A bright new constellation has been etched into the MMA skies.
Hype and potential were transformed into utter greatness, as Jon "Bones" Jones had his way with revered champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to clench the light-heavyweight crown at UFC 128 in New Jersey. Whether Shogun looked to be in slow motion because of his surgery, or because of the linear kicks Jones wisely slammed into his knee, or because Jones is just 'that fast' doesn't matter. He ran circles around the champ and battered him in every aspect from the sound of the opening bell until the final, crushing blows.
It gets better. Not only did he exceed the highest of expectations for about the fourth consecutive time, he was signing autographs as the UFC champion in the days leading up to the event, and Jones also tweeted just hours before the show that he and Greg Jackson chased down and subdued a miscreant that had robbed someone of their GPS system.
I'm pretty sure I saw Jones carry an old lady over a puddle and rescue a kitten from a burning building on the way to the Octagon last night too.
It was obvious Jones was going to let it all hang out when he flashed a flying knee, a high kick, a front kick, then a spinning kick within the first thirty seconds of action. Shogun stayed in the trenches as both men refused to back down while trying to impose their will, but Jones popped around the cage like a lit firecracker, then made a strong statement by dodging a Shogun one-two and heaving the champ onto his back.
Many questions were answered in the following sequences, as we saw how Rua would fare underneath the wide, spidery base of Jones from the top. Shogun defended well, stayed active and tried to flower opportunities with a deep half-guard, but the elongated frame of Jones enforced too much leverage to sweep, and his head seemed miles away when the young fighter postured up. This negated all of Shogun's attempts and facilitated a busy stream of ground-and-pound from Jones.
Shogun shrimped out and got to his knees, where he was greeted with a stiff knee to the midsection, then another to the head the very second he stood up, followed by a salvo of punches as he covered with his back to the fence. The intelligence, aggression, and confidence was oozing from Jones, and the athleticism he packs into such a stretched stature is just downright frightening.
The arsenal of techniques he was rattling off slowly unhinged the Brazilian, as a few linear Thai kicks to the knee were mixed in with wide, sweeping hooks and kicks. Further demonstrating his diversity, after a barrage of brutal elbows on the ground that foreshadowed the end, Jones pounced with a crushing left hook to the body that folded the champ and connected with a straight knee on his way down.
It would have been incredible for "Bones" to eke out an uninspiring victory by taking Shogun down and coasting to a safe decision with superior control, but the fact that he mercilessly clobbered such an experienced and prestigious legend as Mauricio Rua makes UFC 128 a historical evening in the annals of MMA.
Up next for Jones is the inevitable, which is a confrontation with fellow training partner and former champion Rashad Evans, who makes a shocking statement about departing Team Jackson in this video with MMAFighting's Ariel Helwani:
The sensation that an entirely new breed and fresh generation of fighters is taking over emanated from the Schaub-CroCop result as well. Another Pride legend in his day who was once considered the most feared striker in the sport, Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic took to arms for his ninth Octagon showing, which would be his last. After dueling with the burly Brendan Schaub in the clinch and trading knees, the former NFL player scored a takedown and leveled the Croatian with heavy blows from topside.
Signifying his growing BJJ knowledge, CroCop initiated a sweep and almost reversed position, but had to settle for breaking Schaub's grasp and standing back up. Much of the action took place jockeying against the fence with knees and dirty boxing, and referee Herb Dean was keen to pick up on Schaub landing repeatedly to the back of CroCop's head and issued a strong warning. The warning was upgraded to a full point deduction in the second round when the strikes persisted.
Considering the penalty and the fact that the first two frames were fairly close, it would have been interesting to see the judges scorecards if the fight went the distance. However, showing an exemplary effort to "never let it go to the judges", the bloodied Schaub shaped his own destiny by timing a gruesome right hand perfectly. Just as the Croatian shifted his weight to unleash the very kick that set his MMA career on fire, the ever-improving Schaub launched a punch that extinguished his UFC career.
The third round loss was Mirko's second consecutive knockout, and after a rather pedestrian UFC stint overall, Dana White handed the K-1, Pride, and UFC veteran his walking papers. Brendan Schaub adds another big name to his resume while moving to 8-1 overall, and had his birthday wish granted by receiving "Knockout of the Night" honors.
"The California Kid" had his hands full with the scrappy Eddie Wineland in the co-main event, as former featherweight champion Urijah Faber looks for new life in the bantamweight class. The first round unfolded like a frenetic dog-fight, with Wineland refusing to succumb to Faber's relentless pace and takedown attempts. Faber eventually found his groove and surpassed Wineland in the later rounds for a 29-28 decision across the board.
Another gutsy performance was turned in by New Jersey's Dan Miller, who agreed to meet perennial top-middleweight Nate Marquardt on short notice. Both athletes boast a similar style of solid stand-up and high-level grappling talents, but Marquardt looked to have a very slight edge everywhere, and gradually widened the gap as the fight progressed. Marquardt's icy cold composure and vast experience were evident in his patient escapes of Miller's renowned guillotine choke, and the 31-10-2 former King of Pancrase held every round in the judges' eyes.
In another monumental post-fight interview, Nate Marquardt revealed to Ariel Helwani that a drop to 170-pounds may be imminent.
If 20-2 UFC lightweight Jim Miller had a big attitude and bigger mouth, he might be the most noticeable contender at 155 -- but the kid is so damn humble and sportsmanlike, it kind of sneaks up on you that he's won seven-straight with only champ and #1 challenger Edgar and Maynard accounting for his losses. The polite assassin is so unassuming that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva had to prod him to make some noise about his spot in the title race.
Miller slowly picked the undefeated Kamal Shalorus apart with constant pressure, a beautiful straight left, and a cunning ground game. It was the uppercut and follow-up knee that finally dropped the resilient Shalorus in the third, and the ref intervened after a succession of hammer-fists. Miller sheepishly muttered something about a title shot behind a moustache-shrouded smile, this time urged by trainer Mike Constantino, and you have to admire his total workman-like "get it done" attitude.
The kid's due for a shot, or with Maynard and Edgar scheduled to settle to their score, I wouldn't be offended at a Miller vs. Anthony Pettis match in the meantime.
On the SpikeTV prelims, Luis "Banha" Cane quickly disposed of Eliot Marshall by reintroducing the monster straight-left that carried him through wins over Irvin, Lambert, Sokoudjou, and Cantwell. Rebounding nicely after disappointing losses to Lil' Nog and Cyrille Diabate, Cane looked more sculpted physically and back to head-hunting form in the first round beating he handed Marshall.
Anthony Njokuani and Edson Barboza treated us to an enjoyable back and forth striking war that garnered the "Fight of the Night" award. The two dug their claws into each other from start to finish with a nonstop bombardment of strikes, drawing from a huge stockpile of weaponry to trade creative and powerful combinations for all three rounds. Rising star Barboza got the nod on the cards, who staggered Njokuani in the first and closed memorably with a takedown and whirling back-kick that connected flush.
In the closely contested Facebook prelims packed with mean grapplers, an evenly matched tilt between Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino and leviathan lightweight Gleison Tibau resulted in a split decision for Tibau, while Mike Pyle earned two 30-27 scores and one 29-28 that didn't reflect how competitive Ricardo "Big Dog" Almeida had been in the fight.
Roufusport product Erik Koch clocked Raphael Assuncao in the first round and, without a submission to choose from, pocketed a second "Knockout of the Night" bonus in addition to Schaub's. Koch is another sleeper in the division to watch out for.
Nick Catone took every round in a 195-pound catch-weight bout against Constantinos Philippou, who filled in after Miller was upgraded to the Marquardt bout. Bantamweight Joseph Benavidez was too much for Ian Loveland in his decision victory, though Loveland put up a hell of a fight and probably won the first round.