Has Jon Jones (above, file photo) changed the game? | Sherdog.com
Every once in a while, a young athlete comes along who not only dominates his sport and becomes a champion, but also revolutionizes the game, changing the very perception of how it is supposed to be played.
Usain Bolt ran away from all competition at 100 and 200 meters. Michael Jordan dunked and fadeaway’d his way to two “three-peats.” Muhammad Ali employed footwork and unheard-of heavyweight agility en route to becoming perhaps the greatest boxer of all time.
Since the summer of 2008, fight fans have witnessed Jon Jones grow from a promising prospect to a title contender to a champion to a potential game-changer. At 23 years and 244 days old, Jones has ascended to the top of the UFC light heavyweight division, where he now sits as the youngest UFC champion of all time.
Usually, challenging for a title is something every fighter looks forward to. Taking into account Jones’ performances in his last four fights, however, challenging this champion will be no pleasant task for anybody.
Below, an in-depth look at the five main-card matches from Saturday’s UFC 128, including Jones’ title-winning performance against Mauricio Rua.
Brendan Schaub def. Mirko Filipovic -- KO (Punch) 3:44 R3
What happened: “Cro Cop” seemed to be in significantly better shape for this fight than any other since his return to the UFC in 2009, as he comfortably clinched, grappled and pummeled with powerful former pro-football fullback Schaub. The majority of the fight took place with both men clinched up against the cage, exchanging knees to the midsection and grimly jockeying for position. Surprisingly, it was Filipovic who initiated much of the clinch work. It was also in the clinch where Schaub was penalized for repeated blows to the back of the head in the second round.
What worked extremely well for the “Hybrid” was his wrestling. Schaub’s double-legs cracked the Croatian’s once-impenetrable takedown defense and gave him the edge over one-dimensional sprawl-and-brawler Cro Cop. On the ground, Schaub played it conservative, seldom looking to pass and instead being content to land punches inside the guard. After Schaub sustained cuts on the eyelid and nose, Cro Cop smelled blood and went into stalking mode for the second half of the last round, even managing to stuff a Schaub takedown. Just when everybody was waiting for Mirko’s final spurt, Schaub knocked the former Pride Fighting Championships star out cold with a big overhand right.
Cro Cop looked a lot like Chuck Liddell in his fight against Rich Franklin: in great shape, but simply unable to absorb the kind of blows he was once used to.
What worked well for Schaub: Wrestling, power.
What Schaub needs to work on: Jiu-jitsu, submissions.
What worked well for Cro Cop: Dirty boxing in clinch situations, sweeps from guard.
What Cro Cop needs to work on: Getting off first, takedown defense.
Nate Marquardt def. Dan Miller -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: When Yoshihiro Akiyama was forced to withdraw from his bout with Marquardt due to the terrible catastrophe that ravaged Japan, Miller stepped up from his undercard slot against Nick Catone on a week’s notice. What immediately struck the eye was the size difference between Miller and Marquardt. Although both stood 6 feet tall, Miller looked like a welterweight compared to Marquardt.
Despite the size advantage, “Nate the Great” reverted back to his tactics of old, boxing only sporadically with Miller and instead turning the fight into a wrestling match -- something Miller is known to be quite good at. Miller, the hometown favorite, used his dangerous guillotine choke multiple times to threaten the onetime middleweight title contender. In the end, Miller lacked the standup game and stamina to seriously endanger the 31-year-old Coloradan.
What worked well for Marquardt: Alternation between leaping right hands and leg-trip takedowns.
What Marquardt needs to work on: Looking for more submission attempts.
What worked well for Miller: Offensive wrestling, guillotine choke attempts.
What Miller needs to work on: Kickboxing, wall-walking.
Jim Miller def. Kamal Shalorus -- TKO (Punches) 2:15 R3
What happened: Dan Miller’s younger brother knocked out previously unbeaten Iranian wrestler Shalorus. The New Jersey native’s best moment in the first round was a head kick, which Shalorus simply shrugged off.
After Miller took complete control by controlling Sharlous from back mount for the bulk of the second round, the AMA Fight Club represenative opened up with his punches and started to move forward as his corner encouraged him to go for the kill. Shalorus, who always throws his combinations with maximum power, appeared to have gassed himself out in the first ten minutes. Miller ended a high-class bout with a superb uppercut-knee combo that sent Shalorus crumbling to the canvas. The ensuing ground-and-pound seemed obligatory.
What worked well for Miller: Grappling, conditioning.
What Miller needs to work on: Making his rear-naked choke as dangerous as it once was.
What worked well for Shalorus: Low kicks, wrestling to keep the fight standing.
What Shalorus needs to work on: Add more technique while punching to expend less energy.
Urijah Faber def. Eddie Wineland -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: Similar to the Miller-Shalorus fight, the eventual winner of this bantamweight tilt overslept in the opening round. Wineland did well early on to stuff Faber’s takedowns and use his reach advantage, briefly taking the back of the “California Kid” and catching him with a few hard punches in the opening round.
Faber’s corner apparently gave him a good pep talk and changed strategy between rounds, as the former WEC featherweight ace started to change the rhythm of the fight in the second frame. Faber finally managed to take Wineland down with a single-leg/trip combination and landed some nice elbows after posturing up in his opponent’s guard. Wineland tried his best to push him off, but Faber kept after him with the ferocity of a rabid wolverine.
Though the momentum of the fight changed in the second round, still the fight was up for grabs until the middle of the third stanza. Then, Faber landed a series of punches that brought the crowd back to life, followed by a takedown with 80 seconds to go. More elbows followed, sealing the deal for Faber.
What worked well for Faber: Top control, ground-and-pound.
What Faber needs to work on: Effective standup, doing damage on the ground.
What worked well for Wineland: Takedown defense, creating scrambles.
What Wineland needs to work on: Fighting off his back.
Jon Jones def. Mauricio Rua -- TKO (Punches and Knees) 2:37 R3
What happened: It was another fight that Jones dominated from beginning to end. His opening sequence consisted of a flying knee, a head kick, a teep and a spin kick. Thirty seconds into the fight, “Shogun” was already on his back, courtesy of a slipped punch that Jones used for his unique anaconda foot sweep. Shogun went looking for a leg lock -- the only strategy he pursued on the mat all fight long -- but Jones nipped that in the bud and unloaded cracking elbow strikes to Rua’s body and head. A knee to the body, a kick to the face, and a combination of punches and kicks as Shogun used the fence to stand appeared to take much of the fight out of the champion.
In the second, Shogun continued to have huge problems with Jones’ reach and was forced to expend energy simply to get into striking distance, let alone land punches. Rua attempted a low kick, one of his go-to weapons, and was promptly taken down with an effortless Jones single-leg. The second half of the round saw the Brazilian crushed with ground-and-pound, able only to hang on for dear life.
Shogun dove for another leg lock in the third round, but Jones used a kimura to get back on top and blast Rua. “Bones” stepped up the pace with brutal elbows and knees to the body, and Rua was basically out on his feet as he stood from the punishment. An uppercut to the body and a knee strike brought Shogun down once more, and the champion tapped the mat in surrender as referee Herb Dean stepped in to rescue him.
Jones showcased a truly vicious arsenal of strikes, much like the one Shogun had displayed in Pride six years earlier.
What worked well for Jones: Reach, power, top game.
What Jones needs to work on: Hard to say at this point. Jones can seemingly do it all.
What worked well for Shogun: Nothing.
What Shogun needs to work on: Wrestling, conditioning.
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