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Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones is arguably the greatest fighter of all time. Sporting a 26-1-0 record does not do him justice since he’s a legitimate undisputed, undefeated champion. The one loss on his record was due to disqualification for downward elbows. Speaking of which, the rule came about when athletic commissioners overseeing MMA competitions saw videos of karate masters destroying bricks with downward elbows, and they figured the technique was too brutal for sports.
The facts are undisputed, Jones has defeated every man he’s shared the Octagon with, and he’s earned his spot in the UFC’s Hall of Fame. The youngest champion in UFC history, Jones’ career is far from over, and he’s currently working on a move to the UFC’s Heavyweight division.
Breaking Down Bones’ Fighting Style
Bruce Lee would probably be a fan of Jon Jones if he was still alive. Jones – who refers to himself as a look-see-do fighter – is the embodiment of Lee’s famous quote on his martial arts philosophy:
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
Jones does not force anything when he fights, and that serves as the foundation for his fighting style. He takes advantage of everything he can control, including his atypical body type.
At 6’4”, Jones was one of the taller fighters in the light-heavyweight division, and he is blessed with a pair of extra-long arms that stretch for over 85 inches. He has rather skinny legs, and most people would describe him as a tall, lanky guy if they saw him in person.
Looks can be very deceiving, though.
Jones is an incredibly strong man despite his “chicken legs” and lean frame. He rarely ever gets muscled around when opponents manage to get a hold of him.
Now that we know what Jon Jones is working with, let’s take a look at what makes him so special as a fighter.
1) Extremely high fight IQ
We’ve all been there before, one of our favorite fighters is winning a fight, then they do something silly that ends up costing them the bout.
Jon Jones doesn’t make mistakes inside the cage. He’s a cold, calculated machine when he fights. He rarely shows any emotion as he methodically picks his opponents apart. He spends countless hours studying other fighters, so he doesn’t get caught with any surprises.
His coach Greg Jackson also deserves some of the credit for Jones’ composure inside the cage since he and the rest of Jones’ team always seem to come up with the perfect game plan for every opponent.
2) Long striking game
Jones’ genetics have a lot to do with this. We can’t all be born with long frames, but it leads to all sorts of advantages in MMA. Jones wasn’t the first lanky guy to dominate in the UFC. It all started with Royce Gracie who dominated despite his lanky frame, and Anderson Silva took over until Jon Jones came over.
Within a couple of decades, the conventional wisdom went from “lanky physiques aren’t good for combat sports to lanky body types might have the most advantages”.
Having a long frame is just one part of the equation. You also need to learn how to use it, and Jones uses his length as well as any fighter that came before him.
He has lots of range weapons in his arsenal, like a stiff jab, sneaky oblique kick, and a strong push kick. He also has nice footwork to go with his range managers. His footwork, combined with his length and effective range management tools make it extremely difficult for opponents to corner him against the cage.
When Jones decides he wants to fight up close and personal, he can hang with the best strikers on the planet and his chin is rock-solid.
3) Strong wrestling base
While Jones isn’t the most accomplished wrestler on the UFC’s roster, he arguably might be the best wrestler in MMA. The only solid argument that could be made against that claim is Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Jones started wrestling in high school, and he won an NCAA championship in 2006. He was also recognized as an All-American wrestler that year.
Jones’ wrestling has been one of the most important tools in his arsenal. It allows him to control where the fight takes place, and he has some mean ground-and-pound skills to go with it. Up until his first title defense against Alexander Gustafsson, no one was able to take Jones down a single time inside the Octagon. He’s extremely difficult to take down and virtually impossible to keep grounded.
Jones ran into some highly decorated wrestlers during his many title defenses, most notably Daniel Cormier. Jones became the first man to take Cormier down; taking the Olympian down three times, while only being grounded once during their first fight.
Jones has completed about half of the takedowns he’s gone for in the UFC, while successfully defending against 95 percent of takedown attempts against him.
What makes Jon Jones one of the best fighters in MMA history is how well he mixes everything up. He transitions from wrestling to strikes effortlessly and vice versa. He’s also very unpredictable inside the cage. He loves to mix things up with unorthodox techniques like a spinning elbow.
Jones can also be very unpredictable when it comes to the game plans he utilizes against opponents. He’s very confident in his abilities and he never lets what the ‘experts’ are saying affect his thought process. No one expected Jones to shoot for takedowns early into his fight against Cormier, but it turned out to be an intelligent decision. It caught Cormier off guard, and it allowed Jones to take control of the fight early on.
He surprised many fans when he decided to trade strikes with Thiago Santos for 25 minutes at UFC 239, a fight he won via split decision. It’s the little things like that which make him so good and dangerous. He’s willing to take a little extra risk just to test his skills and grow against the best.