After UFC 140, No Disputing That Jon Jones Is Fighter of the Year for 2011

After a shaky first round against Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones came back and finished the former champion in remarkable fashion. This marks his fourth finish of the year and his fourth consecutive finish of a Top 10 rank opponent in the calendar year 2011. And with either Dan Henderson or Rashad Evans on the horizon for his next title defense sometime in 2012, as one obviously can’t expect Jones to take a fight on three weeks’ notice for UFC 141 for any reason other than sheer insanity or a “Godfather” type offer in case of something beyond worst possible scenario, 2011 has wrapped up for the UFC Light Heavyweight champion. And only one thing needs to be said about Jones campaign: It was the best of 2011 and in the team picture for the best 12 months a fighter could ever have.

Jon Jones is the fighter of the year and it’s nearly impossible to argue otherwise.

Going from being a future world champion and top prospect to a dominant champion in 12 months is remarkable, but the manner in which he did it is almost out of a sports movie. Finishing Ryan Bader, thought by some to be perhaps a better prospect than Jones at the time, he got a chance to step into a title fight on short notice against Shogun Rua. Dismantling the former Pride stalwart, and then former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Machida in successive fights, Jones has changed the way we perceive him in one fell swoop.

He’s gone from being a guy supposed to contend for a title a year from now at the earliest to a dominant champion in such a short amount of time it’s remarkable. A year ago we’re wondering when Jones takes that next step and becomes a champion, from merely being a guy with the dreaded “potential” to being actualized as a force to be reckoned with.

And the thing that’s even more impressive is that we saw four different fight styles from Jones for four very different opponents.

For Bader, Jones’ wrestling took center stage. Bader was thrown around by someone without nearly the same pedigree and submitted with a guillotine. Bader’s first loss as a professional showed just how wrong most were about the difference between the former junior college champion and the Arizona State All-American.

Against Shogun, Jones traded with the Pride star and dominated the then champion in his greatest strength. Rua had lost before but not quite like this. This was as one-sided a dominant win as it gets, the only historical parallel being Randy Couture’s defeat of Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title.

“Rampage” was similarly dismantled, this time with Jones using leg kicks and jabs to set up the fight ending choke. Jackson’s boxing looked ineffective as Jones used his reach and his footwork to dominate the A-Team star in a way that had never happened before. Jackson tapped for only the second time in his legendary career.

Machida may have done the most damage against Jones, showing some weakness in him for the first time in his career, but an adaptation in his striking angles doomed the Karate based fighter shortly thereafter. Machida slumping to the ground after passing out in Jones’ guillotine was frightening to watch as a fan and something that had never happened to him before, either.

That seems to be a recurring theme, of a top fighter never doing something until they ran into Jon Jones. One has to imagine that while Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans want the next shot at the champion, in the back of their minds is the thought that they’ll be the next to be [x]’d to Jon Jones. It’s why he’s inarguably the Fighter of the Year for 2011.

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