Champion Jon Jones, top, lands an elbow against Chael Sonnen during their UFC 159 Mixed Martial Arts light heavyweight title bout in Newark, N.J., Saturday, April 27,2013. Jones retained his title via first round TKO. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
NEWARK, N.J. – It was no coincidence that middleweight champion and reigning pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva chose to call Dana White in the early hours of Sunday morning.
White wouldn't say who Silva wanted to fight. Unquestionably, though, Silva called White to ask for a match with Jones, because the legendary Brazilian superstar saw what was plainly obvious to all: Jones is getting closer and close – if he's not already there – to surpassing Silva as the greatest fighter alive.
Jones retained his light heavyweight belt with a first-round stoppage of Chael Sonnen on Saturday before a crowd of 15,227 at Prudential Center in the main event of UFC 159.
It wasn't so much that Jones, won, though, that forced Silva to dial White's number. It was the manner of the victory that caused him to pick up the phone.
Jones was a 9-1 favorite, so it's no surprise that he won, and perhaps not even that he won big.
But Sonnen is an elite wrestler and was an alternate on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, yet Jones throw him around like a rag doll.
Through a fluke circumstance, Sonnen wound up 27 seconds away from being the champion. Jones broke his big left toe pushing off for one of his takedowns. The toe was curving like an old country road, and he spent only a brief time at the post-fight news conference before heading to the hospital.
If referee Keith Peterson didn't stop the bout at 4:33 of the first as Jones was delivering some ground-and-pound to a helpless Sonnen, the self-proclaimed bad guy probably would have gone home with the belt.
Jones' toe was so gnarly that there is virtually no way the New Jersey commission representatives would have allowed the bout to continue. To his credit, Sonnen wasn't taking the bait. He played the character of an old-school pro wrestling bad guy in much of the build-up, but he wasn't trying to fool anybody after the beating he absorbed Saturday.
"You know what? When I get in there, I just want to know who's better," Sonnen said. "I just want to feel these other guys. I want to see what the hype's about. If they would have called the match [in his favor because of Jones' broken toe], I wouldn't have had any illusions. I knew in those first five minutes who the better fighter was.
"I'm sure it would have gone to a rematch and we'd have had to do that again, because it would only have been right to Jon. But I got my questions answered tonight."
Jones' tied Tito Ortiz's light heavyweight divisional record by making his fifth consecutive successful title defense. He said he'd like to face Alexander Gustafsson the next time out – and judging by the way his toe looked, it's going to be a while – to go for the record by himself.
If he does that, he said, he believes he'd owe it to himself to regard himself as the greatest light heavyweight champion in history.
It's a joke, though, to believe that he doesn't already hold that distinction.
He won the belt two years ago in the same building after destroying Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. That was a jaw-dropping performance, and he's seemed to have put it all together since then. He's now 6-0 in title fights and Saturday's was the first that didn't come against a former or reigning champion.
He's at a point now where it takes an extraordinary effort just to remain close to him. He's gotten used to the pressures and the demands of the championship, and he's at peace in his life.
All of it has combined to make him as dangerous as any man alive.
"I've grown," Jones said. "I've become [engaged], and I brought another child into this Earth. I purchased my first home. Life is good. Life is very good. I'm growing up. I'm becoming a man. My goatee is connected now. It's a beautiful thing. I'm grateful."
[Related: Will Chael Sonnen retire?]
Sonnen was a man of his word and came to fight. As he was in the cage awaiting Jones, he walked to the cage as he saw Jones slowly making his ring walk. Sonnen shouted at him, "Let's go, Jones. Wrap it up. Wrap it up."
When the bell sounded, Sonnen burst out of his corner and went right after Jones.
But unlike in both of his title challenges against Silva, Sonnen was unable to score an early takedown.
Jones stunned Sonnen with the frequency and the ease with which he got his own takedowns.
"I've had a lot of fights, and they haven't all gone my way," Sonnen said. "But I've only been beaten up twice and that was No. 2. And he beat me at my own game. It's frustrating and it's tough. That's it.
"I was [surprised by him]. I'll have to watch the replay to see what he did. He was on my leg before I knew it. I don't know how he set it up, if he threw a punch. I don't know what happened. He was just in on my leg. I've been in that spot all my life, and I haven't fallen down like that. I got up, and he did it again. I got up and he did it again. I don't think I've been taken down three times in my career, and he took me down three times in one round."
It's hard to imagine anyone at light heavyweight doing a better job than Sonnen did on Saturday against him. Silva is himself a magnificent fighter and has put together a long record of brilliance.
Jones, though, is so good, and is improving so fast, that it's difficult imagining even a fighting genius like Silva coming up with a way to neutralize Jones' many strengths.
Jones is good, perhaps even great.
The most impressive thing about him, though, is that he's still getting better.
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