Jon Jones' list of champion casualtiesBen Blackmore April 23, 2012
1. Mauricio Shogun Rua - UFC 128
"The best I've ever faced", Shogun Rua was forced to admit after his brush with Jon Jones. And considering Shogun has fought Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem, Kevin Randleman, Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida... that's quite a statement.
Jones entered the Octagon hoping to become the youngest champion in UFC history, but standing opposite him was a lethal knockout machine who had broken Rampage's ribs, wiped the floor with Ricardo Arona, and become the first man to defeat Machida. Shogun is one of the top five light-heavyweights to have ever graced the sport, yet he was walking into an ambush.
From the very first exchange Jones stamped his intention with a flying knee that thudded into Shogun's ribs. "I think the fight went wrong with the very first strikes Jones landed," commented Rua's brother. Shogun, who barely landed anything all night, was reduced to an unwilling punch bag, too courageous to back down but too helpless to fight back.
By the time the end of the first round arrived Shogun had been smashed with a knee to the body, tormented with front kicks to the face and sent packing to his stool with barely enough energy to find his corner. After a brutal spinning elbow in the second, Shogun could barely lift his arms in the third - his legs moving off memory and his face largely unrecognisable. The stoppage was inevitable, after which Jones simply stated: "Now I have a huge target on my back."
2. Rampage Jackson - UFC 135
If mind games are supposed to work against Jon Jones, then Rampage Jackson got it all wrong ahead of the youngster's first title defence, seemingly talking himself into a beating after endless pre-fight taunts. "Bones can see which hand I wipe my ass with," Rampage said whilst accusing Jones of spying on him. "You look at those Bambi legs and wonder what happens when I hit him."
We're still wondering.
Rampage did not get near the champion in four rounds of fighting. Each time he stalked Jones down and swung a big right hand, the champ was already on the other side of the cage. Jones beat his rival at his own game, owning him in the stand-up, before eventually taking it to the mat to force Jackson to tap due to a rear naked choke for the first time in his UFC career.
"The kid is good. I thought he was hyped. But I take my hat off to him," said Rampage. Note the change of tune.
3. Lyoto Machida - UFC 140
Rampage may not not have got his hands on the Jones chin, but the question he raised about what happened when somebody did hit the champion was a hugely relevant one. Question asked and question answered against Lyoto Machida, the division's most elusive striker.
Unlike the Rampage fight, nothing but respect was shown in the build-up by Machida. Hugely unorthodox and fighting from a Karate background, Machida had already embarrassed former champ Rashad Evans, and if anybody could lure Jones into a trap - it was surely the sniping style of the Dragon.
So it proved as Jones got clobbered for the first time, eating a left hand and stumbling backwards. The shock was on, but Machida was about to discover that when Jones' Plan A doesn't work, he can turn to Plan B, C or D. Taking Machida to the mat Jones opened a huge wound on his rival's head with an elbow, forcing the doctor to check the cut. Upon resumption, Jones locked on a standing guillotine, dropping an unconscious Machida to the mat for victory.
It was as cold, callous and clinical as we had ever seen with Jones, and it was a chilling warning to his rivals to come.
4. Rashad Evans - UFC 145
If Jones' discarding of Machida was emotionless, his third title defence against former friend and training partner Rashad Evans was in danger of becoming too poignant. The pair knew each other inside-out, Evans had "big-brothered" Jones in the champion's own words, they had vowed never to fight, but the vow had been broken.
Evans spoke of a day when he held Jones down in training while the youngster cried to be let up. Jones claimed that was the only day Rashad ever got the better of him. Did they know each other's tricks, would one man become consumed by emotion?
The result was Jones' most dangerous fight to date. Evans rocked him so badly with a head kick in round one that Jones couldn't even locate a water bottle sitting on his knee when he returned to his stool. "I wouldn't say I was hurt, but I would definitely say [Evans] wobbled me," Jones said. "There was one point where I got hit and tried to side-shuffle, and I stumbled."
But, much like the Machida fight, the champ adapted. Shortening his punches to standing elbows, Jones battered Evans backwards, eventually owning rounds two, three, four and five. It was the first time he had been five rounds, but that did not make his win any less impressive. "That's definitely my most satisfying victory," commented the champ.
Four champions beaten, few others left to overcome. Expect Jones to hold the belt for some time.