Jones’ title defense likely first of many
DENVER – Jon Jones didn’t run down a mugger before the fight. And he probably wouldn’t have much to offer in the way of solving the country’s unemployment problem.
But after watching him systematically take Quinton “Rampage” Jackson apart in their light heavyweight title bout before submitting him in the fourth round of the main event of UFC 135 Saturday, it looks like that’s about the only task Jones isn’t up to.
The 24-year-old phenom outclassed an in-shape, focused and determined Jackson, making him look, as he does to most opponents, like a second-tier fighter as he made the first title defense of what is shaping up to be a long title run.
Jones submitted Jackson with a rear-naked choke at 1:14 of the fourth round, even further tightening his grip on the top spot in one of the UFC’s deepest divisions.
“I thought he was all hype, but that’s wrong,” Jackson said. “He’s a tough, talented dude.”
Every fight, it seems, Jones finds a new way to inflict damage upon his opponent. On Saturday, he used his kicks like a jab, keeping his opponent at bay and allowing him to avoid Jackson’s heavy hands.
He went to one of his stalwart moves, the spinning elbow, to open a cut over Jackson’s right eye in the third round. And when Jackson turned his head away from Jones to avoid getting elbowed in the face again when the fighters were grappling near the cage in the fourth, Jones quickly took advantage and went for the fight-ending choke.
He slithered into position like a python and wrapped his long arms around Jackson’s neck, forcing the former champion to tap.
“That’s the first time I lost when I was in my best shape,” Jackson said in tribute.
Jones was ebullient in March after he stopped Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to win the belt, but he had a very different reaction at the post-fight news conference Saturday. He was subdued and quiet and gave short answers, preferring to laugh at Jackson’s many quips.
[Related: Complete UFC 135 recap]
He’d been through a lot in the last six months, including accusations of planting a spy in Jackson’s camp. The trash talk with Jackson clearly took a toll on his psyche and he didn’t have it in him to put on a show at the news conference.
Fortunately, he put on quite a show in the cage, much to the delight of the crowd of 16,344 at the Pepsi Center. Before the fight, he said he would submit Jackson and then he backed up his words with deeds.
“It was great,” Jones said of pulling off the submission he’d predicted. “It was really fun. You’ve got to believe you can do things before you actually do them. I just had to believe. I try to be a testament to people, athletes and kids – that you have to set your mind on a goal and that’s the only way you’ll achieve them.”
There aren’t many fighters in the world who can set their mind on a goal and pull them off the way that Jones can do. He’ll fight his one-time friend and mentor, former champion “Sugar” Rashad Evans, sometime next year.
Jackson suggested that Evans is the only man with the ability to possibly defeat Jones, though he didn’t sound too convinced.
“I don’t see anybody who can beat Jones, honestly,” Jackson said. “Rashad says he has his number. That’s what he says, but I don’t know.”
Evans and Jones had a nasty falling out earlier this year when the former was supposed to fight Rua for the title at UFC 128 before injuring a knee and withdrawing. The UFC offered the fight to Jones, who said he got Evans’ blessing before taking the fight.
Evans, though, wasn’t thrilled and a feud began. When Jackson noted that Evans had said he has Jones’ number, it lit a spark in Jones.
“I will say this about Rashad,” Jones said in a clipped voice. “He does not have my number. He’s not even close to having my number. Me and Rashad sparred a few times and every time we sparred, I know what could have happened. He talks about one day at practice where he held me down. He lives that day in his head every day. So, we’ll see.”
Based on the way Jones is going, just holding him down in practice should be enough to get Evans some kind of award. Nobody has been able to come close to doing anything against Jones, so Evans has accomplished a major feat in doing that.
Mixed martial arts is the type of spot where it is very difficult to stay on top for long, because there are so many ways to lose and one small mistake frequently winds up costing a fighter a defeat.
Jones, though, is giving every indication that he’s going to be around for a while.
“The great thing for Jon Jones about taking this fight right now is how seriously Rampage took this fight,” UFC president Dana White said. “He’s been up here in Denver for a long time and you saw him tonight when he got into the Octagon. He was in great shape. His face was lean. He had abs and he came to win this fight. [Jones] beat the best Rampage. Rampage only cut six pounds for this fight. He cut six pounds the day of the weigh-in, which is incredible. That goes to show you how seriously he took this fight.
“Let me tell you what: Jon Jones is the man.”
That he is. Middleweight champion Anderson Silva has held his belt for five years. If anyone is going to match or top that mark and become a dynasty in the UFC, it very well may be Jon “Bones” Jones.
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