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Best photos of Jon Jones’ victory vs. Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif.
USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Jon Jones is on point, he walks, talks and acts like a great athlete should. He was the best version of himself on Saturday night as he returned to the octagon to defeat Daniel Cormier with a spectacular third-round knockout that reclaimed the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight belt.

He represented himself with distinction afterwards, calling an immediate end to his long-running feud with bitter rival Cormier. He was the main event victor in one of the UFC’s most successful pay-per-views of recent times. He spoke about taking the sport to a new level by attracting fans outside of traditional sports circles. He teased a potential fight with WWE star Brock Lesnar that would make the UFC organization a truckload of money. He talked with clarity and presence without needing to scream or shout or rant or boast. He was a marketer’s dream.

It was impressive stuff, yet more than anything it left a lingering feeling of “what if?”

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What if Jones hadn’t made some or all of his highly-publicized personal mistakes? What if he hadn’t lost his title for his part in a hit-and-run driving incident and ruined a flagship event, UFC 200, by testing positive for a banned substance?

What if he had lived clean and avoided addiction to marijuana, which he admitted to using far too much and far too often? What if he had devoted himself to his craft in the obsessive way other greats in various disciplines have managed?

Dana White asks himself the “what if” question plenty often, especially on nights like this.

“I truly believe Jon Jones is the best to ever (fight in the UFC),” company president White said. “If he hadn’t had these things go wrong in his personal life who knows who he would have beat and where he would have got?”

White doesn’t particularly like Jones. They don’t talk a whole lot but White couldn’t hide his wonderment at the fighter’s physical skills. Having fought just once in the previous 30 months, Jones concussed defending champ Cormier with a brutal third-round flurry that began with a head kick and ended with a stoppage that came too late.

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