On this day one year ago, Jon Jones (Pictured) stepped into the Octagon and steamrolled Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to capture the UFC light heavyweight crown. Some might argue March 19th, 2011 was the day that forever changed the face of mixed martial arts.
Although the then-23-year-old owned an impressive 12-1 record entering the shootout, with his lone blemish coming in a controversial disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, fans had heard similar hoopla surrounding fighters in the past. ‘He’s going to be the next (fill in the blank),’ but for whatever reason always failed to live up to the hype.
However, Jones was not only anxious to take the baton, but he snatched it and never looked back.
After dethroning Shogun to become the youngest title holder in UFC history, Jones went on to trounce two other former champions to cap off arguably the most masterful year MMA had ever witnessed. Not to mention he started off his 2011 campaign by handing Ryan Bader his first professional blemish in 13 outings.
Despite all of his early success, for whatever reason, Jones has rubbed some fans the wrong way with his demeanor, his confident-borderline-cocky comments, his perceived fugazi ways or just because the sky is blue. They scoff at “Bones” when he talks about wanting to go down as the game’s G.O.A.T. with merely a pair of title defenses under his bling-bling belt.
However, if he throttles bitter rival Rashad Evans at UFC 145, as the Gambling Gods profess he will after pegging him a 5-to-1 odds-on favorite against his friend-turned-foe, Jones will have defeated four consecutive former champions. It would be a torrid run that the sport has never seen.
Love him or loathe him, Jones appears to be the face that will lead the planet’s premier MMA organization into mainstream acceptance. And the revolution began exactly one year ago today.