Every Jon Jones Fight Is An Important Occasion And UFC 285 Is No Exception

Picture of UFC fighter Jon Jones

Photo by Dan Shapiro via BroBible

A comeback three years in the making, the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Jon “Bones” Jones, finally returns to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 285 (March 4, 7 p.m. PST / 10 p.m. EST ESPN+ Pay Per View). The most decorated light heavyweight in UFC history, Jones is upping the ante for this return fight, stepping up to heavyweight for the first time in his storied career, taking on Ciryl “Bon Gamin” Gane for the vacant title. It’s a massive fight.

It’s kind of wild to imagine that there is an entire new generation of MMA fans who have never seen a Jon Jones fight live. There’s an entire subset of the MMA community that doesn’t quite understand Jones’ importance to the UFC, so it’s essential to take a look at his career and the impact he made on the sport of mixed martial arts.

Jon Jones is nothing less than the MMA G.O.A.T. Sure, there are many reasons to discredit his legacy. He did actually hit-and-run a pregnant woman in 2015, fleeing the scene on foot. It’s totally abhorrent behavior. But, inside the cage, Jones is the most creative and impressive talent we have ever seen.

Jon Jones Early Career

Making his UFC debut in 2008, less than four months after turning pro, Jon Jones ran through the light heavyweight division like a supernova. Sure, there is the one loss by disqualification on his record, but anyone who pays attention to MMA knows that it’s a technicality. The referee made a terrible judgment call that night, and otherwise, Jones tore through legit competition: Stephan Bonner, Vladimir Matyshenko, Brandon Vera, Ryan Bader; en route to his first UFC title shot.

Winning the light heavyweight title in March 2011 by finishing Mauricio “Shogun” Rua with a knee and follow up punches, Jones continued his historic run, defending his title four times in the next 18 months. These weren’t just title defenses. Jones beat four former UFC champions in a row, finishing them all, save Rashad Evans.

From 2013 – 2015, Jones continued his dominance and brilliance, first stopping Chael Sonnen in a fight that clearly demonstrated his toughness – Jones almost lost a toe in the fight and found a way to finish Sonnen before the cageside doctors intervened. For his next effort, Jones beat Alexander Gustafsson in what many were calling the greatest light heavyweight title fight in UFC history up until that point. As the legend goes, Jones only trained six times for the Gustafsson fight at UFC 165. The bout has since been enshrined in the UFC Hall of Fame, an event that coincided with his most recent arrest.

It was around 2015 when Jones’ career started to go sideways. First, he was stripped of the UFC title in April of that year for a violation of the UFC’s Athlete Code of Conduct, i.e. his out-of-competition urine sample tested positive for cocaine. Then came the aforementioned hit-and-run.

In 2017, Jones was again stripped of his title following UFC 214: turinobol, clomiphene, letrozole, you name it. It’s a shame too because Jones was absolutely spectacular in his KO of Daniel Cormier, actually calling the head kick before the fight. The finishing sequence was pure mastery.

Picture of UFC Fighter Jon Jones

Photo by Dan Shapiro, courtesy of BroBible

Pointing out these transgressions is not meant to disparage Jones. It’s just an important part of his history and essential to mention because there are many, many people who despise Jon Jones, and it’s not because of how he fights. It’s because he’s done many, many questionable things outside of the Octagon.

But this is the part where we separate the artist from the art.

Jon Jones Legacy

Jon Jones has done things that no other human being has done. He’s beaten seven former UFC light heavyweight champions, including Daniel Cormier twice, along with perennial Bellator champion Bader. Doing most of it with ease. Jones has demonstrated incredible toughness, in particular against Vitor Belfort, surviving a deep, early armbar attack, along with the aforementioned Sonnen fight, when his toe was almost ripped off by the fence.

There have been some detractors of late, criticizing Jones’ most recent performances against Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos, close fights that ended in decisions. It’s fair to mention that Jones has definitely experienced some wear and tear during his 28-fight, 15-year pro career. Of course he’s bound to show signs of slowing. But he’s still winning fights, and ultimately, in Jones’ legacy, that’s really all that matters. He’s put winning above everything else in his life.


At UFC 285, Jones is looking to make good on his own decade-old prediction that he would eventually move up to the heavyweight division.

Back when Jones first hinted at jumping weight classes, many thought he might face Cain Velasquez, who held the UFC title at the time. In the years since, Jones has most often been linked to potential bouts with Brock Lesnar, Stipe Miocic, and, Francis Ngnannou, who recently vacated his heavyweight title to explore career options outside the UFC. Rather than those three, Jones has been paired against Ciryl Gane, a French fighter who has already changed the heavyweight striking game due to his fleet-footed movement.

Gane may not be as big a name as WWE superstar Lesnar, Miocic (most decorated UFC heavyweight), or Ngannou (the lineal champion), but stylistically, he may be the toughest matchup for Jones, given his elusive counter striking style. Considering both Gane and Jones prefer to wait for opponents to open up before implementing their stand-up games, the bout could be a bit of a stalemate on the feet in the early going. However, in the clinch is where the matchup becomes very intriguing.

There is no denying that Jones, a stellar wrestling talent, has the advantage on the ground, but before the fight can hit the mat, “Bones” and “Bon Gamin” will likely tie up and look to assert dominance with knees and elbows. And, if Jones can land strikes in these positions, it will ultimately help as he looks for his first takedowns at heavyweight.

Mentioning this is of particular importance because those who train MMA understand that it is within the wrestling discipline that weight advantages and disparities play their highest significance. If Jones can take Gane down with relative ease, it should be a victorious night for the former champion. But in order to know, we need to tune in and watch what may end up being a very important night in mixed martial arts history.

The Rest of the UFC 285 Card

While Jones fighting for the heavyweight title is the biggest story of UFC 285, the rest of the Pay Per View card (and prelims for that matter) is rather strong.

In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko, the most decorated female fighter in UFC history, takes on Alexa Grasso. Shevchenko, who is looking for the eighth defense of her women’s flyweight title, is perhaps the most technically and fundamentally sound fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon.

There is also a killer welterweight matchup in the featured bout position, as seventh-ranked Geoff Neal takes on the undefeated Shavkat Rahkmonov, who is ranked ninth. Neal is a heavy handed knockout artist who brings the action, and Rakhmonov, who has stopped every one of his 16 opponents, is an incredible talent, with finishing skills in every facet of MMA.

Second on PPV is a battle between top-10 lightweights Mateusz Gamrot (#7) and Jalin Turner (#10). Gamrot, a grappling ace with incredible cardio and pressure, steps up on short notice to face Turner, who is a unique talent in the division, not only because of his knockout power and submission skills, but also because of his 77-inch reach and height (6’3”), which give him an incredible size advantage over his opponents and open up his creative approach to MMA fighting.

Opening up the PPV main card on ESPN+, Division-I wrestling standout Bo Nickal makes his long-awaited UFC debut, taking on Jamie Pickett. Nickal, a three-time NCAA champion at Penn State and a former Dan Hodge trophy winner, already has the best wrestling game in the UFC middleweight division. Many feel that he may even be fast tracked for an eventual title shot. His fight against Picket at UFC 285 will be a major indicator of how matchmakers intend to build his career.

UFC 285 Fight Card

UFC 285 Pay Per View Main Card (on ESPN+ PPV) 11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST

  • Jon Jones (-155) vs. Ciryl Gane (+135) – for the UFC heavyweight title
  • Valentina Shevchenko (-600) vs. Alexa Grasso (+450) – for the UFC women’s flyweight title
  • Geoff Neal (+400) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (-500)
  • Mateusz Gamrot (-170) vs. Jalin Turner (+145)
  • Bo Nickal (-1400) vs. Jamie Pickett (+850)

UFC 285 Prelims (on ESPN+ & ESPN) 9 a.m. PST / 12 p.m. EST

  • Cody Garbrandt (-165) vs. Trevin Jones (+140)
  • Derek Brunson (+200) vs. Dricus Du Plessis (-240)
  • Viviane Araujo (+110) vs. Amanda Ribas (-130)
  • Julian Marquez (+105) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (-125)

UFC 285 Early Prelims (on ESPN+ & ESPN) 7 a.m. PST / 10 a.m. EST

  • Ian Garry vs. Song Kenan
  • Cameron Saaiman (-250) vs. Leomana Martinez (+210)
  • Jessica Penne (+195) vs. Tabatha Ricci (-230)
  • Da’Mon Blackshear (+330) vs. Farid Basharat (-410)
  • Esteban Ribovics vs. Loik Radzhabov

*fight card subject to change
** all odds current as of time of writing

Dan Shapiro is a writer, editor, musician, and producer currently based in Los Angeles. In addition to covering some of the biggest fights in combat sports history, he’s also hunted down the world’s best sushi, skied the northern hemisphere in July, and chronicled Chinese underground music for publications like CNN, the New York Daily News, VICE, and Time Out. Dan also conjured up a ghost at the Chateau Marmont while out on assignment for RoadTrippers. Follow him on Twitter here.