If Jon Jones retains his title against Dan Henderson on Sept. 1 at UFC 151, the champ’s excellence will leave his options limited.
The UFC light heavyweight champion has broken, literally and figuratively, every opponent he’s faced in the Octagon. He started his UFC career with a couple of decision victories over Andre Gusmao at UFC 87 and Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94. Since then “Bones” has amassed a series of TKO and submission victories, besides a loss to Matt Hamill in 2009, where Jones smashed “The Hammer,” but was disqualified for illegal elbows.
Jones’ run has seen him devour legends in the sport. He won the 205-pound strap from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128 in a dominant fashion. After capturing the belt, Jones finished two legends in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida, then went on to defeat Rashad Evans via decision at UFC 145.
On Jones’ road to the title he decimated Brandon Vera, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ryan Bader.
Vera suffered three fractured cheek bones from an elbow planted on his face from “Bones.” Jones disposed of Matyushenko in just under 120 seconds. Meanwhile, Bader was outwrestled in the first round and choked into submission in Round 2.
If Jones defeats Henderson at UFC 151 there is not another clear cut, well-deserving UFC light heavyweight No. 1 contender. Furthermore, who would “Bones” fight if he were to continue defending his belt?
UFC president Dana White recently announced that the next UFC light heavyweight No. 1 contender will be the most impressive winner from either Rua vs. Vera or Machida vs. Bader, which both take place Saturday at “UFC on Fox 4.”
Jones bested all four of those combatants in the past, but that doesn’t mean he’s cleaned out the division.
Alexander Gustafsson appears to be on the brink of breaking into the upper echelon of the UFC 205 pound weight class. The Swedish mixed martial artist is on a five-fight win streak and finished four of those five opponents. Despite this, Gustafsson surely needs a victory over high-profile competitor before being granted a title shot. To avid UFC fans, Gustafsson is well-known and considered a legit prospect, but to the dozens of bar-goers that are only in tune with the superstars, the Swede is not exactly Mr. Popularity. Therefore, the UFC would have to raise Gustafsson’s stock before banking on him in a main event title affair.
James Te Huna and Igor Pokrajac, meanwhile, are both on a three-fight win streak. Glover Teixeira, who is on a 16-fight win streak, is expected to do big things, even though only one of those victories was inside the Octagon. Phil Davis strung together a series of victories over some quality adversaries before losing a decision to Evans at “UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis.” Should “Mr. Wonderful” return to his winning ways, in due time a title match will come.
The issue with the up and comers is they need more wins over higher ranked opponents. The problem with Gustafsson, besides building a bigger brand, is that he doesn’t have a fight scheduled and no mention of one on the horizon. So, in either instance Jones would have to sit on the sidelines should he get past Henderson at UFC 151.
Jones has conquered the fighters that were atop of the division for years and he surpassed the class he arrived to the UFC with. If victorious at UFC 151, he’ll meet an old foe and then possibly another if he defeats the first. Maybe he’ll wait for one of the surging prospects; even Gustafsson might be in a position by then to embrace a title fight.
As a result of “Bones” separating himself from the pack and dominating the UFC light heavyweight division since his existence in the Octagon, Jones is now in a peculiar position where his options are either facing familiar faces or patiently waiting for someone to break out from the pack.