Jon Jones is still the UFC light heavyweight champion after another showcase performance at UFC 235.
While he didn’t get the finish, Jones put on a commanding performance to topple upstart challenger Anthony Smith over five rounds in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Jones, who is widely regarded as one of the best fighters to ever grace the Octagon, put on a martial arts clinic to out strike and out grapple Smith for 25 straight minutes in the first defense of his title after reclaiming the belt this past December.
As much confidence as Smith boasted before the fight started, it was Jones who was able to gauge the distance and control the pace of the fight almost from the first exchange. Jones pawed at Smith with his right hand and then started picking him apart with a barrage of kicks.
Jones wasn’t just attacking one part of Smith’s body, instead targeting everything from his legs with kicks to several spinning attacks to the body and then finishing with shots to the head.
While Jones was an offensive juggernaut, Smith still managed to fire back with a series of counter right hands that found a home on more than a few occasions.
Still, Smith did a lot of waiting to react to what Jones was doing as the reigning champion was always looking for the opening where he could attack.
Jones’ output was methodical yet punishing while wearing Smith down until he finally decided to take the fight to the ground with a huge slam in the third round.
He didn’t get the finish but Jones was just muscling Smith around on the mat while he was throwing strikes from every position including some unique knee strikes to the shin.
Ahead of the fourth round, Smith’s corner begged him to start getting more offensive after spending the first 15-minutes of the fight waiting for Jones to attack.
Unfortunately it was more of the same with Jones marching forward and then unleashing a series of elbow strikes that had Smith wobbled while still asking for more.
Jones eventually tossed Smith to the ground where he really began unleashing hell on Smith, who was then bleeding profusely from a nose that was busted open during an earlier exchange.
— UFC (@ufc) March 3, 2019
The assault was uninterrupted with Jones chipping away at Smith as the former middleweight struggled to find a moment to breathe. Just as Smith was attempting to get back up from the ground before the round ended, Jones uncorked a huge knee strike that blasted him in the face.
Referee Herb Dean rushed into pause the contest because the knee hit Smith while he still had his hand on the mat making it an illegal strike. Smith was OK to continue but Dean docked Jones two points for the foul.
Ultimately the foul didn’t really matter as Jones was in complete control with no signs of giving Smith an inch to forge a comeback.
In the final five minutes, Jones remained the aggressor while pushing Smith against the cage and just bullying him with punches, elbows and knees on the inside. It was a dominant showcase as Jones defended his title without much of a threat from Smith, who earned a moral victory by going five rounds with arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
When it was over, the judges all scored the fight the same 48-44 in favor of Jones, who remains the UFC light heavyweight champion.
“Some days you’re going to look amazing and some days at work, you’re not going to perform at the level you hold yourself to,” Jones said following his victory. “With that said, hats off to Anthony Smith. His reputation, he’s just known to be so durable and now I see why the call him ‘Lionheart’.
“I have never had someone talk to me while I’m hitting them, it was amazing, this guy is so durable, he’s like the Terminator. He did a great job.”
— UFC (@ufc) March 3, 2019
With his latest win, Jones has vanquished another contender at light heavyweight without a clear cut next opponent lined up for him to face.
That’s why he’s just going to enjoy the moment and then await the next opponent that the UFC decides to throw at him.
“Right now, I’m just going to enjoy this win and go back to the drawing board and figure out ways to get better,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of young talent in the UFC, so many guys looking unbelievable. That’s going to be a challenge itself.”
As for Smith, he was obviously upset about the way the fight played out but he still managed to go 25 minutes in his first shot at UFC gold. He also responded to the illegal knee strike in the fourth round where he technically could have said he couldn’t continue and he would have been victorious by disqualification.
“I want to win it, I don’t want to steal it,” Smith said about fighting on past the illegal knee.
In the end, Jones did exactly what he was expected to do short of putting Smith away but it was a one-sided performance as the light heavyweight champion proved once again why he’s the best in the world.