His win at UFC 94 was no fluke -- watch out for Jon Jones
Jon Jones defeated Stephan Bonnar by unanimous decision at UFC 94
His brother, Arthur Jones, is a star lineman and NFL prospect at Syracuse
A stellar wrestler and deadly striker, Jon could easily become a UFC star
There's something frightening about Jon Jones. Not frightening in the dangerous, menace-to-society kind of way. Far from it. Jones is as congenial as pro fighters come, and you'll find bigger braggarts in Thursday night bowling leagues.
No, Jones is a different type of frightening. The kind that makes you marvel not just at what he can do, but at what he might potentially become.
Consider the facts: at just 21 years old, the former state champion and junior college national champion wrestler is 8-0 as a professional mixed martial artist, with five wins by knockout. His first six fights took place within a span of three months. And instead of smothering opponents with his wrestling ability, he became known as a dangerous striker almost immediately. And where did he learn this formidable stand-up game? From watching videos on the Internet.
That's right, the guy who dismantled IFL standout Andre Gusmao and then dominated veteran fighter Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94 last weekend with kicks and spinning back elbows learned to strike from YouTube. And he can't understand why people keep asking him about it. As if it's strange or something.
"The gym I train at is a really small gym, a lot of wrestlers, so I didn't have a striking coach until this last fight," Jones said. "I had to teach myself how to strike. I would study a lot of videos on YouTube, or go to different websites where I could watch old Pride fights. I just became obsessed with MMA and watched videos over and over again. I learned the moves and took them to practice and started using them. Before I knew it I was considered a pretty good striker.
"YouTube videos can really teach you a lot. It depends how you search for them. If you look really hard, you can find videos of seminars from some of the best fighters in the world. It's just a matter of taking them seriously."
Of course, it also helps to be an incredibly gifted natural athlete, and Jones grew up in a family full of them. He has two brothers on the defensive line at Syracuse University, one of whom is the All-Big East, NFL prospect Arthur Jones, who opted to return to school for his senior season rather than enter the draft.
Spending his days battling with his brothers (Arthur is 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, and younger brother Chandler is 6-6, 250 pounds), prepared Jones for a career as a pro fighter, though his mother (a nurse) and his father (a pastor) weren't thrilled about the idea at first.
"My mom wasn't a fan right away because she thought that I would get injured," Jones said. "And my dad wasn't a fan because he thought that it would interfere with my spirituality. He thought fighting was a really brutal, barbaric world to be a part of. But once he really gave it a chance -- and he didn't even watch me fight until I was already 6-0 -- but then when he saw it, he realized I had potential. Lately I think he's realized that fighting has actually made me a better person."
When he was initially offered the fight with Bonnar, Jones said he was suspicious of the UFC's motives, wondering if it might be looking to take a young fighter "with lots of holes in his game" and feed him to the more experienced Bonnar. He told his manager he'd think about it. Then he did a little research on his own.
"I went online and watched a couple of his fights. I really focused on the fights that he lost, saw him at his weakest moments, and it inspired me to think that I could be better than him. I gave my manager a call back about three hours later and told him I'd take the fight," he said. "I dedicated my life to Stephan Bonnar. I knew how he moved. I knew his tendencies. I just became obsessed with him, and it paid off. The energy I put into preparing for him really showed, and it honestly surprised me how one-sided that fight was."
In preparation for the bout, Jones hired a professional striking coach for the first time and spent three months working with him. Once in the Octagon, it was Jones's Greco-Roman throws and unorthodox attack on the feet that battered Bonnar for the first two rounds. A spinning back elbow from Jones caught Bonnar by surprise and floored him in the second, bouncing his head off the canvas. Somehow Bonnar hung on, and even staged a minor comeback in the third as Jones felt his gas tank emptying.
"In the third round, fatigue definitely started to set in and I was really disappointed with myself," Jones said. "I thought I trained really hard for the fight and I felt like my cardio wouldn't be a question. My hat's off to Stephan Bonnar. He showed a lot of heart, he has a great chin, and he seemed like he could have kept that up for three more hours if he had to."
Jones wasn't able to finish Bonnar, though he did win by unanimous decision and impressed everyone from Joe Rogan to Dana White (who, Jones said, gave him a sizable bonus as a reward for an exciting fight) in the process. What's more, the fight announced his arrival to the UFC in earnest and let everyone know that he'd be a force to be reckoned with in the future, perhaps even in the heavyweight division at some point, according to Jones.
For now, the kid from upstate New York is all ability and potential, still waiting to be fully realized. It's just a matter of getting the right training and staying focused. If he does that, we may be talking about Jones for a long time to come.