On this day, March 19, one year ago, a lanky 23-year-old from Rochester, NY stepped into the Octagon to face the biggest challenge of his young MMA career. He would meet the challenge head-on and walk out of the cage 20 minutes later a champion.
The fighter was Jon Jones and the challenge was PRIDE legend and then-UFC light heavyweight champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, whom he faced that night for the title. Jones demonstrated the poise and skill set of a veteran, finishing Rua in the third round after controlling the first two frames, and in doing so, he quieted the doubters, if only for a moment.
His next two finishes over former champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida would further legitimize “Bones” and cement the footings of the legacy of the UFC’s youngest champion ever. His impressive mark may be duplicated or surpassed some day by a lifelong MMA-trained 22-year-old, but until then Jones will continue his reign and look to continue to bulldozer through all comers at 205, starting with onetime teammate and current number one contender/nemesis Rashad Evans next month at UFC 145.
(Video courtesy of YouTube/Machinemen)
Will he retain his belt and continue his freight train reign of dominance? Who knows, but at least we do know we’re all in for a hell of a ride come April 21.