Jon Jones is on the cusp of being a top-three pound-for-pound fighter, if not already. Leading into his title defense against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135, Jones was a heavy favorite, but many still questioned whether or not he can be the dominating champion others predicted.
Well, his last two treks to the Octagon certainly carry heavy weight when examining his spot on the list.
When he won the title, Jones bested a world-class striker in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and showed that his tricky stand-up can hold its own against top-flight opposition. Fast forward to the “Rampage” fight and he stopped someone who hadn’t been finished in years – ironically, “Shogun” was the one who last put a halt to any Jackson rampage with a stoppage.
Another interesting note is the last time Jackson lost a fight due to a submission was against Kazushi Sakuraba 10 years ago. Like his loss to Jones, Jackson fell to Sakuraba by rear naked choke.
So what’s the importance of all these “Rampage” stats? When a fighter comes in and does something that others haven’t been able to do for at least six years and finishes Jackson, that’s a hell of an accomplishment. Jones did that in Denver at UFC 135.
Then there’s always that light heavyweight championship curse of winning the belt, only to be beaten by the next guy in the first title defense. Jones beat that with a spinning back elbow on Saturday night.
“Everyone says you’re not a champion until you defend the belt, which I disagree (with),” Jones said shortly after successfully defending his title. “Now, I guess I’m the champ.”
Yes, “Bones” Jones is the champ and owns the most prominent light heavyweight belt on the planet. And even more so than before, the Jackson’s MMA 205-pounder looks like he’s incapable of being dethroned. But a still-to-be-scheduled date with former champion and one-time Jones training partner Rashad Evans looms in the champ’s near future.
According to “Rampage,” the only person he can see topping Jones at this point is the champ’s friend turned foe.
“I think Rashad is the only person that (has) a chance to beat him because Rashad trained with him before,” Jackson said during the UFC 135 post-fight press conference.
But even as Evans awaits a time and date to meet Jones in the Octagon, it’s difficult to say the light heavyweight champion isn’t already an impeccable force at 205-pounds. Because he added weight to the scale of legitimacy with a rare stoppage of someone who is rarely finished, Jon Jones is the MMAWeekly.com UFC 135 Fighter of the Night.
Honorable Mention: Nate Diaz shines despite camp distractions
The younger Diaz, despite the media circus created by repeated Nick Diaz no-shows to press conferences and UFC 137 fight swapping, persevered and finished his opposition in the first round. As if keeping one’s head in the game prior to a fight isn’t hard enough, all the distractions that took place in the weeks leading up to UFC 135 couldn’t have made it easy for Nate.
But Diaz pretty much held a “whatever, man” attitude and just kept his eyes on the prize.
“I tried to stay focused and do what I gotta do,” Diaz said after the fight.
And it was as simple as that; Diaz just kept his nose to the mat and studied up for his opposition. Gomi – a lightweight with a lot of power, but a habit of exposing himself to submissions – was someone Diaz drew up a perfect gameplan for. The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter found success on the feet against Gomi before going to the canvas. At that point, it was only a matter of time.
Diaz pulled the armbar and it was all she wrote.
It’s that type of focus that allows Nate and fellow 209 affiliates to walk and talk with the swagger they do, and earn the UFC 135 honorable mention for Fighter of the Night.
Worth a Mention: Mark Hunt is showing up to work whether the boss likes it or not
Okay, the fight between Mark Hunt and Ben Rothwell wasn’t the prettiest thing to watch. What made it even tougher to sit through was, late in the fight, Rothwell decided to bend over, put his hands on his knees, and lean on the cage like he called a 20-second timeout.
That’s only in the NBA, not the UFC… or any other combat sport, for that matter.
But it’s not the fight that sticks out for Hunt. Rather, the New Zealander had a losing record before he debuted in the UFC and has gone 2-1 since, leveling out his overall record at .500.
It would have been easy for Hunt to take the severance from Zuffa when they bought out their Japanese competitor, Pride, but he didn’t want to walk away. Instead, the former 300-pound kickboxer came to UFC president Dana White and said he wanted to compete in the Octagon. So they gave him a shot and he’s done fairly well. Mind you, the competition hasn’t been top-tier, but he’s earned his wins.
It’s difficult not to pat a guy on the back when he just wants to show up for work and do his job. Tip of the hat to Mark Hunt.