ROUNDTABLE: Jon Jones or Demetrious Johnson: Who belongs atop the pound for pound rankings?

Jon Jones (photo credit Mark J. Rebilas © USA Today Sports)

Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson exited UFC 197 as the top two names in the pound for pound conversation. As it’s a mostly subjective ranking, which of them would you put on top, and why?


Provided Jones regains his form, it is fair to say that these two will be jockeying back and forth for the title of best in the world, similar to how Anderson Silva and GSP did when they were at the top of their game. It will likely come down to who has the sharpest performance at any given time. Right now, I have to put Johnson at the top of the list as he looked to be at the top of his game at UFC 197 while Jones looked rusty. They could easily flip-flop their position if Jones looks strong against Cormier, but it would take a very strong performance in my mind as Johnson hasn’t had anyone seriously threaten him in over three years while being at the top of his game. It’s close enough though that I’m not going to argue with anyone who wants to put Jones at the top.


Pound for Pound is, by definition, stoopid and pointless. It’s a waste of time to ask questions for which there is no provable answer.

Q: What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?
A: 42

OK, so one of them is the best fighter in the world, or else the other one is, unless someone else is. The only thing we know for sure is that it’s not Tyson Nam or Goran Reljic, Alex.


It’s very hard to pick, but I would go with Jones by a hair. I couldn’t argue one bit if someone went with Johnson, though. The reason I would go with Jones is that I think the level of the guys he’s beaten is slightly higher than the level of the guys Johnson has beaten. I think this is a case of 1a and 1b, though. I don’t think you can draw a clear advantage for either guy. It’s so hard to pick between them, and I don’t think there’s a wrong answer.


The infamous and fabled pound for pound rankings and who should sit atop it. Well, it depends on what you place value on. Do you value skill, technique, fight IQ, creativity, etc.? Or do you value quality of opposition and the previous accomplishments of that opposition? Is it possibly a combination of all the above with varying weights placed on each tenet?

While most will agree both Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson are very skilled martial artists and each have high fight IQs, if the pound for pound rankings were based on execution of specific techniques then Johnson would be the #1 pound for pound fighter in the UFC. If you watch any of Demetrious Johnson’s fights and look at his technique, from throwing the jab, a straight right, clinching, throwing knees, etc. it is flawless. Johnson delivers those strikes with a crispness, fluidity, accuracy, and a command of basic fundamentals. Better yet, in his more recent fights he has been able to transition back and forth between wrestling, jiu jitsu, muay thai, boxing, and kickboxing with relative ease.

Between the two Jon Jones may be the more creative within the Octagon in utilizing his size and limbs to execute certain a multitude of strikes and techniques. Remember the step in lead elbow Jones landed on Rashad that wobbled him. Or Jon faking a single leg takedown to spinning elbow attack that dropped Jake O’Brien before sinking in a choke to end the bout. Then he modified the spinning elbow by pinning his opponent along the fence. However, I think in open space his strikes, especially his boxing, is very inaccurate and not as fluid as it could be. Even he has been somewhat inaccurate with his spinning elbows against the cage, although this can be a function of opponents specifically preparing for that technique than his inability to land it. Also, I noticed that in his last fight with Ovince Saint Preux, Jones didn’t effectively cut off the Octagon to isolate and pin OSP against the cage.

If we were to judge the pound for pound rankings based upon opposition, this is where Jon Jones pulls ahead of Demetrious Johnson. In terms of the quality of opponents faced, Jon Jones has beaten a who’s who of opponents including five former UFC champions. Johnson, after beating John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez, and Ian McCall twice, effectively ran out of well-rounded top tier opponents to face. Instead Johnson has faced quality opponents that needed more time in the Octagon and bouts against more top tier opponents before facing a champion of Johnson’s caliber. Case in point, Henry Cejudo, a former Olympic gold medalist, whom Johnson beat handedly, however, Cejudo has only been training mixed martial arts for three years.
Overall, with all things being equal if there were truly to be a pound for pound king, I would still have to agree with the majority of people assessing the rankings and say it is Jon Jones.

[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]

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