Jon Jones’ potential is frightening. | Sherdog.com
The hype was justified, after all. And in the wake of a seminal performance that erased any doubt, Jon “Bones” Jones is the new UFC light heavyweight champion.
In a three-round showcase that resembled a recital more than a fight, Jon Jones took the 205-pound title from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua with shocking ease.
With a harrowing blend of creative strikes and an eerie calm, Jones dominated the fight from the opening moments, wearing down the game “Shogun,” dictating the pace and range en route to a finishing barrage at 2:37 of the third round. With yet another stunning flight over a bar set at what was perhaps an unprecedented height, Jones faces teammate Rashad Evans in his next bout.
Put it down right now: the biggest fight of 2012 will be Jones vs. Anderson Silva. It’s hard to imagine a more intriguing fight, especially given their mutual physical gifts.
Let’s take a closer look at who’s up, who’s down, and who’s holding at their current price in the UFC 128 Stock Report.
Jon Jones: Coming into the Rua bout, questions lingered about Jones, who’d never been tested in a tough fight. Or a long fight. Or been clocked hard enough to test his chin. Those questions were somewhat answered, as he unveiled a patient attack in dismantling Rua.
Jones’ 84-inch reach has stymied previous foes, and Rua had the same problems, unable to uncork his trademark attacks, while eating a buffet of strikes from the creative Jones. Whether it was unleashing disruptive teep kicks to the knees or throwing spinning-back elbows in close, Jones won the critical early standing phase of the fight, which was supposed to be Rua’s domain.
On the ground, Jones’ smarts and length came into play as well. Rua, whose half-guard sweeps are the bread and butter of his outstanding ground game, couldn’t execute them, while Jones wore him down with strikes.
By the end of the second round, it was inevitable what happened in the third. Jones dismantled Rua with a finishing barrage, flooring the great Brazilian before the bout was stopped.
The “Jon Jones Era” has begun. And given the constant new wrinkles and moves he seamlessly executes with each match, you can only wonder how awesome his highlight reel will look in a couple of years. It’s already a meditation on the edge of the impossible; with time to keep evolving, he may well be the most physically talented fighter in the history of the sport.
Urijah Faber: After a tough opening round, Faber realized that Eddie Wineland wasn’t going to the mat easy. So, characteristic of “The California Kid,” he adjusted, stepping up the pressure in the standing phase, and landing key strikes to open up the ground game. Faber’s always had a good head for tactics and adjustments, and made them appropriately in a bout where the 5-1 underdog was giving a much tougher fight than most believed he could.
Next up for Faber should be UFC bantamweight boss Dominick Cruz, who Faber submitted in 2007 when Cruz was relatively green. The champ’s spry stick-and-move style, solid takedown defense and great conditioning make him and Faber an intriguing five-round title tilt. The fact that they openly dislike one another only adds gas to the promotional fire.
Jim Miller: Miller’s the ultimate blue-collar guy, and in rattling off his seventh straight win over Kamal Shalorus, he just keeps tightening up his game. With a record of 20-2, Miller’s sole defeats are decision losses to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Typical of his approach, Miller didn’t try to grapple with the uber-strong Shalorus early, instead focusing on standup and mixing his attacks.
As Shalorus tired, Miller closed hard down the stretch -- as he always does -- stepping up the pressure and finishing with a nice left uppercut, followed by a big knee. In a deep lightweight division, Miller is a handful for anyone, particularly as he refines the fine points of his game. He’s also fan-friendly and always in shape.
Brendan Schaub: Heavyweight prospects can ascend or collapse on the fortunes of one punch. In Schaub’s case, his stock rises with a gutty, third-round stoppage of Mirko Filipovic. Troubled in spots and seemingly tiring through the first two rounds, Schaub sucked it up in the third and finished big, delivering a booming right hand to finish the bout.
Schaub’s progress thus far has been impressive. While heavyweights look great blowing out overmatched opponents, the kind of wins Schaub has put together will serve him far better.
He’s gone deep in a decision win over Gabriel Gonzaga, and tonight he proved himself in another tough bout. He’ll probably hit the wall when pitted against a strong wrestler who can plant him on his back, but until that happens, he’s going to be dangerous on the feet and a tough assignment for the mid-level heavies who risk trading with him.
Luis Artur Cane Jr.: A much-needed win for “Banha” tonight, as he blitzed Eliot Marshall in 2:15. Coming off opening-round stoppage losses to Cyrille Diabate and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Cane scored big, showcasing the trademark aggression and killer instinct that made him a rising prospect in his earlier UFC bouts.
Edson Barboza Jr.: I’ve been high on Barboza since his debut win over Mike Lullo, and for good reason: he kicks like a sledgehammer and does it faster than anyone in the game, outside of Jose Aldo. Barboza eeked out a razor-thin decision over Anthony Njokuani tonight, in a bout where he opened strong, faded in the second, and literally won the fight in the last moments of the final round. Landing a gorgeous spinning heel kick, he stunned Njokuani, which was enough to take the bout 29-28 on all three cards.
Barboza could have made a tough fight easier if he’d used takedowns more, or at least the threat of it, as Njokuani seemed to time and counter him over the last half of the fight. However, Barboza, unbeaten in eight fights, has a huge upside and figures to make the appropriate adjustments in future performances. He can do things you simply can’t teach, and figures to be a talent to watch in the lightweight division.
Anthony Njokuani: Njokuani performed admirably against the talented Barboza, and acquitted himself very well. Using excellent standup and a nice blend of strikes, the guess here is that he did better on the feet tonight than most future Barboza foes could ever hope to. A tough loss for him, but the former WEC lightweight proved he definitely belongs in the UFC’s 155-pound division.
Erik Koch: There’s gotta be something in the water in Milwaukee. Or maybe it’s Duke Roufus. Whatever it is, the Roufus-trained featherweight is red-hot, and his standup game is coming along nicely. Using a counter-right hand, he took out Raphael Assuncao in impressive fashion.
Mike Pyle & Ricardo Almeida: As expected, the duo had a largely uneventful welterweight match, which Pyle ground out to a unanimous decision. Styles make fights, and sometimes they cancel one another out. Not a breakout performance or a bad one by either.
Mauricio Rua: Sometimes, you run up against something big, bad and frighteningly different than anything you’ve faced before. That’s why Rua gets a “hold” rating, as the guess here is that Jones takes a lot less time to decimate opponents in the coming years. Rua showed a ton of guts and tenacity, but simply couldn’t be effective against Jones. Welcome to the club.
Eddie Wineland: Wineland showed great takedown defense and toughness in fending off Faber’s early assaults, only to finally get worn down in the last round. However, it was a very good performance and established him as a viable bantamweight in the UFC, as very few fellow 135-pounders are likely to give Faber as much trouble.
Nate Marquardt & Dan Miller: Working against last-minute substitute Miller, Marquardt, originally slated to face Yoshihiro Akiyama, took a decision in a match where he pulled ahead over the final two rounds. Marquardt is usually dominant when he can be the better wrestler, and if you can’t outstrike him, either, you’re going to lose. A decent win, considering
As usual, Miller proved durable in taking his fifth decision loss in as many career defeats. With some good moments early, including a couple threatening guillotine attempts, he faded down the stretch. Miller will always be a tough test for prospects looking to come up, but has had tough luck against the better class of the division.
Gleison Tibau & Kurt Pellegrino: The lightweights battled to a close decision, scored 29-28 on all three cards, with Tibau getting the split nod. Most lightweight fights come down to conditioning and a critical takedown or two, and there was little to choose between them.
Kamal Shalorus: Shalorus’ takedowns are outstanding, as he single-handedly wills people to the mat by snatching a leg (check out his performance in the WEC against Dave Jansen). The problem is, he has a classic case of what I call “Striker-itis.” It’s when guys want to stand regardless of other opportunities that exist, and in Shalorus’ case, it finally cost him big in his first defeat. He got away with it in previous bouts against Jamie Varner and Bart Palaszewski, but Miller made him pay.
Shalorus has heavy strikes, if a bit one-dimensional and telegraphed, and a solid chin, but seems to run out of gas from heaving bombs. Exceptionally talented, he’ll need to make some adjustments and get back to his wrestling. If he does, his striking will be that much more effective, and he’ll be able to dominate rounds and win matches instead of rolling the dice like he did tonight against Miller.
Mirko Filipovic: Whatever the promotional angle for Filipovic’s next UFC fight is, let’s dispense with the “newer, more focused” one. Because it’s a dog that won’t hunt, despite being advertised as such over his last several fights, most of which have been tepid performances. Filipovic is a far cry from the destructive knockout artist he was in his Pride Fighting Championships days, and is either unable or unwilling to pull the trigger.
Despite this, he had Schaub in bad spots on a couple of occasions, but seemed unable to follow up. The younger, hungrier Schaub simply wanted it more, and struck big in the third, putting “Cro Cop” down for good.
Filipovic is now 4-5 in the UFC. If the promotion continues to use him, it will probably only get uglier from here. Once a great fighter and the second-best heavyweight in the game behind Fedor Emelianenko, his better days are clearly behind him.
Eliot Marshall: Marshall had the ideal name opponent at ostensibly the right time in Cane. However, with a raw standup game and leaky defense, he was caught early and taken out in the first round, showing how important that phase of the sport is when you’re fighting the bigger guys. A tough loss, as he’ll clearly need to tighten up his defense, and since he isn’t a dominating wrestler, that’s especially key to succeeding at 205 pounds given his tools and style.
Raphael Assuncao: Caught with a big shot from Koch, Assuncao suffered another loss at featherweight. With three defeats in his last four bouts, he’s hit a rough patch. The bright side is that in the relatively shallow depth pool at featherweight, he may have some wiggle room to merit another bout. He’ll need a win there to get back on track.
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