Jones, Team Knew Young UFC Champ Would Grow in Machida Bout


Jon Jones has had quite a year.

In four Octagon appearances, the UFC light heavyweight champion has earned four finishes, three of which have come in title fights.

After dispatching Ryan Bader in February, Jones (Pictured, file photo) filled in for former teammate Rashad Evans to wrest the title from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128. From there, “Bones” choked out former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in September before doing the same to another onetime belt holder, Lyoto Machida, at UFC 140 on Saturday night.

After the dust settled around Jones’ stunning title defense at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the young champion had one small request.

“I would like to have up to four months off. Even five months off,” a smiling Jones, 24, said at the UFC 140 press conference, looking hopefully toward UFC President Dana White. “Come on, Dana, give me a break, please. Fighting three times in 2012 would be nice, but a break sounds nice, too.”

If Jones receives the time off for which he is campaigning, few could deny that he deserves it. The champion looked puzzled for the first time against Machida, as the crafty karateka staggered his rangy opponent with a sharp counter left hand in the opening period.

“I’ve actually never fought a southpaw before,” Jones said. “While I was preparing [for the fight], I focused more on pad work, rather than finding proper sparring partners. No one on my team fights anywhere near how Lyoto fights.”

While Machida played the aggressor in the first frame, Jones took the reins in round two, planting the Brazilian on the mat and opening his forehead with a solid elbow from top position. After Machida was given the green light to continue by the cageside physician, Jones smelled blood and went for the kill, blasting his foe with a left hook which proved to be the beginning of the end.

As Machida dug in for a takedown, Jones sprawled expertly, catching Machida’s neck in a guillotine choke. Rather than pulling guard, however, Jones pressed forward, pinning his shorter foe against the cage and torquing Machida’s neck. With nowhere to go, Machida soon passed out, collapsing to the floor as referee John McCarthy pulled the champion off of his lifeless opponent.

Saturday marked the first time Jones had truly been hit in his UFC career, something which apparently did not surprise the champion, who stated after the bout that he and his team expected a stiff test from Machida.

“Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn and I were talking, and we all thought I’d never be same after this fight. I felt as if I would grow from this fight,” Jones said. “This was a different fight for me with the battles I had to go through mentally to train my butt off for a third world title fight this year against a tricky southpaw. I went through a lot this year. I took a big hit, fought a southpaw and it’s been a great year.”

Though Jones has put forth arguably the greatest single year of in-cage performances in the sport’s history, the Rochester, N.Y., native takes the most satisfaction in simply accomplishing the goals he has laid out for himself.

“The thing I think about the most is that it’s not about winning fights. It’s not about who I beat. It’s just about improving the quality of my life. It’s about setting goals and doing it,” said Jones. “I just feel as if I’m meant to do this with all my heart and soul. There is nothing else on this planet right now that I was meant to do. I think I can be one of best on the planet, and I think it’s my destiny to one day be one of best who’s ever lived.”

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