The final UFC event of 2018 is headlined by the most highly anticipated return of recent years, as Jon Jones makes the walk to the Octagon to face Alexander Gustafsson for the UFC light heavyweight title. After Jones’ last appearance in July 2017, many were calling him the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. Read below to find out why.
UFC 94 – January 31, 2009 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
These days, it’s almost hard to believe that Jones got into the UFC in 2008 as a late replacement for Tomasz Drwal. Almost as difficult to fathom is Jones being matched up with veteran contender Stephan Bonnar after beating Andre Gusmao at UFC 87. But in the biggest fight of his career to that point, the 7-0 Jones moved to 8-0 with a clear-cut victory over Bonnar, a win highlighted by a suplex and some spinning elbows that marked the New Yorker as a special talent.
UFC 126 – February 5, 2011 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Following the Bonnar bout, Jones went 3-1 in his next four bouts, with the only loss being a controversial disqualification against Matt Hamill. He was clearly on his way to the light heavyweight title, and his opponent at UFC 126, Ryan Bader, was 5-0 in the Octagon and on his way to the top as well. But in this rare meeting of hot prospects, it was all “Bones,” as he submitted Bader in the second round. What was even more notable was the post-fight interview, when Jones was told that his teammate Rashad Evans was injured and unable to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the light heavyweight title in a little over a month’s time. Jones was offered the title shot. And he accepted.
UFC 128 – March 19, 2011 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
If Jones’ road to a title shot was the stuff of Hollywood movies, just consider that the day of his fight against Shogun Rua, he and his coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn foiled a robbery in New Jersey. Call it destiny, but after that, you had to assume that nothing could stop “Bones,” and nothing did, as he dominated Rua before stopping him in the third round and taking the UFC light heavyweight title.
UFC 145 – April 21, 2012 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
After beating Rua, Jones successfully defended his title twice, submitting former champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida. Impressive stuff, but the fight the world wanted to see was Jones against his former friend and teammate Evans. And while the lead-up to the match was intense, the subsequent bout was a walk in the park for Jones, who won a clear-cut unanimous decision.
UFC 152 – September 22, 2012 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Originally scheduled to face Dan Henderson in his first post-Evans bout, a Henderson injury scrapped the bout, and Jones’ refusal to face Chael Sonnen on short notice prompted the cancellation of the entire UFC 151 event. But Jones would be back in action against a replacement foe soon enough in the form of former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. The end result was another Jones victory, but to get there, he had to survive a tight armbar that nearly finished his reign, showing that he didn’t just have talent, but heart as well.
Alexander Gustafsson I
UFC 165 – September 21, 2013 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
If the Belfort fight showed Jones’ grit, his UFC 165 bout against Alexander Gustafsson took it to a new level, as he went through his toughest challenge as a pro in a five-round war with “The Mauler.” With his title on the line, Jones soared in the championship rounds and took a well-deserved decision in a fight that has also earned plenty of consideration as one of the best title fights of all-time.
Daniel Cormier II
UFC 214 – July 29, 2017 (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
From 2014 to 2017, Jones went 3-0, 1 NC with wins over Glover Teixeira, Daniel Cormier and Ovince Saint Preux, but he unfortunately made more headlines outside the Octagon than in it. The same thing happened with his rematch against Cormier, as a failed drug test and subsequent suspension overshadowed what was a highlight-reel knockout of “DC” and one of Jones’ defining wins. Now it sits on his record as a no contest, but with that drama in his rearview mirror, Jones can now focus on the next chapter of his career, one that begins on December 29 with his rematch against Gustafsson.