once the fight went to the ground and in the clinch, Machida was overwhelmed with elbows and knees which eventually led to his gash and defeat.
Despite having now lost three of his last four, don't expect an easy fight for "The Dragon" in his next bout. Potential battles include a rubber match with Mauricio Rua, the loser of the upcoming Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis fight or perhaps Forrest Griffin.
For Jon Jones, this was the type of fight he needed to answer several questions from his critics.
He proved he can take a punch, he proved he can come back from slight adversity and most important of all, he showed that he can adapt his gameplan flawlessly mid-fight. When the regular striking wasn't working, he transitioned to a clinch and takedown seamlessly and executed it perfectly, which allowed him to open up the cut and give him much-needed confidence. His victory capped off what is certainly the greatest single year of any fighter in MMA history.
There are only a few options for Jones in his next bout. He'll definitely face Rashad Evans next if "Suga" gets past Phil Davis this upcoming January. He could also face Phil Davis depending if he can beat Evans impressively enough to build interest for a pay-per-view bout and the last option is former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson, who is patiently waiting to cash in his title shot he earned with his stellar 2011. Whoever this unlucky person is, they'll definitely have their work cut out for them against Jones.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Did you see anything last night which made you think Jon Jones can be defeated any time in the near future? How impressive was his finish of Machida?
For complete UFC 140: "Jones vs. Machida" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire pay-per-view (PPV) event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.