Is Jon Jones slipping or are his rivals rising to the level he set?

Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is a very lucky man to still hold his 205lb title after emerging a controversial winner at UFC 247.

The undisputed greatest of all time at 205lbs fought a very close fight against previously undefeated contender Dominick Reyes. “Bones” secured a unanimous decision win on the judges’ scorecards.

However, many believe we should have a new champion right now. On the back of another sub-standard razor thin victory, it’s time to ask. Is Jon Jones on the decline or are his rivals rising to the level he has set?

A Champion In Decline

Jon Jones faces more scrutiny than any champion in all of sports. His almost decade-long stranglehold on the light heavyweight division can’t last forever and people are keen to point towards cracks in his once pristine game.

This weekend we saw huge holes, according to the majority fights fans if all was fair in the world, we would have a new champion right now. Close, but clear in the favor of Reyes is the consensus verdict on the UFC 247 main event.

Such a performance certainly means Jones is showing signs of decline. At his peak Jones would have handily dealt with Reyes, who lets not forget was lucky to get by Volkan Oezdemir.

This is the second fight in a row in which the 32-year-old has made a tough go of what many saw as an easy fight. Last time out, he went five rounds with Thiago Santos – who was using one leg for the majority of the fight. Despite having a wounded fighter in front of him, Jones struggled and again scraped by on the judges scorecards.

The fight before that, he dominated Anthony Smith, but failed to show any type of killer instinct. Something we as MMA fans are used to seeing from one of the most ruthless champions in the sports history.

Perhaps after three lackluster performances, it’s time to accept Jones is no longer at his peak. At 32, its very well possible that he is no longer able to perform at the levels he once did. Especially considering he started fighting so young and reached the top quicker than anyone has done before or since.

Contenders Rising To His Level

Many will write Jones off, but it does seem unfair to focus on him in this moment rather than the fighter who arguably beat him.

Dominick Reyes is no slouch at all. An undefeated, knockout artist, with a ton of physical advantages not usually seen against Jones. If anyone was going to beat the champion, it makes sense for it to be Reyes.

Jones was a UFC title holder when Reyes turned professional. So, for his entire career, the 30-year-old has been gunning for the guy at the top – who barring any outside the cage antics has been Jones.

You must also not underestimate the ability of both Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith. Although not as naturally talented as Jones, they have shown massive skills when it matters. Both hold high-profile wins and have an ability to tough it out when needed, as we saw in their respective fights with Jones.

Maybe we should just accept that every fight moving forward will be difficult for the long-time champion. Light heavyweight fighters will continue to strive to reach the lofty levels set by Jones. The stakes only get higher every time he fights. With that, the performances of his challengers reach new level as each tries desperately to become the man to beat the man.