July 2nd, 2011 was meant to be a passing of the torch in the Light Heavyweight Division of the UFC. While many may not have said it outright during the promotion of UFC 132, the writing was clearly on the wall. Tito Ortiz, the 36-year-old former Light Heavyweight Champion of the UFC, hadn’t earned a victory in the octagon in his last five fights. After four and a half years of defeat, and various conflicts with Dana White along the way, Ortiz was set to fight Ryan Bader, the 12-1 budding prospect of the division. At eight years Bader’s senior, Ortiz entered the octagon poised to be cut from the UFC if he met defeat.
1:56 later, Bader was tapping to a guillotine choke, and Ortiz couldn’t hold back the tears. The ‘Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ is back, at least for the time being.
As it conincided, Light Heavyweight Champion and phenom Jon Jones was supposed to defend the title against the quick hands of former champion and Ultimate Fighter winner, Rashad Evans. Unfortunately for Evans, Jones suffered a broken hand in training and was replaced by wrestling upstart Phil Davis. Davis, however, would suffer a knee injury shortly thereafter and be forced to pull out of the fight. The revolving door of opponents then went around from Ortiz, to Machida, and back to Ortiz again. After an emotional and triumphant return just one month ago, Ortiz will try to carry that momentum into a second encounter with Evans.
It’s very difficult in this situation to have any confidence in Ortiz pulling out a victory over Evans. With the fight against Bader, Ortiz had a solid 9 months to train and prepare and was also facing a fighter who showed weakness to getting caught in guillotines. At 36, Ortiz is taking this fight on less than a month’s notice, where age and recovery play a giant factor. Jon Jones was able to defeat Bader under similiar circumstances and then defeat Shogun Rua a month later to win the Light Heavyweight Title, but Jon Jones was only 23-years-old at the time and proving to be an unstoppable force.
The advantage to an Ortiz victory would be the intriguing storyline to associate with it. Jones is already slated to defend his title against “Rampage” Jackson in September, but if Ortiz were to defy the odds yet again and overcome Evans then a potential title fight could be made down the line. Not unlike the heavyweight encounter of Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar in 2008, the legend of Tito Ortiz could go to war with the remarkable talents of the prodigy. This would have potential as a huge draw for the UFC. However, other than the dream match up, Tito doesn’t serve much purpose to remain in the division. A loss may send him packing again, or a victory could keep the tour rolling. With a couple flat tires, a shakey starter and a busted fender, tonight we’ll see how far the bus can keep rolling.
We here at DBB endorse Rashad Evans for victory.
Vitor Belfort v. Yoshihiro Akiyama
The Middleweight Division that Anderson Silva has torn apart remains a graveyard for former title contenders and a purgatory for those that dare rise to title contention. Belfort looks to bounce back from a first round KO at the hands of Silva, whereas Akiyama looks to turns things around after experiencing the first losing streak of his career. A win might boost “Sexyama” into that snowball’s chance in hell against Silva, but Belfort still remains a serious threat with his strikes.
We here at DBB endorse Vitor Belfort for victory.
Mike Brown v. Nam Phan
Mike Brown was considered one of the bigger names to come into the UFC following the merger with WEC. The former WEC Featherweight Champion handed Urijah Faber almost half of his loss total (2 of Faber’s 5) and reigned over the division until Jose Aldo took the belt from Brown in 2009. Since the merge, however, Brown has gone 0-2 in UFC bouts and is in need of a victory to keep himself from drowning. Nam Phan, the popular TUF contestant, returns after a controversial split decision loss to Leonard Garcia and the TUF Finale back in December. A win over Brown would prove a great starting point for Phan’s UFC career.
We Here at DBB endorse Mike Brown for victory.
The seemingly impossible has happened and CM Punk, after making himself the hottest commodity in wrestling, did it.
Months ago, it was learned that World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar CM Punk’s contract was expiring later this year. Capitalizing on this, WWE integrated it into their storylines, with Punk confessing to the fans that his contract was almost up and swearing to win the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank on what would be perceived as his last night in the company, July 17th. And then, to subsequently walk out with the belt. The following weeks this was driven home by some absolutely brilliant mic work by Punk and both casual WWE fans and the diehards were caught up in wondering where this could lead. But recently Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer reported that Punk’s contract was not actually up until September of this year.
So now Punk has won the title on his “last night” just as he vowed to do, and after a thoroughly entertaining story, a new era could be on the horizon both for CM Punk and for WWE.
The last time WWE tried to signal a paradigm shift for the company was over a year ago with the formation of Nexus, with the former NXT contestants’ surprising attack on John Cena, the perrenial face of the company, as well as everyone at ringside. This caught many people off guard and there was a significant buzz about it leading into the next week, but the momentum was quickly lost on the ensuing programs as the group slowly became less of an unpredictable outside threat and fell into the typical booking rhythms as all other WWE programs, especially as they ran up against John Cena, whom the WWE has consistently refused to make look weak or disadvantaged for too long.
And now it comes back to the current situation, and John Cena is in the middle of another hot angle for the WWE that has fans truly guessing (with the exception of spoilers for a week) what the next twist or turn might be. Another opportunity to capitalize on the genuine curiosity from all areas of the fan spectrum. Cena and WWE have “lost” the championship title for one of their programs in an era where there have been double top-tier world champions for both Raw and Smackdown. Normal booking ideas would be to set up a tournament to crown the new champion, or set up a single match for the vacant belt. But this is a chance for WWE to do something different. A radical departure would be to settle for having one major world championship for both shows, but no rumblings to that end have appeared on any news sites and so I can’t see them going in that direction. If Punk’s contract is correctly reported as expiring two months from now, this could conceivably set up a chase to physically get the belt back in some fashion through vignettes or video appearances from home, as WWE is fond of trying to throw in that sort of entertainment aspect that was common during the Attitude era. But both of those things are pure speculation, and that’s the best part of it, right? We’re all still guessing, and in a time where overanalyzation and assured prediction are so common with wrestling fans, it’s a great feeling.
As for the direction of the man central to all of this, there’s no end to the conjecture about Punk’s immediate future. “Shoot” comments made during his infamous promos have mentioned destinations such as his previous home, Ring of Honor. However, given ROH’s rising profile with a new owner and distribution across a network of television stations, I can’t see this as any more of a wink and a nod toward Punk’s fans, no matter how much wishful thinking there is. The surest thing seems to be for him to take a sabbatical from wrestling, just like former WWE wrestler Chris Jericho has done before and is in the midst of again as we speak. Punk has just given an interview to men’s magazine GQ, and has made reference to a movie role he turned down according to another recent co-interview with his friend Colt Cabana. With press and options like this and the possibility of a free schedule ahead of him, Punk has myriad directions he could go in with his life.
All in all, the following Monday night after July 17th’s proves to be one of the most intriguing in a while, for CM Punk, for WWE, and for the fans. It’s been a great ride throughout this storyline, and if it’s the end of it, it still as the potential promise of another awesome beginning. But for now? After 5 years of being the one of the best in the ring, one of the best on the mic, and the oft-coveted title of being one of the Best in the World…go home, Punk, and rest on your laurels. You deserve it.
HDNet announced last night that Bobby Lashley will face former UFC fighter Eddie Sanchez in the main event of a 7/29 live show from Kansas City’s Memorial Hall.
Bobby Lashley looks to build off the momentum from his last fight and re-assert himself as a heavyweight contender. Lashley had been making his transition from the world of professional wrestling to the world of mixed martial arts look easy with pummeling first round victories over MMA mainstays like Wes Sims and Bob Sapp. However, a TKO loss to Chad Griggs last August brought into question Lashley’s conditioning, as well as his progression as an overall fighter. The 250-pound wrestler failed to display any comfort or knowledge in a submission game despite having several chances to possibly finish Griggs in that manner. Lashley bounced back with a decision victory over John Ott back in March, but exhibited the same factors of fatigue and questionable commitment. It should be noted that Ott was also a Middleweight fighter who struggled to put weight on to be in the same ballpark of size as the mammoth Lashley.
Lashley’s opponent, the 12-5 Eddie Sanchez, will prove a more legitimate heavyweight competitor for the former WWE superstar. Sanchez fought with the UFC from 2006 to 2008, but only amounted a 3-3 record during his time there. After coming up on the losing end in his last two fights, a victory over the brand name of Lashley could be the boost Sanchez is looking for to put him back on track.
It was reported earlier this week that the captivating Chael Sonnen is finally free of all suspensions (and most legal troubles) and will return to fight Brian Stann at UFC 136 in Houston, Texas. For those that may not recall, Sonnen’s last fight was a Middleweight Title shot against Anderson Silva in August of last year in which he thumped the champion for 4 1/2 rounds before being lured into a triangle submission. Not only was Sonnen regarded as having had the fight won on points up to that moment, but he also quickly asserted himself as a budding superstar by dominating Silva in a manner no one had seen before in the octagon.
The video embedded above is an interview done by MMA weekly with Dana White regarding Sonnen’s issues with the California State Athletic Commission. In regards to this report, the main commentary to focus on comes from about the 2:50 mark onward. At that point of the interview White discusses the window of opportunity that Sonnen had presented to him by his performance against Silva and how the punishments imposed by the CSAC cut Sonnen’s chances to become a star and to make a hefty income. The point is actually two-fold as not only would Sonnen had benefitted personally, but the UFC itself would’ve had a budding Middleweight feud at a time when the division was in dire need of a threat to Silva’s reign. With Yushin Okami next on deck for Silva as a serviceable opponent, Nate Marquardt chased from the division after poor performances, and an elite level GSP still refusing to move up 15 pounds, a dominant returning performance from Sonnen could hopefully ignite interest in both the division and in a feud with Silva.
The latter part of 1997 was an epic turning point in the world of professional wrestling. WWF mainstay Bret Hart had defected to “greener” pastures, deciding to take on a large contract rather than remain under the wing of Vince McMahon. Bret, who was WWF Champion at the time, had hoped to leave on his terms without having to put over and drop the belt to Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series in November. Instead, Bret would retain the title through some manner of schmoz finish and then drop the belt the following evening on Monday Night Raw. Vince McMahon had allegedly reluctantly agreed to this behind closed doors.
As the main event unfolded, Bret was put into a Sharpshooter submission hold by Shawn Michaels, which was Bret’s own finish, and cited much ire from the Montreal crowd. As the Hitman went to continue the spot as devised and reverse the hold, Vince McMahon came running to the ring, ordering the match to be called and for Shawn Michaels to be given the title. Bret stared in amazement and shock as Michaels fled from the ring in an aggravated and perplexed demeanor. With garbage beginning to flood the ring with a chorus of boos, Hart would spit on Vince McMahon and spell out “WCW” in the air towards the hard camera. In a highly debated “shoot,” Bret Hart’s legacy in the WWF was effectively put on hold and he would be mocked in the WWF/E for nearly a decade following.
Both the WWF and WCW would use this event to change the course of their companies. In the WWF, the “Mr. McMahon” character was ignited versus the rising “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and the Shawn Michaels-led DeGeneration-X would gain more momentum heading into WrestleMania 14. In WCW, the tarnished image of Bret Hart would be used as a tool interjected into the nWo vs. Sting storyline. One company would grow stronger from their creative take on the situation, the other would begin a slippery slope that it would never quite recover from.
Starrcade 1997 was meant to be a turning point for the battle between the nWo and the WCW roster. With Sting returning to assert himself as the necessary combatant to Hulk Hogan, the remaining talent that hadn’t crossed to the dark side used The Stinger as a rallying point. If Sting can get past his demons to return to glory, then certainly the other talent can do the same. The two important clashes between nWo and WCW on the undercard to Hogan-Sting were Diamond Dallas Page versus Curt Hennig for the United States Title, and an encounter between Eric Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko with control of Monday Nitro on the line. Bret Hart would make his first impact on the show as special referee for that match.
From the in-ring standpoint, DDP defeated Hennig to bring the US title back into the realm of WCW. In the worked-shoot world, Zbyszko scored a disqualification victory over Bischoff (via ruling of Bret Hart) and earned WCW control once again of their flagship program. Momentum was clearly gaining on the WCW side and the tyranny of the nWo was heavily reeling. All that remained in their favor was the World Heavyweight Title that Hulk Hogan still had in his possession.
WCW certainly made a spectacle of Sting’s return to the ring. Following the typical entrance of Hogan, fans were met with a lightning show depicting a scorpion crawling its way around the skies of the MCI Center in Washington, DC. No longer an outcast to his home, Sting would enter to the ring through the entrance way, almost as if he had granted himself the privilege to finally exist among the rest of the wrestlers. In grand fashion and to much enthusiasm from the crowd, Sting entered the ring and finally stood face-to-face with the man that helped orchestrate the destruction of his character and the destruction of the only wrestling company he had ever known. It was in this moment that loyalty had to shrine through on either side of the coin. Whether it be from the man to the company, or the company to the man, Sting was owed his retribution, and the company owed it to themselves to let him have it.
Somewhere along the road, however, the company lost sight of what it was trying to accomplish. Whether it is attributed to the politics of Hogan, the naivety of the creative team, or the cockiness of Eric Bischoff as a competitor to Vince McMahon’s WWF, the conclusion of the Hogan-Sting contest would be nothing more than a let down to anyone who followed the masterful angle to that point.
The body of the match went along as typically would’ve been expected, even with the usual heel referee of Nick Patrick governing over it. With the limitations of a worker like Hogan up against the time off Sting had for the sake of the angle, there was really never any expectation of a knock down-drag out war that could really embody the nature of the angle. Hogan worked with his usual eye pokes and back rakes, and Sting worked in flares of emotion and babyface excitement to briefly burst out of the self-loathing character he was portraying. If anything, Sting’s subtle bursts were very well done by situating himself still within the context of his character, but also exposing glimpses of the old Sting to those that wanted to see him burst from his shell.
The build of the match fell apart following one of Sting’s only true hope spots. After hitting Sting with a vertical suplex, Hogan attempted to heel up the crowd and rile them by turning his back to the babyface and giving them a double bicep flex. Sting, meanwhile, had no-sold the move, returned to his feet, gave the icon a crotch chop gesture and proceeded to beat Hollywood down in the corner. As the fans rallied behind Sting, Hogan would end the barrage with a simple eye poke, followed by dumping Sting outside the ring.
Hogan would then take Sting around the ring and put more and more heat on the situation. He whipped Sting into the post, mocked him with his own t-shirt, beat him with his own bat, sent him reeling over and over again. In one shining moment, Sting reversed an irish whip, sending Hogan into the steel barrier. With a running start, Sting took flight to attempt a Stinger Splash on the champion, but was instead met with the cold steel as Hogan ducked away at the last second. The beating continued on the floor until Hogan decided to bring the match back into the ring.
Here was the moment for the tables to turn. Here, after over a year away from the ring and after over a year of the nWo crushing the WCW roster, here was the moment for Sting to break free from the pit he was stuck in. After being beaten down and mocked all the way around the ring for the past 5 minutes, a journey that summed up the character’s journey over the past year, now was the time to fire back. This was the moment for WCW’s savior, for its’ conquering hero, to return to form, howl at the rafters and once again assume his role as WCW Champion and for WCW to assume its role as the dominant faction.
Just as the moment was right to allow the crowd to become unglued and cheer on the man they had wanted to see destroy Hogan for 14 months, Hogan would hit Sting with a big boot. Hogan cupped his ear at each side of the ring as Sting was motionless on the mat. As Hogan bounced off the ropes, everyone assumed Sting would move out of the way and then begin the epic comeback that was due. Instead, he was met with the same leg drop that other competitors to Hogan had met metaphorically in the past. Hogan went for the cover as the crowd awaited the gigantic kickout that Sting was sure to do. Nick Patrick went down for his patented fast three count, except this time it wasn’t fast at all.
1 …2 …3. Hulk Hogan had just pinned Sting or, the company man that was due his title run was sabotaged, or the damned babyface that was to the conquer the unstoppable evil was silenced. The crowd was confused, as was anyone else who understood how effective story telling should unfold.
With Bret Hart still at ringside, the Hitman interjected once again to stop the time keeper from ringing the bell. Audibly screaming “I’m not gonna let it happen again” in reference to both Nick Patrick’s fast counts and his own Montreal Screw job, the Hitman laid waste to Patrick and threw Hogan back in the ring for the match to restart with himself as the new referee. Two minutes behind schedule and finally occurring at a time where whatever happened was essentially worthless, Sting roared with a Stinger Splash on Hogan in the corner. Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton of the nWo ran out to intervene, with Sting dropping both with hard right hands, and Norton having noticeably no enthusiasm to be featured for a brief appearance.
With the henchmen done with, Sting hit Hogan with another Stinger Splash, then followed with a Scorpion Deadlock, seemingly in ode to Bret. Bret quickly checked on Hogan who then submitted in rather quick fashion. Sting was crowned the new WCW Heavyweight Champion as the entire WCW locker room made their way to the ring to celebrate their hero.
WCW caught a lot of grief back then for the booking of the match just as they continue to today. In context of the story, the obvious route was for Sting to return and overcome the oppression that Hogan and the nWo had been pushing on WCW for the past year. After a year of waiting, of zipping down from the rafters, of taking out the nWo during their beatdowns of others performers, this was the moment for the Sting character to finally win in an “official” standing in the world of professional wrestling. This was the epic, climactic battle that rather than assert Sting as the worthy victor, instead condemned him further as just another guy that couldn’t get the job done.
Imagine, if you will, that Rocky doesn’t win versus Apollo Creed. The underdog, spit on his entire way through, given grief from everybody and from all angles, comes to the climax of the biggest boxing match of his life, and fails to overcome the odds. This was WCW’s “Rocky,” and rather than put the crown on the character in the most logical manner, they instead opted to screw the character over and deny both that character of his proper retribution, and the fans of the ending that they couldn’t wait to see happen.
Assuming the finish was done at the behest of Hogan, either for his own political propaganda or the fear of his character looking weak, everything that occured after the first pinfall could’ve happened logically without needing that first pinfall to occur.
– Bret Hart had no reason to be involved in the match, period. He was useful for the Bischoff-Zbyszko match to help WCW reclaim Nitro, but the only purpose he served in the Sting-Hogan match was to simply be used as a reminder of what occurred in Montreal a month earlier. He offered no real advantage to the WCW side of things in that context. Any WCW talent could’ve been appointed in the role that he was if they had really believed in working that into the finish of the match. In fact, in context of the year-long story arc, it would’ve made more sense to have a “true” WCW talent as Bret should theoretically have no moral interest in either side of the battle at this point.
– The run-in from nWo talent would’ve been logical and expected before Sting would get his pinfall. That was the M.O. of the faction from day one. Sting could’ve easily thwarted their attempts on him during a comeback on Hogan, in fact it would’ve added to Sting’s prowess as a Super Babyface that was finally going to save WCW and himself. Furthermore, the laziness of the run-in is quite unsettling to watch. Scott Norton in particular is very clearly uninterested with playing his role for the run-in. He strolls slowly to the ring, enters extremely slowly through the ropes, takes one punch, bumps, rolls out, then is noticeably fine on the outside of the ring as he walks at an agonizingly slow pace and clearly watched Sting continue to finish off his faction’s leader. If this was done on purpose as a jab to WCW for his dislike of the match and angle, so be it, but there needs to be commitment to the story you’re telling, no matter how small your role is in it.
– The crowd erupts in a massive pop after Sting is declared champion. It could be pure speculation, but the pop seemed to be in reaction to the expectation that Sting was expected to beat Hogan anyhow. It doesn’t appear the crowd was going nuts for that entire finish sequence, but rather going nuts because they finally saw what they were waiting all night for: Sting to defeat his demons, defeat Hogan, and defeated the nWo.
The holes in the match and the story weren’t just noticeable to a keen eye, but also noticeable to the average fan. It was following Starrcade 1997, and also in conjunction with a number of other questionable booking moves, that WCW would start to lose its superiority over the WWF. While it would be unjust to purely peg the booking of this match as the sole reason for WCW’s decline, it did strike a major blow to their progress. From this point, the nWo just continued to exist in a limbo state, Sting’s character moved in an undefinable direction, and Bret Hart just existed on a roster of guys where a good percentage did exactly the same – just existed. The failure to progress led WCW into stagnation and stagnation was a trait that would cling to them until 2001.
Last night, Jon Jones continued his domination of the Light Heavyweight division by defeating champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua to claim the title. Jones was entering the match as a highly touted favorite, with some feeling he was even over-hyped. However, a little over a minute into the first round, Jones executed a beautiful takedown that seemed to instantly break the spirit of the champion. For the remaining two rounds Jones enjoyed some target practice before landing a knee and punches that took Rua out for good. The moment will surely be a lasting memory for Jones, the match itself, however, may be quickly forgotten as the UFC moves forward to the big showdown on April 30th in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, between welterweight titan Georges St. Pierre and the only remaining threat in the division, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields.
Mid-way through the show last night was the debut of the vignette for the match, which you’ll find embedded above. The piece is quite masterfully done, as have been the vignettes for previous GSP fights, most notably his recent destruction of Josh Koscheck months ago. Whether it’s the influence of GSP’s people, or just the brilliance of the UFC production staff, or both, these videos wonderfully sum up the story of both men leading to their battle.
The opening for Shields reveals his accomplishments through his career to date. There are titles, medals, and headlines, all summing up what Shields has accomplsihed in his career to date. He rolls with a partner on the mat, applying an armbar amidst shadows. Small steaks of light allow a clear enough vision to witness Shields transition over into a rear naked choke. He quietly emerges victor in a “smaller” promotion over the likes of Jason Miller, Yushin Okami, Robbie Lawler and Dan Henderson. They are certainly no cast of characters to sneeze at, yet Shields remains in the background to a larger MMA athlete.
St. Pierre enters in grand fashion with an almost flamboyant display, executing a jumping spin kick. No partner to roll with, no grind on the mat, but rather a kip up off the mat in a further exhibition of athleticism. A shot of Josh Koscheck’s battered face floods the screen, and then a witness to the dismantling of the man who chirped endlessly of ending the reign of GSP. The crowd stands and roars, but Shields only casually stands up and exits the stands to the tunnels of the arena. Once there, yet again alone and unnoticed, Shields passes by St. Pierre and the cameras and media that surround the victorious Welterweight Champion. Each man glances at the other, neither breaking stride, and continue on their paths.
In one minute and one second, the UFC was quickly able to capture the essence of both men as they head towards their climax on April 30th. One man, GSP, is the highly regarded champion. He’s has accomplished all he can and dominated all that have challenged him. He has earned attention and glorification for what he has done in the past several years in the UFC. Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, St. Pierre is on another level that seems virtually unattainable just as his skills leave him almost untouchable.
The other man, the challenger Jake Shields, watches from the shadows as he accumulates victories and trophies, none of which matter or compare when going up against GSP for a UFC title. He trains and continues to grind, waiting for his moment to shine on the ultimate stage for the ultimate belt (no pun intended).
The fight, and both characters involved in it, are captured so well in that one little minute, that it’s almost unnecessary to even know anything else of either fighter. Something even more impressive, especially given the purchase of Strikeforce last week, is the ability for the vignette to subtlely send a message that “Accomplishing anything here in UFC is the pinnacle, no other promotion matters” without burying any other promotion. The video is an impressive microchasm of Dana White’s ability as a promoter. Hopefully the fight itself will live up to the polish of the vignette that promotes it so well.
Jon Jones is arguably the fastest rising and improving star that the UFC has under its banner. After beginning his UFC career with decision victories over Andre Gusmao and Ultimate Fighter I alum Stephan Bonnar, “Bones” would go on a tear through the UFC Light Heavyweight Division. Jake O’Brien would fall to Jones in two rounds at UFC 100, followed by a hiccup of a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, which remains the only tarnish on his record. The Hamill fight wasn’t even a loss in the true sense of the word, as Jones was dominating the accomplished wrestler before throwing a “12-6” elbow to the head which had been recently dubbed illegal. Hamill was unable to continue after the blow and thus the fight was called. Jones, however, as respectful and humble as he is skilled, took the loss in stride and promised to work harder for his next fight.
The next contest for Jones was UFC vet Brandon Vera on the UFC debut on the Versus network. All the experience in the world, however, wouldn’t stop Vera’s obrital bone from crushing under the force of a Jones elbow. Bones only let the man last half a round. A short four-and-a-half months later, Jones would make similiar work of Vladimir Matyushenko: Round one, elbows. Jones was drawing quick comparisons to the domination of Anderson Silva in the Middleweight Division with fans speculating that he should earn a title shot to match his rising status. Dana White understood this quite well and chose to refrain from injecting Jones into the title picture too quickly. Instead, White made a point to mention that he would hold off on Jones for another year and see where his progression was then.
Perhaps regarded as the first “true” test of his career, Jones was pitted against the undefeated Ultimate Fighter winner, Ryan Bader, at UFC 126 back in February. Bader had recently defeated the former PRIDE fighter Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by using his superior wrestling techniques and improved striking. Where Bader had dominated with his strength and size in the past, he met his match with an equally strong and incredibly elusive Jon Jones. Jones used Bader’s own game plan against him, controlling Bader’s body and eventually submitting him in the 2nd round.
Dana White at the moment was facing a light heavyweight dilemma. The champion, Shogun Rua, was set to defend the belt against perennial contender and former champion Rashad Evans. Evans, however, was forced to withdraw due to an injury in training. Having seen Jones dominate another title contender, White jumped at the oppurtunity in the post-fight interview and asked Jones if he would take the title shot in March against Shogun. Jones excitedly accepted.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s entrance into the UFC wasn’t quite as regarded as that of Jones. A highly toutued acquisition from the purchase of Pride: Fighting Championships, Rua was a top performer than many UFC fans were excited to see finally compete in the States. With victories in Pride over such fighters as “Rampage” Jackson, Alistair Overeem and the aforementioned Nogueira, many fans were expecting a light heavyweight title shot rather quickly. Instead, Shogun was given a fight with Ultimate Fighter I winner Forrest Griffin at UFC 76. Meant to be a “test” fight, Rua went from title contention to stepping stone as Griffin shocked the MMA world and submitted Rua late in the 3rd round.
As Griffin went on to defeat Rampage Jackson and become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Rua found himself removed from the title picture and having to claw his way back up. It would be a little over a year before he would get an oppurtunity to prove himself worthy of the title. To achieve his high status once again, Shogun had to fight his way through two UFC veterans and hall of famers, and he did so in impressive fashion.
Fans would be privileged to see Rua defeat Mark Coleman by TKO at UFC 93. He would make even quicker work of former Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell, TKO’ing the Iceman in round one of UFC 97. Now back to form, Rua was awarded a title shot against Champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 104. It was a long 25 months since the defeat at the hands of Forrest Griffin. The two waged war for five full rounds, each round closer than the previous. When the dust cleared and the score cards were turned in, a chorus of boos flooded the arena as Lyoto Machida was declared the winner and still champion.
All the work Rua put in would not be lost, though. Dana White realized the severity of the situation and the potential draw of another Machida-Rua contest and decided to book a rematch for the title. Much like his first three UFC fights, Rua’s two against Machida would move in the same progression. Fight one – Go the distance, reach defeat. Fight two – One round, one winner. At UFC 133 on May 8, 2010, Mauricio Rua finally achieved the title that could’ve been his two years prior as he defeated Lyoto Machida by KO midway through the first round.
To perhaps put the Light Heavyweight Title fight tonight in a tag line, you could say it’s “Adversity vs. Domination.” The borderline unstoppable Jon Jones seems heir apparent to the throne. He’s made short work of every fighter he has come across, and done so in absolutely dominating fashion. The most impressive thing to note in Jones’ fights are that he doesn’t simply strike his way to victory, he dominates his opponents physically, imposes his will, and then strikes the death blows while in a superior position. Jones has incredible striking ability, but he wins his fights by using overwhelming ground and pound and forcing his opponents into a defensive position that they can’t escape. He’s quick, powerful, smart, and getting better with each passing day, a hard combination to overcome for any fighter.
Rua’s biggest advantage could be that he is both very experienced and legitimately the toughest opponent yet for Jones. As noted, he’s struggled through his UFC career, having both moments of sheer domination, and moments of catastrophy. What it may boil down to for Rua’s camp is which Shogun comes to fight tonight. While absolutely deserving of the title he currently holds, his wins over aging stars like Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell seem more foregone conclusion rather than absolute assertion that he is capable of handling a young buck like Jones.
We here at DBB endorse victory of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
Urijah Faber Makes UFC Debut
Another draw for the card is the official UFC debut of “The California Kid” Urijah Faber. Faber had been a dominate fighter at 135, and a poster boy for the WEC. Up until the purchase of WEC by Zuffa, it seemed unfortunate that a fighter like Faber wouldn’t have a big league outlet like UFC to compete in. He’s always had all the elements of being a major star to promote: Dominate fighter, great hair, great look – he’s made to be a central figure to promote around. Now, with the absorbing of the WEC promotion, Faber will compete on his first UFC card against Eddie Wineland. The California Kid is carrying some momentum, coming off a first round submission victory over Takeya Mizugaki from back in November. Wineland, by contrast, is barreling through with a freight train, riding a four match winning streak, with most recently a first round knockout via body slam. Faber’s recent losses have only been to the like of elite talent such as Mike Brown and Jose Aldo, so one would assume he could outclass the rising Wineland to victory.
Fights To Watch
Nate Marquardt is still wandering around in the Middleweight title picture. After his 21 second knockout of Damien Maia in 2009, Marquardt was lobbying pretty hard for Anderson Silva’s head, claiming himself the proverbial giant killer. His ability didn’t quite match his hype as Chael Sonnen defeated him by decision to swipe the title shot away from him. Since then, Nate earned a questionable TKO victory over Rousimar Palhares back in September, followed by a coma-inducing split decision loss to Yushin Okami in November. Tonight he faces the 13-4 Dan Miller, who is riding a two-fight win streak. Miller is on the rise, but Marquardt needs to pick up a victory here to even dream of getting back into the Middleweight title picture.
Mirko CroCop takes on Brendan Schaub in a heavyweight bout. Since the Pride merger years ago, CroCop never lived up to the reputation his built himself over in Japan. His last fight was an excurciating romp with Frank Mir, where Mir chose to find a way to out-strike the KO legend to prove a point, rather than possibly finish him quickly on the ground. It’s hard to say whether it’s CroCop’s age that’s slowing him down or his motivation to continue to fight, but either way Brendan Schaub seems a perfect fit as an opponent. The Ultimate Fighter runner-up will either be made a spectacle of, in hopes that the old Mirko will come out to shine, or will pull out a win over the former PRIDE Champion and give himself a small space to stand amongst the heavyweight title contenders.
View the remaining card here: Sherdog.com
We will be live tweeting during the event, so be sure to check us out on twitter @donnybrookboys