UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been nothing short of dominant over the course of his nearly nine-year run atop the division. If it weren’t for a few notable (very) poor choices outside of the cage, we’d be talking about Jones as having the single greatest championship run in MMA history. Instead, we have some fragmented championship reigns, but at the end of the day, Jones has done nothing but win.
That isn’t to say that it’s all been easy for Jones. His first true challenge came in September of 2013 against Alexander Gustafsson. At the time, Gustafsson was a throwaway contender, the best of a bunch of bad options, and no one took his chances at beating Jones seriously. What happened though, was Gustafsson gave Jones the toughest test of his career, going five rounds and taking the fight on many fans’ and observers’ scorecards.
Jones later admitted that he didn’t take the Gustafsson fight as seriously as he should have. He was asleep at the wheel coming into that fight. Jones appeared to learn from that mistake and didn’t let any of his opponents since then get as close to victory as Gustafsson did.
That was until this past summer when Jones met another seemingly weak contender in Thiago Santos. Santos, a former middleweight, moved up to 205 and took some impressive wins, but had yet to build a championship-worthy resume. Nonetheless, Santos became the first man to win a fight over Jones on a judge’s scorecard. Fortunately for Jones, the other two judges scored the fight in his favor, so he escaped with his belt. Another unassuming contender was almost able to take Jones’ belt.
This brings us to Jones’ opponent Saturday night, Dominick Reyes. Reyes like Gustafsson and Santos is not a home run number one contender. He’s just the best of the few available options. His most noteworthy win was a knockout of a broken, undersized, and overmatched Chris Weidman last October. Before that he won a very questionable decision over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir.
Reyes has all the makings of a fighter that can beat Jon Jones. He’s not good enough to get Jones’ attention and could squeak out a win as a result. The problem is, no one has been able to finish that job yet. If Jones is looking past Reyes, he could find himself in trouble. But even if he is asleep at the wheel, Jones always seems to find a way to win.
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