Jon Jones successfully defended the UFC light heavyweight title with a dominant victory over the overmatched Anthony Smith. Jones dominated Smith and was never in trouble in the entire fight except when he was deducted two points for landing an illegal knee on his opponent.
With the win, Jones improved his record to 24-1-0-1 with the only blot in his resume a disqualification loss to Matt Hammill in 2009 and a no-contest against Daniel Cormier which was originally a KO win by Jones. Having said those, Jones is virtually undefeated as a light heavyweight and people are calling him the GOAT of the 205 pound weight class, and rightfully so. But because Jones has been so good and dominant in his weight class, he may have a problem with that moving forward to the future. Jones is only 31 and still has plenty of fights left ahead of him. However, the question is “who?” because Jones has already beaten the who’s who of 205 pounds.
Dominating The 205 Pound Weight Class
In December 2018, Jon Jones told reporters that he would never fight Daniel Cormier in a heavyweight bout because he says that heavyweight is DC’s zone. Said Jones via MMAFighting.com:
“Nah, no,” Jones said matter-of-factly when asked about the potential matchup. “He looks good at heavyweight. He’s designed to be a heavyweight. He’s comfortable there. He naturally goes to heavyweight between every fight. That is his spot, and like I said, he makes a great heavyweight champion. Even before fighting me, he was on a tear at heavyweight. That’s his zone. I have no reason to challenge him at heavyweight, because for me it’s not personal.
“When he comes down to light heavyweight, it’ll be personal again. And he can have what he has, I’ll have what I have, and that’s being the most dominant light heavyweight champion, the only light heavyweight champion since 2011.”
Later that week, Jones defended his belt against Alexander Gustafsson at the main event of UFC 232. Gustafsson was regarded as the only opponent to ever push Jones to the limit. It can be recalled that Jones and Gustafsson fought to a thrilling five round battle at UFC 165 in 2013.Jones edged out the Swedish Mauler via unanimous decision but the scores were close, very close with some even claiming that Gus won the fight.
Jones and Gustafsson would head different directions after that fight. For Jones, he went on to defeat Glover Teixeira in his next bout and then beat Cormier at UFC 182 in a highly anticipated bout. That’s when Jones’ career turned upside down with legal woes and drug issues. Still Bones came back and went on to defeat Cormier more convincingly during their rematch at UFC 214.
With Cormier as his chief rival at 205 pounds and Jones beating DC twice plus the fact that Bones originally beat Cormier by knockout in the rematch, the only opponent Jon needed to fight at 205 was Gustafsson. And so at UFC 232, Jones defeated the Swede more convincingly, stopping him in the second round of a possible five-rounder. With Jones having beaten twice his top rivals at 205 pounds and him beating them more decisively the second time around, there is no more challenge left for Jon Jones at 205.
Anthony Smith earned the next crack at Jon Jones. Smith was very durable but even on an off-night, Jon Jones dispatched of him rather easily. Sure, the stoppage that fans expected from the greatest light heavyweight of all-time never came, but Smith never put Jones in serious trouble at anytime during the bout. Jones victory over Smith summarizes what Jones has done to his weight class and that is, he dominated it.
Cleaning Up The Division
Looking at the UFC official rankings as of March 13th, Daniel Cormier is listed as the 205-pound division’s #1 contender. Despite what Cormier says, Jones beat him twice and beat him convincingly both times and more decisively the second time around. What’s more, DC is already the heavyweight champion. He is no longer going back to 205 to fight Jines
The 2nd ranked LHW is Alexander Gustafsson, whom Jones has also defeated twice already. Like DC, Gustafsson was decisively beaten last December. The 4th ranked light heavyweight is Smith whom Jones beat just last December. The 5th man on the list is Jan Blachowicz who was the recipient of a defeat from Gustafsson. Volkan Oezdemir is 6th in the rankings and he has losses to Daniel Cormier and Anthony Smith. The more you go down the rankings, the fighters on the list have lost to fighters whom Jones has already beaten.
Among the ranked light heavyweights, only 3rd ranked Thiago Santos hasn’t lost to Jones or to fighter whom Jon Jones already defeated. But that’s because the Brazilian used to fight at middleweight. Santos is coming off a win over Jan Blachowicz just a couple of weeks back. If there is a fighter that Jones has to face, it is Thiago Santos. I’m not sure if Dana White is interested in making that fight anyway because while Santos has looked explosive against mid-level fighters, he has not faced a middleweight elite, much more the greatest light heavyweight fighter of all-time. The point is this: Even if Jones fights Santos, Jones would likely win, dominantly at that, leaving Jones with no other valid name to face at 205.
Going back to what Jones said last December, it seemed that he is content with being the best ever in the light heavyweight division. But I don’t think that is an issue. Whether he fights Santos or not, Jones is arguably the greatest 205-pound fighter of all-time. Just look at his fight resume and the names on the resume, plus how he beat those big names. Only Daniel Cormier was supposed to challenge Jon Jones at LHW. He beat DC twice convincingly. Only Alexander Gustafsson came close to beating Jones at 205. Bones beat Gus twice, the second one decisively too.
Jon Jones no longer has a meaningful fight at 205 pounds. Because of that, he needs another house to clean up. He can’t go down to middleweight, not with his physical size. Hence the only legitimate option would be to move up to the heavyweight division. That is unless he wants to continue defending his 205-pound belt against second rate fighters because the reality is that there is no marquee name at 205 right now.
Entertaining Superfights and Heavyweights
There is also a possibility that a big name from middleweight is going to make that leap to challenge Jones. Making the jump is one thing but facing Jones is another. Former middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero announced last year that he was moving up to 205 pounds while calling out Daniel Cormier. However, Romero is currently booked to fight Jacare Souza in a middleweight bout this coming April 27th.
Looking at the other names at middleweight, there is none that I can think of who may be willing to step up in weight class to challenge Jon Jones. Jones is 6-4 and has a reach of 84 ½ inches. The immediate former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is 6-4 with a reach of 80 inches. Francis Ngannou is also listed at 6-4 with a reach of 83 inches. When it comes to height and length, Jon Jones’ is as big as the biggest heavyweights out there. The only problem is weight because Jones would easily give up 30 pounds to Ngannou and 20 to Miocic
Before he got into his troubles, Jones talked about fighting Cormier and a rematch with Gustafsson as the two fights he needed to do before clearing his division. Back in 2014, Jon said that he would entertain superfights and a move to heavyweight after both fights. Said Jones in 2014, via MMAFighting:
“[After] those two fights, I would consider the division clear, and that’s when I would start to entertain superfights,” Jones said. “Superfights I would go for. I’ve been training with heavyweights for years now. I know what it feels like, and I think I would do really good against them. So that would be the next chapter.”
“There are definitely a lot of heavyweights that I know I would beat,” Jones said. “A lot of heavyweights that could give me a hell of a run or possibly beat me. I keep it real. I’m smaller than these guys.”
“A guy like Werdum, I would fight him every day, all day,” Jones continued. “Why? Because he’s not the biggest guy. But the heavyweights I believe would give me the hardest time are the big ones. Not necessarily the better skilled ones — just the bigger ones. You shoot in and they sprawl out on you, that’s going to take a lot of energy to finish that shot, you know what I mean?”
A lot has changed since 2014 and perhaps one of them is Jones’ desire to fight at heavyweight. But given that he has already cleaned up his closet, there may be no other big fights left ahead of Jones except the big fights with the big boys.