So I decided to skip the look back on history last week due to a lack of significant MMA events around Thanksgiving time, and lo and behold, the week after is short on significant events as well. What to focus on? Would it be when Diego Brandao and John Dodson won the first featherweight and bantamweight TUF tournaments (Dec. 3, 2011)? Or when Juliana Pena won the first women’s TUF tournament (Nov. 30, 2013)? Seeing the pattern here?
Rather than select a particular winner of a TUF tournament, something that lost much significant meaning long ago, I figured we’d take a look at the lone loss of the most dominant MMA fighter in the world: Jon Jones. But before we do that, I’ll give a small history lesson on Jones’ entrance into the UFC.
When Jones first emerged on the UFC scene, it was without any hoopla, as he was an injury replacement for Tomas Drwal against Andre Gusmao, coming in as the underdog. Gusmao was supposed to be the prospect worth keeping an eye on at the time following his undefeated run through the now folded IFL. After a nondescript 15 minute affair, Jones was awarded a unanimous decision. Who would have believed that the greatest of all time would enter the world’s largest and most renowned MMA organization with such little fanfare?
Jones star would rise immensely following his second effort against established and durable veteran Stephan Bonnar, whom he ripped apart. His rise would meet little to no resistance, even when he lost… all the way back on Dec. 5, 2009.
Jones was promoted to the co-main event of The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale on that card, which was in fact the highest profile fight on the card between established UFC veterans, as the main event was the TUF tournament finals between Roy Nelson and Brendan Schaub. This was just his fourth fight in the UFC, having dispatched of Jake O’Brien with ease at UFC 100 earlier that year to bring his UFC record to 3-0. Now he would be facing Matt Hamill, an older prospect who came up through the TUF system himself in season three. Hamill wasn’t a divisional elite, but with his only losses coming via a controversial decision to Michael Bisping and to former Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin, he seemed to be Jones’ biggest challenge to date. Even with that said, Jones was still a moderate favorite.
The fight started with Hamill struggling to get inside of Jones’ range, as Jones threw a variety of kicks to keep him outside. The one time Hamill did get inside, he grabbed a hold of Jones’ leg but was unable to finish the takedown, as Jones showed incredible balance, escaping Hamill’s grip. About halfway through the round, Jones clinched up with Hamill and tripped him, immediately getting the mount. Jones landed angled elbow after angled elbow. He started mixing in some punches and Hamill began bleeding from a gash on his nose, but was still active. Jones then started throwing 12-to-6 elbows as he got caught up in the moment, causing Steve Mazzagatti to stop the fight and check on Hamill. Hamill was unable to continue, and the fight was stopped. It was expected by many that Jones would be awarded the decision, as he was dominating Hamill even before he threw the two illegal elbows… but Hamill was awarded the fight via disqualification.
We all know what happened after that. Jones never lost again, claiming the Light Heavyweight Title less than a year and a half later from Shogun Rua, and going on one of the most dominant title runs seen in MMA history. Along the way Jones also managed to become one of the most polarizing figures in all of sports, with his perceived fakeness and a string of legal incidents that have plagued him, including the most recent one in April, a hit and run, that led to him being stripped of his title.
Was his lone loss a major moment in MMA history? No, but it does serve as a nice reminder that the single loss Jon Jones has wasn’t really a loss. No one has finished him, and no one has outpointed him. As it is now, his greatest enemy in that fight was himself and it cost him. The UFC booked him in a main event anyway for his next fight, as they knew what the reality of this particular fight was.
What is most interesting to see in retrospect is the humility in the then 22-year-old Jones. There was none of the cockiness that has come to exemplify the troubled ex-champion. The look of realization on his face once he realized he was throwing illegal elbows was one of complete shock and remorse of breaking the rules. There wasn’t any disdain for Hamill despite Hamill possibly playing up the injury knowing he could get the win due to the illegal elbows (though I doubt that is the reality, I’m sure that possibility went through Jones head). Perhaps he tried to portray himself as a humble champion because he was once upon a time a humble kid from New York, only for that kid to be consumed by his own success.
Whatever you may think of Jones, he wasn’t always an arrogant, hard-partying, phony. No, Jones was once a very different person than the one who crashed his car into the vehicle of a pregnant woman and ran rather than checking on her well being. Remember that Jones himself once stopped a thief hours before taking the belt from Shogun. Why do I bring this up? Fans love a redemption story, and Jones has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. Sure, these changes don’t happen overnight, but just as he was once the quiet kid who morphed into the pretentious champion, he could very well become a likeable personality. For the sake of him, his family (particularly his children), and the sport, I’ll be rooting for him to do that.
As for any other events that have happened during this time period… I pretty much already stated the most significant events in the first paragraph… so I’m gonna leave it at that.
[Jon Jones art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]