Jon Jones’ career to date has been a tour-de-force in every facet of the mixed martial arts game.
Twenty-six opponents have tried and failed to pull off a legitimate win over the current light-heavyweight champion.
Yes, he technically holds a record of (24-1, 1NC) due to his disqualification against Matt Hamill during his original run at the title but not even Hamill himself would truly consider that a victory.
With Jon now set to face off against the powerful contender Thiago Santos at UFC 239, the time is perfect to look back at the legendary champion’s run up until now and, in particular, the fights in which his opponent was able to give him anything resembling trouble.
To be honest, even pulling up five fights was difficult.
The standard of this guy’s body of work has been so ridiculously high that some of these fights could be classified as comfortable victories for Bones.
With that being said, though, all of these fighters earned their inclusion here by at least offering a unique challenge and asking questions of the seemingly unstoppable champion.
#5 – Daniel Cormier – UFC 182
Daniel Cormier’s first crack at Jon Jones was definitely among the more interesting contests of his first-reign atop the 205lb division.
There was some serious tension between these two guys on a personal level and on the night, for just a short while, there seemed to be a shift in the energy in the MGM Grand as DC’s support gathered momentum.
The fight itself was comfortable by most fighters’ standards but by the measurement of Jones’ run, it was among the trickier. Cormier was able to pressure Jon and do some solid work in the clinch – nothing devastating, though.
The punishment to Cormier’s body and legs began to take its toll in the championship rounds – allowing Jon to go to work in what was then a huge fourth-round.
He took the fight home with little issue but in comparison to some of his more tame defenses, DC came out of this one with his reputation in-tact.
#4 – Daniel Cormier II – UFC 214
It says something when a head-kick TKO defeat in the third-round is more impressive than a five-round decision but despite the fact that Daniel Cormier’s second showdown with Jones saw him lose in brutal, brutal fashion, the performance that preceded the finish was infinitely more impressive.
Cormier mixed things up better this time around – a result of his ever-improving striking arsenal but again, Jones was able to keep him at bay with body-shots and that gargantuan reach.
When he did get inside, though, DC had some great success.
Again, nothing overly devastating but he definitely put more damage on his man this time around than their first contest. Mixing it up well and beaming with confidence, this fight was a thriller while it lasted.
Yes, the finish was about as a definitive as you can get, but all in all, Cormier was fighting a strong fight before the absolute nightmare that followed.
#3 – Vitor Belfort – UFC 152
In the case of Vitor Belfort, one great moment places him third on this list.
The armbar attempt on Jon that would have seen most people tap could well have changed the course of MMA history had the young champion not found a way to survive.
Belfort didn’t exactly have too much success outside of that for the remainder of the fight, though, and was submitted by Jones in the fourth round via americana.
Again, strong showings against Jones are few and far between but despite the rest of his overall performance, Vitor came through with the most dangerous moment of Jon Jones’ career – even if the will of the champ saw him through it.
#2 – Lyoto Machida – UFC 140
In the same way that people lose their minds over the slightest chink in the armour of the current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov – those in attendance as Jones fought Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 were left in surprise after round one as the young superstar walked to his stool looking very human.
Machida’s unorthodox karate style saw him tag Bones repeatedly and all in all, it did seem as though the champ was struggling to figure out the Brazilian’s timing.
I think it’s safe to say that round 1 had left many of his fans nervous – the first true moment of adversity for the champion to overcome.
And boy did he overcome it!
In the second-round, he managed to switch things up, before shooting in on his man and unloading some brutal elbows on the ground. After Machida broke free, he managed to knock him back down with a superman-punch before latching onto the infamous standing gullotine that left ‘The Dragon’ slumped on the floor.
#1 – Alexander Gustafsson – UFC 165
He might have been completely nullified in the rematch but when Alexander Gustafsson faced off against Jon Jones for the first time at UFC 165, those watching played witness to one of the best fights in UFC history.
A thrilling and tightly-contested affair, it’s not a stretch to say that Gus managed to land more damage on Jones than the other four names on this list combined.
For the first time, Jon was taking on someone who could match his freakish athletic gifts and against all odds, it was the Swede who was dictating the grappling early on, stuffing Jones’ attempts while becoming the first man to ever take him down.
Jones came out ahead of the scorecards narrowly in a decision that was as divisive as the man who won it but if there was one thing that everyone was in agreement of post-fight, it was that the champion had just been given the fight of his life.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena