Arguably the greatest fighter in UFC history, Jon Jones' near-perfect professional record in the world's premier MMA promotion is truly a rare feat.
The only blemish on his record is a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill back in 2009, a fight he was dominating before the referee controversially intervened. UFC president Dana White has fought tooth and nail to have that result overturned to a no contest, but to no avail.
'Bones' if effectively unbeaten inside the octagon. While his legal troubles outside the cage have dented his reputation, there's no denying that he's one of the best fighters ever. However, he's run into adversity on quite a few occasions throughout his career, some of which have been discussed below.
Here are five times Jon Jones almost lost a fight in the UFC light heavyweight division.
#5. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida – UFC 140
Following his much-maligned disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, Jon Jones racked up three quick finishes to earn a title shot. He defeated Mauricio Rua to claim the light heavyweight championship in 2011 and in his second title defense, squared off against striking phenom Lyoto Machida.
Machida was fresh off a sensational knockout win over Randy Couture, with many hailing the Brazilian as one of the best strikers in the sport. 'The Dragon' showcased his slick stand-up in the first round against Jones, catching the then-champion with one blitz after another.
At the time, Lyoto Machida had knockout wins over the likes of Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans on his record, in addition to the win over Randy Couture. The former champion's speed and power were on full display in the opening five minutes against Jon Jones, as he caught the young American multiple times flush on the chin.
However, one of the most underrated factors behind Jones' success and longevity is his chin. 'Bones' absorbed Machida's onslaught in the first frame and came out with a vengeance in the second, dropping 'The Dragon' before pulling off one of the most brutal submissions we've ever seen.
#4. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 1 – UFC 165
Going into UFC 165 in Toronto, Canada, Jon Jones was being touted as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Fresh off stoppage victories over Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, Jones was a massive betting favorite heading into his fifth title defense against Alexander Gustafsson.
The bout that ensued turned out to be arguably the toughest fight of Jones' career.
Largely counted out before the fight, Alexander Gustafsson showed tremendous heart and grit to push the then-champion to the absolute limit. His high-output boxing and evasive movement was proving to be difficult for Jon Jones to deal with in the first few frames, and the fight was razor-close heading into the championship rounds.
Jones pulled ahead in the final two rounds, but Gustafsson's early success meant that nobody was quite sure which way the judges would lean after the fight. Ultimately, 'Bones' came away with a narrow decision win, with the final scorecards reading 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 in favor of the champion.
Jones was definitely outclassed in the first two rounds and even got taken down by the challenger. If Gustafsson had the cardio to win at least one more round decisively, he would've pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.
#3. Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes – UFC 247
While Jon Jones' title defense against Alexander Gustafsson was a closely contested affair, there weren't too many claims in the immediate aftermath that the challenger deserved the judges' nod.
His fight against Dominick Reyes, on the other hand, remains a huge topic of conversation to this day. Reyes was Jones' last opponent in the light heavyweight division and should've come away with a victory in the eyes of many.
Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes locked horns in the main event of UFC 247 back in 2020, with the champion looking to claim his record 11th title defense. Reyes held a perfect 12-0 record at the time and was known for his powerful striking, making him an intriguing challenger for 'Bones'.
On the night, it felt as though Reyes edged out the first three rounds as he landed the bigger blows over the first 15 minutes. Jones came on strong in the championship rounds as the challenger showed signs of fatigue, and when the final bell rang, many believed Jones was about to suffer the first legitimate loss of his career.
However, the final scorecard was identical to the Alexander Gustafsson fight, with one judge somewhat surprisingly scoring the bout 49-46 in favor of Jones. The MMA community erupted soon after the bout as the majority felt as though 'The Devastator' did enough to dethrone the champion.
#2. Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith – UFC 235
Jon Jones' title defenses against Alexander Gustafsson and Dominick Reyes were both razor-close. This next entry, however, was far from competitive, yet somehow, Jones almost got disqualified for the second time in his career.
En route to a comfortable defense of his 205-pound strap against Anthony Smith, Jones landed an illegal knee in the penultimate round of the bout which could've seen him lose his belt.
Jon Jones was clearly ahead on the scorecards heading into the fourth frame. The reigning champion had essentially nullified Smith's entire attacking arsenal over the first 15 minutes and was seemingly cruising towards another title defense.
For whatever reason, Jones landed a blatant illegal knee on Smith while the challenger was grounded. The referee stopped the clock and gave 'Lionheart' time to recover. If he had claimed that he couldn't continue beyond that point, he would've been crowned the new champion via DQ to Jones.
However, that is not the cloth from which Smith is cut. He opted to continue fighting and went on to lose via unanimous decision, despite Jones being docked two points for the illegal blow. While it would've been a smarter move from a financial point of view to stay down, Smith was applauded for fighting on.
#1. Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort – UFC 152
Apart from a good opening round from Lyoto Machida, close fights with Alexander Gustafsson and Dominick Reyes, and an ill-advised illegal strike against Anthony Smith, there has only been one occasion where Jon Jones was in serious trouble during his UFC light heavyweight run.
While all the aforementioned bouts were certainly precarious, only Vitor Belfort has come close to truly finishing 'Bones'.
In one of the most entertaining fights of Jon Jones' career, he took on Brazilian icon and MMA veteran Vitor Belfort at UFC 152. At the time, Belfort was considered among the most explosive fighters in the world with potent fight-ending ability, be it through strikes or submissions.
In the very first round of their championship bout, Belfort locked up an armbar against Jones and came very close to finishing the submission. The champion's toughness was there for all to see as he lifted the Brazilian challenger off the mat and slammed him to break free.
Jones ultimately submitted Belfort in the fourth round, putting him in a crucifix before forcing the tap with a keylock to retain his title.
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