This may be quite a controversial pick as runner-up in this Top 10 list. Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is undeniably one of the greatest fighters combat sports has seen, ever. The most dominant light heavyweight champion the UFC has ever had, a technically unmatched striker, wrestler and an underappreciated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappler – but, Jones has a couple of asterisks surrounding his professional career.
Firstly, Jones has a rather contentious defeat on his record. In 2009, Jones met Matt Hamill and was disqualified due to landing a series of 12-6, illegal elbows. Let’s be 100% transparent – that rule is quite ridiculous and the ruling of the disqualification is even more dubious. Secondly, Jones has had his fair share of run-ins with law enforcement outside of the Octagon. Inside the Octagon, Jones had had more than a handful of controversial moments. After reigning supreme over Ovince Saint-Preux in an interim title meeting, Jones tested positive for clomiphene, and letrozole ahead of a UFC 200 rematch with Daniel Cormier.
At UFC 214, Jones and Cormier finally shared the Octagon for a second time. In the third round, Jones launched a head-kick which stumbled the defending champion, before finishing with ground-and-pound. The following month, Jones was stripped of the undisputed light heavyweight championship, after USADA informed him of a failed drug test after his test sample tested positive for the banned substance, turinabol. Now, with those obvious infringements out of the way, let’s discuss the fighting career of Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
The Albuquerque based look-see-do fighter began the decade in quite incredible style. Jones handed devastating defeats to Brandon Vera, and Vladimir Matyushenko, before earning a light heavyweight title opportunity with a guillotine win over Ryan Bader. In a coming of age performance, Jones battled mixed-martial-arts legend, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua with 205-pound gold up for grabs. In a stellar victory, Jones dropped Rua after a brutal barrage to the body, claiming champion status – and subsequently, became the youngest ever UFC world champion at just 23-years-of-age, a record which may stand the test of time.
Over the next four years, Jon Jones began one of the most dominant reigns in promotional championship history. Quintin ‘Rampage’ Jackson was submitted. Lyoto Machida was submitted via a brutal standing-guillotine. Rashad Evans was beaten on points. Vitor Belfort was submitted in the penultimate round after throwing up a dangerous armbar in the opening frame. Chael Sonnen was stopped via strikes. Alexander Gustafsson lost via unanimous decision in one of the greatest light heavyweight affairs in the sport’s history. Glover Teixeira was handed his first promotional defeat in a decision loss. Daniel Cormier was handed his very first professional blemish in a five-round loss. And just like that, Jones’ eight-fight light heavyweight reign was over.
Jones is currently in the midst of his second reign as undisputed light heavyweight champion, having taken the vacant crown in a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson in December of last year. In a much more clear cut victory this time around, Jones managed a third-round ground-and-pound stoppage. In his first and then second successful title defense of this reign, Jones completely outclassed Anthony Smith, before narrowly edging past Brazilian Muay Thai practitioner, Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos via a split decision win. In March, Jones will attempt to knock back another challenger, as he meets the surging, undefeated contender, Dominick ‘The Devastator’ Reyes.
There is simply no doubt surrounding the talent of Jon Jones, he may be the most talented mixed-martial-artist to ever walk the planet in fact – but there is also no denying the controversy surrounding the 32-year-old. He’s undeniably the most successful light heavyweight to ever step foot inside the Octagon. The New York-born striker also has an uncanny ability to make even the best the division has to offer, to appear, just average. And for that reason – Jon Jones takes the #2 rank in this Top 10 list.