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At 22, Jon Jones impressive both physically and mentally

In latest win over Brandon Vera, Jones shows he’s still working as hard as ever despite the hype


Hyoung Chang, Denver Post

Jon Jones lands an elbow to Brandon Vera during their light heavyweight bout at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones at 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo. on March 21, 2010. Jones won the fight by TKO.

UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones

Jon Jones lands an elbow to Brandon Vera during their light heavyweight bout at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones at 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo. on March 21, 2010. Jones won the fight by TKO. Launch slideshow »

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — There's no arguing that, at 22 years old, Jon Jones is one of the most impressive fighters competing in mixed martial arts.

The only part that is up for debate: What about him impresses you most?

The most-hyped fighter in the UFC added more fuel to the fire Sunday, dominating a talented and hungry Brandon Vera in a main event bout that was supposed to represent the toughest challenge of his career.

While on the surface it might have appeared an easy win for Jones (10-1), plenty went into the fighter's latest step up the light heavyweight ladder.

With so much focus on how he would handle a veteran fighter like Vera (11-5), Jones admitted he was more emotional headed into Sunday's fight than in any other fight.

"He was supposed to be the toughest fight of my career and it pushed me to the point where I was thinking about him all the time," Jones said. "He's the kind of fighter that talks a lot of trash and I didn't appreciate it, so it was a little more personal for me to win this fight and win it in devastating fashion."

But while Jones's emotions were to win the fight emphatically, it didn't stop him from stepping back and making a logical assessment of his opponent's style.

Jones wisely recognized that Vera's greatest opportunity to win the fight would be when both fighters were standing.

So, rather than go for an electrifying knockout against a dangerous striker, Jones attempted a takedown in the first 10 seconds of the fight and took Vera's strength away immediately.

"I bought a book that talked about fighting in your core and fighting a smart fight," Jones said. "Fighting Brandon Vera, I knew he's a great striker and I was preparing for it.

"When I read that book I realized, there's no need to strike in this fight. I've been a wrestler since I was 14 years old. Why go out and have a Muay Thai fight with somebody who might be better than me?"

It's a humble way to approach a fight — especially for a fighter with such high expectations placed on him.

Off the top of UFC president Dana White's head, only Tyson Griffin and B.J. Penn built as much hype early in their careers as Jones has.

White still is frustrated by the one loss on Jones's record, as he believes Jones was improperly disqualified in a fight with Matt Hammill last December when he landed illegal elbows from the mount position.

"That one loss on his record drives me crazy," White said. "Every time he gets in the octagon and I see that one loss, it's going to drive me nuts.

"He should have had a point taken away, not been disqualified. The reason Hammill couldn't continue in that fight was his shoulder, it had nothing to do with the illegal elbows."

Despite all that's been said and written about him, however, Jones's desire to improve as a fighter hasn't seemed to slow.

Widely regarded as an unorthodox and unpredictable fighter, Jones has built his style based on what he's learned in the gym from instructors and what he's taught himself using methods like YouTube.

While it's known that Jones comes from a Greco-Roman wrestling background, he's evolved that style into his own by combining it with moves he's picked up from studying judo on the Internet.

"A lot of the moves I'm performing aren't actually Greco-Roman, they're judo," Jones said. "You can't use a trip in Greco-Roman. I don't have an official judo coach but I've been, it sounds weird, getting on the Internet and watching a lot of Judo moves. I take it seriously."

After his latest victory, Jones is certainly worthy of a shot at the light heavyweight title in the near future, although White said Sunday he'd like to see him compete one more year before that happens.

With a 6-foot-4 frame and unbelievable strength, it's likely that Jones's physical attributes will receive most of the credit for his success.

But as Jones eluded to in his post-fight interview Sunday with Joe Rogan, it also was a series of veteran moves the young fighter made that helped him win the fight beforehand.

"Obviously, the hype is warranted," White said. "He's a serious talent and he gets better every time. He's very motivated and he's smart. He's going to do well."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Also follow him on twitter: LVSunFighting.

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