Sports is like politics. People can twist the facts to fit whichever narrative they wish to be true. It is a branch of confirmation bias and general biases toward our favorite fighters and against those we dislike. Yes. The Greatest of All Time in any sport will always be debatable since it is in fact a matter of opinion. But this seven part series presents as lucid an argument for the best MMA fighter of all time that you will find anywhere on the Internet. And if you disagree, jump right in and let’s have an open debate. But just remember one thing….sports, like politics, may boil down to what one wants to believe….but it also does contain cold hard facts. This list is not about favorite or media darlings or the most popular fighters, it’s about objective facts. And by the end of this series, the evidence will show who is as factually close to being the greatest fighter of all time as possible. The seven parts of this series are as follows:
Part 1: The Honorable Mentions aka “The Future Contenders”
Part 2: The Notorious Mention
Part 3: Fedor Emelianenko vs. The UFC
Part 4: Down Came the Rain and Washed the Spider Out
Part 5: The Meteoric Rise of Mighty Mouse
Part 6: No Rush to be the GOAT
Part 7: Explanation of the Greatest MMA Fighter of All Time
I now present to you the explanation of the Greatest MMA Fighter of All Time…
Part 7: Why it is Disrespectful to the Sport of MMA to not Consider Jon Jones the Consensus GOAT
“To say anyone other than Jon Jones is the greatest fighter of all time is disrespectful to the sport of MMA.”
40 seconds. Just 40 seconds is the difference between Jon Jones being just another “arguable” best of all time to him being the nearly definitive greatest fighter of all time. I will never understand how MMA pundits could anoint Anderson Silva to being the greatest of all time without dispute at a time when GSP appeared just as unbeatable and literally more untouchable, and yet, while Jon Jones has yet to taste defeat and has only lost a handful of rounds against the toughest assemblage of men that anyone on this GOAT list has faced, how he continues to be trailed by the “one of the greatest” tag. Why, tell me, why is Jon Jones not the universally recognized GOAT when he has done statistically, and thus factually, what no one else has done?
For those who believe that Alexander Gustafsson defeated Jon Jones, please, go to UFC Fight Pass, subscribe if you haven’t already, and rewatch the fight. In fact, it may even be available for free on YouTube. As I did with the GSP/Hendricks fight, as I prepared this list, I wanted to go back and watch the Jones/Gustafsson fight again, making it the third time that I watched the fight. I wanted to make sure I was not missing something.
The first round is close, but Gustafssonn’s takedown and slight striking advantage is enough to give Gus the round. All three judges saw the same. Round two is the untold story of the fight. The championship rounds of the fight is the part of the story that has been told and retold enough times to hush much of the controversy surrounding the decision; but it is the second round that should silence it. Jones’s big elbow within the first two minutes and huge kick at the 2:30 mark more than negate Gustafsson’s trip at the beginning of the round. By this point, Gustafsson’s strikes were also inaccurate, though he was being active. Gus’s biggest strength this round was his takedown defense. He also landed a big jab with 55 seconds remaining in the round. But the two big head kicks by Jones along with the elbow early in the round are the three biggest strikes in the round.
When Jones throws his hands up at the bell, he is correct. He won that, albeit competitive, round. Two of the three judges saw the same. One judge, Doug Crosby, has rounds 2 and 3 completely backwards. Gustafsson clearly won Round 3 yet Crosby gave it to Jones, and Jones clearly won round 2, as the other judges saw, and yet he gave it to Gustafsson. But for anyone who believes Gus won the fight, go back, watch Round 2 with an objective non-Jones-hating mind, and that is where your argument dies. And also consider that Jones is the champion and thus it can be said that Gustafsson did not do enough to win the round against the champion. Jones landed 11 more significant strikes than Gustafsson in round 2, and at a 65% clip compared to Gustafsson’s measly 29%. How anyone can score this round for Gustafsson speaks to some level of inattentiveness or bias, but no factual reasoning whatsoever.
Round 1 and 3 goes to Gus. Round 2 for Jones. Even though I give Gus round 3, Jones outstruck him statistically in the round, but Gus seemed to land the most effective strikes in the exchanges. But round 4 is the most important round of the entire fight. That’s where the championship moment and the legacy moment for Jon Jones happens. That was the Jones version of Anderson Silva’s last-minute triangle choke of Chael Sonnen. That was Jones’s greatest “refuse to lose” moment. That moment…was legendary.
40 seconds. Jones was 40 seconds away from losing this fight. Round 4 was clearly going to Gustafsson. He was outstriking Jones throughout the round and outgrinding him. At the 40 second mark, you will see Jon Jones glance up at the clock to see how much time he had left. It was at that precise moment where Jones refused to lose. Jones’s flurry in the final 40 seconds was too strong to deny him the round. Gus had nice combos and a much better striking output, but nothing even close to the effectiveness of this flurry which noticeably wobbled Gus and put him in a danger that is hard to quantify due to the saving grace of the bell. What we do know is that Gustafsson could barely stand at the close of the round. That moment where Jones looked up at the clock and saw 40 seconds is when everything changed. That is a champion.
Had those 40 seconds not happened, Gus wins the fight. On Doug Crosby’s scorecard, Gus would have won 1,2, and 4 for a 48-47 decision in favor of the Swede. Chris Lee would have given Gus 1 and 4 and Jones would have still had his vote. But then Richard Bertrand, who I believe is the only judge to score the fight correctly, would have given Gus 1, 3, and 4 for the decisive second vote and for the light heavyweight championship. Round 5 was clearly Jones. His strikes were much more accurate (53% vs. 37%) and he finally got a takedown. Jones won that fight. There is no controversy.
Those 40 seconds is not the only championship moment of Jon Jones. Destroying Chael Sonnen with a broken toe is another one, and one that may possibly be an even greater championship moment for Jones is when he refused to tap to Vitor Belfort’s deep armbar then go on to earn the submission victory over the future hall of famer. Those are Jones’s championship moments. His most legendary moments. Everything else is something that it seems the MMA community has taken for granted: his absolute dominance over his peers.
Guys, let’s stop taking the list of Jon Jones’s victims for granted. The man has defeated SIX…..SIX former UFC Champions EACH IN THEIR PRIME (Even Quinton Jackson, who was only 32 when facing Jones). No one else on this GOAT list have even defeated anywhere CLOSE to that many former champions. Is it the fault of GSP, Anderson Silva or Demetrious Johnson that they never faced such a murderer’s row of opponents? It is not. But did any of those names outperform Jones to the point where we can overlook who Jones has beaten? Not only have they not, but each of the other men on this list have actually LOST when facing less competition than Jones has faced. Jones has 16 UFC fights and 15 UFC victories. That is only one less victory than Silva and two less than GSP. The difference is that he has NO losses both inside and outside of the UFC. To say anyone other than Jon Jones is the greatest fighter of all time is disrespectful to the sport of MMA. It shows a complete disregard for how difficult it is to go undefeated. It scoffs at how no other man has been able to remain undefeated while competing at the championship level for as long as Jones has. Not Fedor, Not Anderson Silva, not Demtrious Johnson, not Dominick Cruz, NO ONE has done what Jon Jones has done. No one has been able to avoid that “got caught” moment while also avoiding being outperformed through an entire fight. And to top it off, Jones defeated a challenger in Daniel Cormier who arguably is greater than anyone on this list has defeated (aside from Matt Hughes of course who defeated the #2 man on this list). Which is why, should Dominick Cruz win a few more major fights, and especially with one Jones loss, he might be the biggest challenger to Jones’s GOAT status because his victory over Demetrious Johnson is comparable to Jones’ victory over Daniel Cormier, even with the knowledge that DJ would improve after this fight. But between Silva, Fedor, GSP, and Demetrious Johnson, no opponent they defeated surpasses Daniel Cormier, and none of them were able to remain undefeated. The one loss on Jon Jones record is not just a technicality, but it is symbolic. It is proof of what is becoming a basic truth: No one beats Jon Jones but Jon Jones. And no one else can say that about themselves as of the close of 2016. For that reason, Jon Jones stands alone, whether his haters can stomach that reality or not.
Some try to navigate around these facts by discrediting Jones’s achievement because of his size and reach advantage. As Jones himself once stated, those who make this argument make it in part because they find it difficult to comprehend his success. And in a way, it’s hard to blame them. After all, NO ONE has done what he has done, so there must be a reason other than him just being a well-rounded martial artist with unpredictable and diverse striking, Class A wrestling ability, tremendous fight IQ, and a rare and obsessive will to win. No. It must be the reach advantage. Let’s understand three things when it comes to this argument:
1) There is a thing called weight divisions. Weight divisions were created for there to be fair fights. Jon Jones is going against opponents in his weight class. This is not an opinion. It is fact. When Jones is defeating lightweights, or even middleweights, then we may be on to something. But he is facing men who are factually the same size as him in respect to the standards put forth by the MMA commissions. No, his opponents do not have the same reach. But the majority of MMA fights feature someone with a reach advantage, and it goes without saying that the fighter with the reach advantage does not always win. And some fighters, such as Magnus Cedenblad, Stefan Struve, and even Alexander Gustaffson also enjoy a sizeable reach advantage in most fights and none of these fighters has had a championship career, let alone a hall of fame one. If reach advantage was all it took to be a UFC champion, the sport would have already adapted to that and be filled with champions who enjoy a sizeable reach advantage, much like how the NBA evolved to feature only the tallest human beings. The fact that MMA champions continue to come in different reaches, demonstrates how much more to fighting there is than having a reach advantage.
2) Let’s pretend for a moment that Jones is successful because of his reach advantage. Even still that would be irrelevant. That would be like saying Shaquille O’Neal was only successful because of his size. In the sport of MMA, as with any sport, genetics do play a factor. I am not disputing that reach plays a factor in Jones’s success because as an intelligent fighter he knows how to use it. But even if we were to run with the hyperbolic notion that it is the biggest contributor to his success, that would still be irrelevant because genetic advantage is a part of sports and always has been. In this instance, the genetic advantage would be reach. Genetic advantages should not prevent a fighter from being the greatest of all time because only his performance and fight record could do that. Therefore the only thing these advantages could prevent is not whether someone is the GOAT, but whether fans would want to follow a sport where someone could have these advantages. For example, if you don’t like a sport where height gives advantage, then instead of discrediting the achievements of the tallest players, don’t watch basketball. The same logic applies to MMA and Jon Jones if you are convinced that reach plays a leading role in his success. If you think someone has better technique and is more talented, just say so. But don’t say they are a better fighters. Those are two different things.
3) There is a sizeable gap between light heavyweight and heavyweight which keeps Jones at light heavyweight. We must understand that the gap between light heavyweight and heavyweight is tremendous when you consider that Jon Jones, someone who typically walks around at between 220-230 could be in the cage with someone the size of Derrick Lewis, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, etc. When Jon Jones had to pull out from his first scheduled bout against Daniel Cormier at UFC 178, even Dana White questioned why Jones would be rolling with someone the size of Alistair Overeem. If the president can question why Jon Jones would be practicing with someone that size, we must ask ourselves should Jones be actually competing with men these sizes. Now, as Jones himself has stated, some heavyweights, such as Cain Velasquez and Stipe Miocic would be close enough in size to not be a major mismatch. But that is not the case with all heavyweights and it will be interesting to see if Jones packs on major weight in order to be a heavyweight who can compete with anyone in the division. But he’s not there genetically. He has small legs and a clear light-heavyweight frame. Which goes back to point #1: There are weight divisions in place for a reason. Jones is in the right one. The system of weight divisions prevents mismatches from happening. Contrary to what Jones haters or disbelievers may think, Jon Jones is not the sole person to get around the weight-class system any more than Conor McGregor was when fighting at 145.
What makes someone the best isn’t just their technique and ability. That is impossible to argue and is far too subjective. It’s their ability to win. That is what matters. This is not figure skating where the best is determined by how the moves are performed and how transitions occur. This is a sport about how difficult you are to defeat and how consistently you win. Demetrious Johnson has had split decision victories during his UFC career, including when he won the inaugural flyweight championship, Jones has NONE. ZERO. ZELCH. More importantly, Demetrious Johnson has two losses and one draw, Jones has ZERO legitimate losses. The Joe Rogans of the MMA world overlook this, not with any ill-intentions, but they overlook it all the same. And the Dana Whites of the world go from Anderson Silva being the P4P best over Jones to Renan Barᾶo being the P4P best over Jones (Yes, he actually said that at one time). And now of course it’s Demetrious Johnson. It’s almost as if the company itself does not want Jones to be the P4P best, and that much of the MMA community are also aboard that ship. But sorry, guys. Jones has been the P4P best for years now. He was damn sure the P4P best when Renan Barao was briefly the bantamweight champion, and the moment he returns, he will be the P4P best over Demetrious Johnson. Like it or not, until he loses, Jon Jones is not only the pound for pound best fighter of the world, but he is the greatest fighter of all time. I implore you all, especially the MMA media, to stop disrespecting our sport by pretending otherwise.