UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones already has one loss and nearly suffered another Saturday, but no one has even come close to defeating him in the cage.
Despite his dominance of Chael Sonnen on Saturday at UFC 159 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Jones was only 27 seconds away from losing his belt.He suffered a broken toe while taking Sonnen down in the first round. Had referee Keith Peterson not stopped the bout at 4:33 as Jones was pounding on Sonnen, it is highly unlikely that the New Jersey commission would have allowed Jones to come out for the second round because of the gruesome injury.
As a result, Jones would have lost the bout by knockout, even though a novice could see he was the far superior fighter.
Jones' one defeat came in a non-title bout in 2009 as a result of a highly controversial disqualification during a match with Matt "The Hammer" Hamill. Jones was disqualified for throwing an illegal elbow that caused Hamill to be injured. After reviewing a replay, referee Steve Mazzagatti ordered the disqualification.
Mazzagatti's call has been hotly disputed in the three-plus years since, but what that defeat points to is the fine line between winning and losing in mixed martial arts and the difficulty of compiling a lengthy winning streak against top opposition. There are so many ways to win and lose a bout that it's virtually impossible to remain unbeaten for long. Women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is the only one of the eight UFC titleholders without a defeat.
It's also evidence of the remarkable nature of Anderson Silva's almost eight-year winning streak in the UFC.
Silva joined the UFC in 2006 amid much acclaim. And while his signing was a significant one for the company at the time, it's not like he was held then in the same regard he's held in now, in which he's widely considered the best fighter in the world.
Silva was 17-4 prior to joining the UFC, but his record since his debut against Chris Leben on June 28, 2006, in Las Vegas is nothing short of staggering.
Silva has gone 16-0 in the UFC, including 11-0 in title bouts.
Given his remarkable two-year reign as champion, Jones is the flavor of the month. But even he admitted following his win over Sonnen on Saturday that Silva's streak deserves to keep him atop the rankings.
"I celebrated my two-year anniversary as champion this year, and Anderson has been doing it for about six years," Jones said. "That's phenomenal. That's phenomenal pressure that he's been able to [endure] and continue moving forward with. I admire him so much.
"Yes, I've had some great fights, and I've had a great career, but Anderson is still an amazing guy. He's still my idol and I'm not going to disregard what he's done."
[Related: Who should Jon Jones fight next]
Jones would likely be favored to defeat Silva were they to meet, as he's physically bigger and is a dominant wrestler. Silva struggled with Sonnen's wrestling in two title defenses, and Sonnen didn't seem to be near Jones' league on Saturday.
MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa said he'd open Jones as a "minimum 3-1 favorite" against Silva, potentially as high as minus-375.
According to FightMetric, Jones was three of six for takedowns against Sonnen, who was on his heels the entire fight. Sonnen, by contrast, was 4-for-11 in takedowns over two fights against Silva.
All the hype for Jones is deserved, but as UFC president Dana White points out, that makes it easy to overlook what Silva has accomplished.
"Anderson has made a lot of really good middleweights look really bad, but that is not the most impressive thing he's done," White said. "He's also gone up to 205 [pounds] and he's done the same thing to guys there. He's won his fights just as easily.
"Now, can Jon Jones move up to heavyweight and be knocking guys out in the first round? Well, he wants to go there and try it, but we don't know if he can do it because he hasn't done it yet. How many 155-pounders can go up to 170 and take out guys there? That doesn't really happen in this sport, but it's what Anderson has done."
Silva has to defend his title on July 6 in Las Vegas at UFC 162 against top contender Chris Weidman. If he gets by him, there is a great likelihood that he'll fight Jones later in the year.
White wouldn't commit to Silva fighting either Jones or welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre – the other champion mentioned as an opponent for a potential "superfight" with Silva – but said he thought it was reasonable to expect that one or the other could happen sometime in 2013 if Silva gets by Weidman.
If he does, imagine a Silva-Jones fight on Nov. 9 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto as the potential headliner for the UFC's 20th anniversary show. It would be a massive event.
That Silva is still good enough at 38 years old to be involved in those kinds of matches says much about his greatness.
That's easy to overlook in light of the hoopla over Jones' greatness.
"His longevity and the guys he's beaten and everything, how can he not be the No. 1 pound-for-pound guy?" White said of Silva. "Jones is a great story and he's an incredible physical specimen. He's got the size, the strength and the athleticism. But it's not all about being big and strong. It's about being an unbelievable athlete and Jon has that athleticism.
"Anderson Silva, though, is almost 40 years old and he's beating these guys and making it look easy. Year after year, you wonder, 'Is this the year [he may lose],' but he keeps going on and on. The guy is a freak of nature, man. He's incredible."
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