UFC getting the best athletes? Jones may be tip of the iceberg

Scary, right? That's the only way to qualify what 22-year-old Jon Jones did to UFC veteran Brandon Vera on Sunday. Vera, with a good wrestling background, was dumped on his head several times. Then Jones unleashed an elbow on Vera's face that has some questioning the need to allow elbows in the sport. Vera suffered several broken bones in his face.

That's how good Jones looks and he just started training in mixed martial arts four years ago. How is it possible? Jones is a special breed of athlete fighting at 205 pounds. Arguably, the type of athlete MMA hasn't been getting over the years. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 224-pound light heavyweight, comes from a wrestling and football playing family. His brother older Arthur (6-3, 295), is a defensive tackle out of Syracuse, who'll drafted in the first three rounds of the upcoming NFL draft. His younger brother Chandler is rangier at 6-6, 250. There's no doubt Jon could've played college football as a safety, linebacker, wide receiver or even defensive end. But he took a different path when he and his girlfriend, Jessie, had a child. The MMA world is the beneficiary.

"He's a serious, serious talent. He's only going to better," said UFC president Dana White. "And he's very motivated. There aren't many guys out there, that are this guy. God only knows what this guy can do."

UFC on Versus 1 also featured a former college football player in Colorado fullback Brendan Schaub. The 6-4, 246-pounder destroyed a good prospect in Chase Gormley. White says with the growth of the sport, more money and prestige, more athletes from traditional sports will be making their way over to MMA.

"I think it's much more appealing to be the champion at weight class rather than wearing a ring and saying 'hey see my ring, we threw the ball through the hoop more time than the other guys did."

That's debatable for the highest level athletes who can still make $2-to-$7 million a year as backups in the NBA or MLB. White is right though the athletes who don't make the bigs, maybe they mix in some MMA training in college and then consider it as a career option when their NCAA hoops or football careers are finished.

"The level of competitors is just going to keep getting better and better.You're going to see young guys coming in, and then eventually you're going to see guys 23, 24 years old winning titles."

It's not only the physical side of things that make Jones special, he's just as impressive from a maturity and intelligence standpoint. He sounds like a 35-year-old in breaking down his strategical approach (0:35 mark), the lesson he learned from losing his cool during the weigh-in (0:55 mark), Vera's weaknesses (3:10 mark) and his blending of Greco-Roman wrestling and Judo (4:40 mark).

His learning curve is also scary. In the past, Jones had mentioned that he learned a spinning elbow from watching YouTube. During this postfight, he again says that he's picking up Judo ideas from surfing the web. He's destroying his opponents yet he realizes that he's not even close to being a finished product. Can he win the UFC light heavyweight title by 24? That's to be seen. He's certainly on the path to challenging for the strap in the next two years.

What to Read Next