BALTIMORE – With Jon Jones having defended his light heavyweight belt for the seventh time on Saturday night against Glover Teixeira, there was a feeling that he’d broken with the sublime and was now catering more towards the historic.
Heading into UFC 172 Jones had already beaten what Dana White refers to as the "murderers row" of the best 205-pounders, a record run that has established him as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game. So in the chain of glorious outings, and with his "prime" still in front of him, where did White see his performance against Teixeira, whom Jones dominated for five rounds on Saturday night en-route to a unanimous decision?
"I think it was the best performance of his career," White said in the post-fight press conference about the 26-year old Jones. "Obviously Las Vegas didn’t give Glover Teixeira the respect that he deserved as a 6-to-1 dog. Jones, I think that if he didn’t prove it in the [Alexander] Gustafsson fight, he definitely proved it in this fight -- Jones has a chin. He evolves every time he fights, he comes out and puts on a clinic and does new things.
"But I also thought leading up to this fight, Jones was different also. He just seems to be…he was the youngest light heavyweight champion ever, but he’s becoming a man right in front of everybody. He’s growing up in and outside of the Octagon, and I thought he’s never looked better than he did tonight."
The glowing review was being echoed in the media, as well. Maybe not solely based on the 25 minutes he clocked against Teixeira -- who had won 20 straight fights going back nine years -- but for the creative, perhaps even surprising manner in which he did it.
Heading into the fight, many thought that Jones would wrestle Teixeira, to try and take him down and keep him there. Instead, just like when he out-wrestled the wrestler Chael Sonnen, he opted to take Teixeira out by playing his strong suit -- inside fighting. Most of UFC 172’s main event was spent in close quarters, with Teixeira winging uppercuts and Jones dropping short, sharp elbows in the phone booth.
Though he took his share of punishment in those close quarters, at no point did it look like Jones was hurt or in trouble. The idea that he was able to play such a hazardous game and still dominate the fight struck a chord with White, who reminded everyone of the power that the Brazilian possesses
"Glover Teixeira hits hard, he hits really hard, and Jon took his shots tonight," White said. "Jon fought a fight that I didn’t think he’d fight. I honestly thought that Glover Teixeira’s game plan would have been to close the distance, get inside, bang him to the body, rough him up, hit him with big punches whenever he could and Jones would try to take him down, get that top position and drop those elbows.
"Not only did he not do that, he stood in the pocket and traded with him, he dropped big elbows on him, and he put on an unbelievable performance tonight."
As for where Jones himself ranked his performance against Teixeira, whom he beat 50-45 on all three scorecards, there was an air of modesty as he reflected on his 15-fight UFC career.
"I felt I got sloppy towards the end," Jones said. "I started getting booed for running and things like that. Guys like Vladimir Matyushenko, that was a fast fight. The Chael Sonnen fight, that was a really fast fight. I thought those were my best performances as far as being a clean performance, but to beat a guy who hasn’t lost in 20 fights, I can’t complain about that performance."