Heading into his main event with Glover Teixeira at UFC 172 on April 26, 2014, Jon Jones was on top of the mixed martial arts world. He was going for a record seventh defense of his Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title; the only loss on his record was a controversial disqualification in a fight he had been dominating; and he was the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world in the opinion of Sherdog.com, according to Fightmatrix’s algorithm and by his own promoter’s constant assertions. If his drug issues—recreational as well as performance-enhancing—were present at that time, they had not yet exploded to the surface. All of his suspensions and stripped titles were still ahead of him.
By April 2014, fans and media were growing so accustomed to Jones’ competitive excellence that his previous title defense against Alexander Gustafsson had been shocking by the mere fact of having been a competitive fight. In the wake of that classic five-rounder, the Teixeira fight was seen as a chance for “Bones” to either reassert his dominance while waiting for an inevitable matchup with Daniel Cormier—who had made his own light heavyweight debut in February with the express goal of coming for Jones’ belt—or for the challenger to demonstrate that Jones was in decline. The oddsmakers who placed the champ as a 5-to-1 favorite seemed to echo the popular opinion that the first possibility was by far the more likely one.
The bookies and fans were right, as Jones absolutely dominated Teixeira for five rounds, using masterful distance management and his overwhelming strength and leverage in the clinch to punish the challenger, opening a hideous cut over Teixeira’s right eye in the process. Even so, both men proved a thing or two along the way: Though bruised and bloodied, Teixeira impressed by his sheer gameness, as he never stopped coming forward to look for the finish, even as he fell hopelessly behind on the scorecards. Meanwhile, Jones took several of the heavy-handed Brazilian’s hardest shots, including some flush uppercuts, reminding everyone that as difficult as it was to find his chin, it was apparently even harder to crack.
The co-main event between top contenders Phil Davis and Anthony Johnson promised a likely next challenger for Jones’ title. Both men seemed to pose some stylistic challenges for Jones, and Johnson, in particular, with his stupefying power, spent years bearing the hopes of Jones’ detractors and ill-wishers on his back. “Rumble” did what he needed to do, sweeping three rounds from a gunshy and practically neutralized Davis. However, to this day neither Johnson nor Davis has made it to the Octagon with Jones. Davis was on his way to Bellator MMA within a year; Johnson would be out of the sport entirely by the end of 2017; and Jones was about to embark on a three-year stretch during which, it seemed, the only rivals for whom he had time were Cormier and his own demons.
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