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Now That We Know He Can Take a Punch, Are There Any More Questions for Jon Jones?

TORONTO -- Want to know how dominant UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones has been in his MMA career? He showed up at the UFC 140 post-fight press conference after a second-round stoppage of former champ Lyoto Machida and told members of the media that he was actually happy to have had an opponent who managed to punch him in face a few times, and no one seemed to regard this statement as the least bit absurd.

Maybe that's because, by standing up to several blistering punch combos from Machida in the opening round of the main event bout, Jones effectively put to rest the last lingering questions about his perceived weaknesses.

"That's definitely something that's gotten made up by media, that I can't take a punch," Jones said. "I just felt as if it was something to address, just to kind of quiet more critics. ...I knew I could take a punch, and I'm glad that I got to prove it."

In fairness, it's not that critics had necessarily accused Jones of having a weak chin. It was just, since he had so thoroughly dominated his previous opponents, few of whom had even managed to get their fists in the general vicinity of his face, it was one of the only question marks left regarding his ability. Machida helped answer those questions in the first round, and then he paid for it in the second round.




Though two of three judges at cageside actually scored the opening frame in Jones' favor, Machida seemed to get the better of the action thanks to effective counter-punching and efficient combos. Even Jones admitted that the first round was "very, very confusing for me," and it resulted in him taking several direct blows to the head.

In the second, however, Jones began to figure Machida out. After hurting him with a well-timed right hand that wobbled the Brazilian challenger, Jones secured a takedown and opened up a nasty cut over Machida's right eye with an elbow strike from the top position. From there, Jones said, "that's when my confidence really started to skyrocket."

"I realized that, on the ground, I would have a pretty safe avenue to success there. And seeing the blood just really let me know that, he bleeds; let's do this."

If there were any doubters left who questioned whether Jones is indeed the world's best 205-pound fighter, they likely had a hard time clinging to their illusions after Jones wrapped up a standing guillotine to choke Machida unconscious near the end of the second round. There was the man who had once looked like an unbeatable UFC champ, who had only been stopped one previous time in his MMA career, and Jones left him lying limply on the mat like a wet towel on the bathroom floor.

Even UFC president Dana White, who had hedged his praise for Jones after prior victories, had to give the champ his due.

"I'm done with this whole, 'If he gets through the next one like he has all the others' thing," White said. "He's the real deal."



After the presser, White said he now sees Jones as the world's number two pound-for-pound fighter, behind only middleweight champ Anderson Silva, and in front of welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre. Ironic that he'd come around to that conclusion only after the rare fight that saw Jones actually look slightly mortal in the early going, but maybe it took that hint of vulnerability to remind the UFC president -- not to mention the fans -- that these are serious opponents Jones has been taking apart.

If anything, Jones has made it look too easy up until now. In 2011 he not only captured the UFC light heavyweight title, but also successfully defended it twice -- a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Chuck Liddell held the title. He dispatched MMA legends like "Shogun" Rua and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson with such ease that it actually seems newsworthy when he loses a round.

He's been almost too good for his own good, so maybe it's not such a bad idea to take a few punches from Machida, if only to show that he can. Now with this historic year of combat in the books, let the 24-year-old champ have a little time off. If anybody's earned a vacation, it's Jones. After all, he did just get punched in the face for our entertainment. Maybe other fighters regard that as just another aspect of the job, but for Jones it's still a relatively new experience, and one he'd probably rather not get too accustomed to.