Saturday, March 19, 2011

UFC 128: The Beginning of the 'Bones' Era

At UFC 128 Saturday night, the Tri-State area came out in droves and they were not disappointed. After representing strong last month at the Strikeforce event in East Rutherford, NJ, the Hudson River crowd invaded the Prudential Center in Newark. There, they witnessed history as Endicott, NY's own Jon 'Bones' Jones (13-1, 8 KO's 3 subs) became the youngest champion in UFC history.

Jones, in only his 14th pro fight and after just three years of training, completely dominated and decimated former light heavyweight (205 lbs.) champ Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (19-5, 16 KO's 1 sub). Using all of his 6'4" frame, the man they call 'Bones' used everything in his arsenal including kicks, punches, elbows and wrestling to crush, kill and destroy Rua over two and half rounds. Rua had no answer for Jones's reach and his wrestling being put on the defensive the whole time. Even when he had Jones in his guard on the ground, Jones, unlike anyone else with his length, was able to throw punches and elbows to Rua face with impact.

Easily the next big thing in MMA, Jones showed why as he showed flash in his offense, throwing a beautiful spinning elbow to Rua's head in the second round when he had him up against the cage. In the third round it was an accumulation of punishment on the ground, followed by a punch to the mid-section and a follow-up knee while they were standing that ultimately ended the night and reign for 'Shogun'.

In August last year, I wrote a column entitled 'The Next Generation of UFC Superstars'. The piece was accompanied by the above photo of none other than Jon 'Bones' Jones. I said at the time that Jones was the next superstar in the 205 lbs. division. After Saturday night's performance I feel comfortable in saying he is the next superstar in all of Mixed Martial Arts. We may very well be seeing the second coming of Anderson Silva at only 23 years of age.

He didn't have the belt five minutes before the UFC brought in Jones first challenger for his title into the cage. Strangely, it was Jones's teammate 'Sugar' Rashad Evans, who ironically Jones had replaced in this fight when Evans got injured. When Joe Rogan asked Jones how he felt about having to defend against his own teammate and good friend, Jones said, "I've been working for this belt and I know God wouldn't bring me this far if he didn't have a reason."

The co-main event of the night didn't necessarily finish as I predicted, but it did see bantamweight (135 lbs.) Urijah 'The California Kid' Faber (25-4, 7 KO's, 13 subs) get a unanimous decision over former WEC champion Eddie Wineland (18-7-1, 9 KO's 3 subs). I had predicted Faber would take down Wineland and inevitably get a submission win. He may not have gotten the submission, but he did take down Wineland in the second and third rounds. However, he could not do much other than smother Wineland's offense. After the fight Faber told champion Dominic Cruz, "hide your kids, hide your wife and hide that belt because I'm coming for it."

The swing bout of the night saw New Jersey's own Jim Miller (20-2, 3 KO's 11 subs) staking his claim for a shot at the lightweight (155 lbs.) title as he finished Kamal 'The Prince of Persia' Shalorus (7-1-2, 4 KO's, 1 sub) via TKO in the third round. Miller, the only New Jersey fighter of four on the card to win, has now extended his win streak to seven in a row. When asked in his post fight interview by Joe Rogan if he's looking for a title shot, Miller's response was simply, "I'm ready." I wonder if fellow New Jersey native, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar feels the same way.

Meanwhile, Miller's brother Dan wasn't so lucky. In middleweight (185 lbs.) action, Nate 'The Great' Marquardt (31-10-2, 8 KO's 15 subs) outlasted a game Dan Miller (13-5, 1 KO 8 subs) to win a unanimous decision. Using a combination of crisp strikes and a vicious ground & pound attack, Marquardt nullified any attempt Miller had at mustering offense. Miller, a wrestler and jiu-jitsu player, tried desperately to take this fight to the ground, but it was Marquardt who continuously ended up on top delivering punishment when they were on the mat.

Finally, in the heavyweight showdown between the legend Mirko 'Cro-Cop' Filipovic (27-9-2, 20 KO's, 4 subs) and the young up and comer Brendan 'The Hybrid' Schaub (8-1, 7 KO's), sadly it ended just as I predicted. Schaub ended up knocking out 'Cro Cop' in the third round, but it wasn't as easy as I or Schaub thought it would be. 'Cro-Cop', while methodical in his approach, looked inspired at times, but it wasn't enough as he eventually got caught with an overhand right that knocked him silly. Schaub continues to impress, winning his fourth in a row; three by KO. On the other hand, 'Cro-Cop', who has lost multiple times now in the UFC via devastating KO's, may need to consider retirement.

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