If your name happens to be Jon Jones and you kick butt for a living, steer clear of reading the following, as it will only further inflate your ego, distract from training obligations, paper over bad habits and, perhaps lead you to pose topless before a full-size bedroom mirror and proclaim, “Yes, I most certainly am The Man, aren't I?”.
If the scent of overwhelming hyperbole forces you to part open your eyelids and request lemon juice be poured into your eyeball, it's probably best to look away now, while you still have the capacity to see. Similarly, if your name happens to be Jon Jones and you kick butt for a living, steer clear of reading the following, as it will only further inflate your ego, distract from training obligations, paper over bad habits and, perhaps lead you to pose topless before a full-size bedroom mirror and proclaim, “Yes, I most certainly am The Man, aren't I?”.
With all that said, the aforementioned Mr. Jones is, indeed, The Man, or at least will grow into that title once he reaches his mid-twenties and breaks free of being The Boy. For the time being, Jon Jones is a 23-year-old mixed martial arts phenomenon by way of Rochester, New York, and a fighter threatening to become the sport's first genuine breakout, homegrown and organic superstar.
Jones has been groomed on a steady diet of mixed martial arts since becoming a state wrestling champion as a senior at Union-Endicott High School in 2005. Once he'd broken free of the shackles of education, Jones, having snared an associate's degree at Iowa Central Community College, sought creative avenues within which he could pursue a professional fighting career. Not the fighting type, Jones was a blank slate, a wet-behind-the-ears whippersnapper, and someone who'd later be molded, nurtured and transformed into 2010's most vital and important young mixed martial artist.
Combining his background of nothing with a sponge-like ability to process new information, Jones entered mixed martial arts in 2008 as the archetypal improviser, the fighting Charlie Parker. He had no boxing background, had entered zero jiu-jitsu competitions and wore only belts of the Calvin Klein variety, yet Jones' fighting naiveté would ultimately aid his development. With no preconceptions or delusions, Jones started from scratch, as one of the first gifted fighters to approach mixed martial arts as their combat starting point.
After all, mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) have only been buzzwords since the mid-1990s and, so while many of the men at the top right now are incredible fighters and athletes, very few were raised solely and exclusively on a diet of MMA. Jones is the new breed, the first of many who will approach mixed martial arts as a single concept and sport, thus making the competition and fight for survival only that much tougher.
So, Jon Jones and cynics look away now. Here are the ten reasons why 'Bones' is the future:
1. He can rhyme
Jon 'Bones' Jones may not be the most imaginative nickname in combat sports history, but it rhymes and, more crucially, acts an effective representation of what makes the angular New Yorker such a fearsome proposition inside the Octagon. Seemingly able to split apart an opponent's face with a piercing stare, Jones' boney body and awkward angles are designed to open holes in places that shouldn't open. He can slice and dice with the edges of punches, elbows, knees and kicks, and can deliver each in a variety of ways, thrown either in a forwards, backwards or sideways motion. While the opponent starts guessing, blood inevitably trickles from an open wound.
2. He has a looooonnnnnnnng reach
A stranger to the idea of striking and boxing when entering mixed martial arts, Jones has been able to get away with a lot of technical deficiencies simply through sheer athleticism, as well as an 84-inch reach, the longest currently in the UFC. If Jones wants to keep you on the outside and use his range to set up punches and kicks, there's a fair chance it's going to happen. You won't have much of a say in the matter. Jones' sense of distance allows him to take chances with striking and attempt moves unobtainable to most shorter-armed foes.
3. Jones is a great name for a fighter
Though unrelated, Roy Jones, Jr. made his name as one of the pre-eminent boxing stars through the nineties and noughties and, like his mixed martial arts namesake, had a reputation for breaking rules and breaking bones. Roy capitalised on superhuman athleticism, instincts, reaction time and speed to bamboozle opposition in the middleweight, super-middleweight, light-heavyweight and finally heavyweight divisions. He'd forget to jab, leap back in straight lines, and his hands would remain by his side at all times, yet Roy made all the preconceived no-nos work. He broke the rules and made a set of his own, now followed by many young up-and-coming boxers. Roy paved the way for fighters like Jon Jones to throw out the conventional and embrace the potential to craft a style all of his own. Jones 2.0 mixes in sloppy and floppy punches with sharp one-twos, and seems to be unsure of what he's going to throw, whether a punch or an opponent, before he's finally in the process of doing it. Like Roy, 23-year-old Jon is a mood fighter, and he works on a whim. Wherever the mood takes him, that's where he'll go.
4. He's a fighting baby
Take a look around and you'll find late bloomers everywhere in mixed martial arts. Due to the very nature of the sport, many of today's leading lights didn't pursue a career in mixed martial arts until they'd lived a portion of their life with other disciplines. Even the pound-for-pound best fighter on the globe right now, Anderson 'The Spider' Silva, is 35 years of age. Many of the old favourites, the men who pioneered the sport in the early days, are still kicking around and are welcome additions, but a 23-year-old like Jones is a necessity for a sport intent on moving forward. If Silva is anything to go by, Jones may still have a solid ten years before he reaches his fighting peak, and that's a frightening proposition for the entire 205-pound division.
5. Fast-twitch muscle fibres taste good
As far as God-given gifts go, Jones bursts at the seams. He's tall at six-feet-four-inches, his reach clocks in at 84-inches and his body is sculpted for combat. Seemingly popped out of a fighting mold, or grabbed off a conveyor belt, Jones carries the look of the definitive 21st century fighter. He's agile, elusive, athletic and powerful. Although there are more muscular men competing in mixed martial arts, none utilise their strength and work their technique better than Jones. If he decides to pick an opponent up, they're going for a ride, irrespective of muscle size. Jones is a fighter packed with fast-twitch muscle fibres and the potential to produce explosive bursts of movement. He can close the gap quicker than anyone else in mixed martial arts and perform magic tricks while others search for the wand.
6. Suplexes are fun
As entertaining as it is watching Jones stand, strike and spin this way and that, there is perhaps no greater thrill than when seeing him clasp on to the mid-section of an opponent and perform an old-fashioned suplex. A high-calibre Greco-Roman wrestler, Jones will ordinarily bust out at least one jaw-dropping, opponent-dropping throw per fight, while fans at home locate the rewind button on their remote control. His throws are aesthetic, effective and a brief glimpse into the showman in Jon Jones.
7. He rocked Stephan Bonnar with a spinning back elbow
You want showy, huh? How about a spinning back elbow to the head of Stephan Bonnar, the original finalist of The Ultimate Fighter? Yeah, Jones doesn't just open his box of tricks on any old fighter. He'll save the best for the best. Bonnar had no idea what had hit him, literally in this case, as Jones rose, dipped, spun and connected with a scything elbow.
8. Brandon Vera is pretty damn good
Shutting out Bonnar is one thing, but breaking Brandon Vera's face is an entirely scarier proposition altogether. Not only that, Jones cut through Vera in barely three minutes, and yet left an imprint on the Filipino's face that would take most guys five rounds to carve. As shocked as anybody that night, Vera could only lay prone to Jones' stunning ground attack, as bones broke and dreams were dashed. Remember, Vera was supposed to be the litmus test.
9. Even in disqualification, the nicest guy in the world
Yes, it's true, Jones does have one black mark on his record. His sole pro loss arrived in December 2009, when the American was disqualified for striking a bemused Matt Hamill with multiple 12-to-6 vertical elbows while in the top position. As Hamill's was on his way out of the fight, Jones was pulled off of him, assumed victory, only to then be told about his misdemeanour following a celebratory cartwheel. An unfortunate disqualification followed and, as everybody expected a bitter reaction from Jones, the fighter simply smiled and shrugged, accepting his punishment with a grace and humility that many lack.
10. He is mixed martial arts
Regardless of whether he lives up to the hyperbole, Jon Jones is exciting simply because he represents mixed martial arts in 2010. Unlike many of the other stars in MMA, Jones is young and fresh enough to have been an untouched product of the sport. This is the world he was born into. He didn't decide to up sticks and move to mixed martial arts, as his old job wasn't lucrative or stimulating enough. There are still rules being written in the sport, and Jones has the potential and opportunity to rubber-stamp his own distinct, au naturale fighting style and personality on something which gets bigger by the year. With legacies still to be written and a history yet to be formed, Jon Jones' birth into mixed martial arts couldn't have been timed any better.