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Despite DQ Loss, Jon Jones Reinforces Hype as UFC's Top Prospect

Perhaps never in the history of mixed martial arts has a fighter so thoroughly dominated a fight in which a loss found a way on to his record. But then again, we've seen over and over that when Jon Jones gets in the cage, amazing things happen.

Let's just put this out on the table and see if you bite: one day, we are likely to look back on his disqualification loss to Matt Hamill as a blip on an otherwise spectacular career, much in the same way we view Fedor Emelianenko's fluky loss to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka due to a cut.

Did I just mention Jones in the same breath as Fedor? Yes, I guess I did. Before you think I've gone unhinged, I do realize the 22-year-old phenom has a long way to go to truly join that conversation, but he has such an intriguing set of gifts that it's easy to project him as a future great.

Against Hamill, for three minutes and 55 seconds, Jones dominated the action with his speed, accuracy and innovative offense before his imagination for the first time worked against him in the heat of battle.

Jones was in the full mount, and had bombarded Hamill with nearly everything in his arsenal, bloodying and battering him. After asking referee Steve Mazzagatti once, and then twice, if the fight should be stopped to no avail, Jones thought of something new on the fly. He postured up and threw a pair of downward elbows that badly damaged his opponent. But Mazzagatti correctly identified them as illegal blows, then determined Hamill was unable to continue, and after an instant replay review, ultimately disqualified Jones for the violation.

And so, in the blink of an eye, Jones once again did the impossible, turning a sure win into a loss.

"I hit him so many times with so many legal blows that I was looking for ways to hit him more effectively," said Jones, now 9-1. "I don't know. I just hit him so may times and they didn't stop it, so I kept going. It definitely came instinctively to come down the middle, and it got stopped."

In yet another sign of his maturity, Jones took the decision well. He didn't stomp out of the cage, he didn't yell or even protest. Instead, he faced the media and explained himself. He may be one of the youngest men in the UFC, but he carries himself like a veteran.

Still, his illegal elbows served as a reminder that he is a man not yet two years into his MMA career -- training included. He admitted he didn't quite understand the downward elbow rule, and that he initially believed he won the fight.

"I try to look at everything in life for the best," he said "Now I'm not undefeated anymore. So now I can be more relaxed."

More relaxed? UFC light-heavyweights everywhere must be shuddering at the thought.

Let's take a look at some of his best attributes:

1) Dangerous Striking
A spinning back elbow off a fake takedown is becoming sort of his trademark in this regard, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. He throws kick combinations rarely seen, and his punches are tightening up. His willingness to do anything at any time will keep most opponents off balance.

2) Slick Takedowns
Much is made of his wrestling background, but Jones also seems to have a knack for judo throws, and brilliantly uses his opponent's momentum against him. Against Hamill, he briefly used a Thai plum clinch. Hamill correctly closed the distance, leaving no space for knees to find their way upward. But Jones quickly realized Hamill's balance was off, and used a trip takedown to put him on his back.

3) Wing Span
The UFC says Jones' 84.5-inch reach is the best in its history books. That is a lot of ground to cover for a fighter trying to find his chin. Meanwhile, while Jones is out of his opponent's striking range, he can seemingly hit anything inside the cage. If you try to take that advantage away by getting inside of him, see No. 2 above.

4) Poise
Jones does not fight with anger or emotion. He is in control of himself, has an idea of what he wants to do but also the guts to adjust and go for any opening he sees. We've never seen him in any real trouble, but something tells me he'd been calm enough to handle the storm.

5) Youth
His age -- 22 -- is not in and of itself an advantage. The reason it's important is because as good as Jones is, he's only scratched the surface of his potential. And despite his youth, he has the maturity to understand that aforementioned potential will best be unlocked by working with multiple coaches and partners. So he added renowned trainers Firas Zahabi and Greg Jackson to his team, and now has the opportunity to regularly train with stars like Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans. That's bound to accelerate his learning curve.

Even in losing, Jones was fantastically impressive. His game seems to have found a new crispness working with Jackson and Zahabi, and some of the rawness that marked his early fights is giving way to polish.

The mistake against Hamill shows just how young he is in the game, and there are other questions about him that have yet to be answered, but there is little doubt in my mind that barring some unforeseen injury, Jones will be fighting for the light-heavyweight title within 2-3 years. I've been around sports and MMA long enough to realize the potential for greatness when I see it. The result against Hamill hardly matters. The UFC knows it has a gem in its hands.

He is humble enough that he does not like being called "flashy" and "athletic," as if those are denigrating terms. Like it or not, Jones better get used to it. Those adjectives as well as others like them are going to surround him for the forseeable future. Great athletes challenge fans and sportswriters alike to find worthy descriptions, and sometimes "special" does not seem special enough.

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