It is the age old question for a young promising fighter that is destined for greatness, when is it the right time to throw him in with the King of the Jungle? For UFC light heavyweight (205 lbs.) Jon 'Bones' Jones (12-1, 7 KO's 3 subs), that time is now. Jones (pictured @ left) will challenge current champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (19-4, 16 KO's 1 sub) for his title Saturday @ UFC 128 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Thus, the question now becomes, is 'Bones' ready?
Jones, who's only been fighting professionally for three years, will be taking on a veteran with over nine years experience fighting all over the world. Rua, a native of Brazil, the former Pride 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament winner, has fought the best of the best in his home country, Japan and now here in the United States. That type of experience is hard to overcome in any sport, let alone mixed martial arts. That said, although still young, I believe Jones's time is now and he will defeat Rua at his own game.
Rua, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who is also known for devastating Muay Thai kicks, is facing a different breed of fighter in Jones. A 6' 4" superb athlete that is skilled both on the ground and standing. He's a former NY State wrestling champion, with fast hands, quick feet and lethal elbows; just ask former contender Brandon Vera who had his facial bones smashed by one of Jones's elbows. However, what sets Jones apart from Rua and everyone else is his unorthodox fighting style, which has proven successful thus far.
The only blemish on his record is a disqualification loss against Matt Hamill for throwing what was deemed an illegal elbow while Hamill was down. Had that strike not been thrown, Jones was well on his way to finishing Hamill convincingly in less than a round and maintaining a perfect record. Therefore, although he is facing the toughest test of his young career, I am picking Jones to do what a young Cassius Clay did to Sonny Liston back in 1964 and "shock the world."
In the co-feature of the card, it is a bantamweight (135 lbs.) fight between former WEC champion Eddie Wineland (18-6-1, 9 KO's 3 subs) and the long awaited UFC debut of 'The California Kid' Urijah Faber (24-4, 7 KO's 13 subs). Faber, the former WEC featherweight (145 lbs.) champion, is fighting for only his second time @ 135 lbs. The winner of this fight will most likely be considered the number one contender for a crack at current champion Dominick Cruz.
Not only is a title shot possibly at stake, but there have been rumors that the coaches for the next season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' may be Cruz and the winner of this bout. If that should be Faber, I would consider that a done deal seeing that he is one of the most popular and well know fighters in the world. The former poster boy for World Extreme Cagefighting, Faber would be a ratings draw with his surfer boy good looks and Justin Bieber type appeal with the younger female audience; but don't let that fool you, because in the cage, Faber is the real deal.
Lightning quick and surprisingly strong for his size, Faber is an accomplished grappler with fast hands to match. However, if he chooses to stand with Wineland, that can prove to be a mistake as Wineland loves to brawl and can take a punch. That's why I expect Faber to take down his opponent quickly and wrap him up like an early Christmas gift winning by submission. Whether this outcome happens or not, don't blink because these two will be fighting a mile a minute, which will make for an entertaining fight.
The other intriguing bout on the main card takes us from the little guys to the big boys. Heavyweights (225-265 lbs.) Brendan 'The Hybrid' Schaub (7-1, 6 KO's) and Mirko 'Cro-Cop' Filipovic (27-8-2, 20 KO's 4 subs) will square off in yet another young lion takes on grizzled veteran affair. The difference here, unlike the Jones/Rua bout, is that Rua is still in his prime; while 'Cro-Cop' appears to be living off his fame from the 'Pride' days over five years ago.
Only (4-4) since coming to the UFC, 'Cro-Cop' appears to be gun shy and afraid to pull the trigger anymore on his lethal left round kick, since suffering a crushing knockout four years ago against Gabriel Gonzaga. Since then, he has not been the same fighter and that will be a problem against the young former football player Schaub who has KO power in both hands and boxing skills to match. Sadly, I see Schaub not only finishing Filipovic by KO, but quite possibly ending a Hall of Fame career in the process. Like 'Bones' Jones, is Schaub ready? We'll find out Saturday night.