After 17 years of UFC offerings in the United States, we may finally have our Muhammad Ali. At least, that’s the recurring theme whenever Jon Jones’ dominant performance over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128 is discussed. And perhaps those sentiments are based more in fact than fantasy. Consider this: in his short time in the sport Jones has rocketed up the food chain, racking up six wins in three months of minor league toil to earn his berth in the Octagon. Once in the UFC, he put in such masterful – and thrilling – performances that before he even hit the three-year mark of MMA competition, he was fighting light-heavyweight champ Shogun for the title. The most telling component of his tale, however, is that Jones makes it look so easy. No one ever tossed Stephan Bonnar and Matt Hamill around with such authority, no one ever manhandled Vladimir Matyushenko and Ryan Bader with such ease, and no one ever came close to destroying Pride FC champ Rua on the feet the way Jones did. There’s talent, and there’s talent mixed with panache and flair. The UFC’s new 205-pound champ has the latter, and if he keeps on wrecking opponents, the 23-year old may soon have to change his nickname to “the Greatest”.
Urijah Faber’s armor of invincibility has chinks in it, even at his new weight of 135 pounds, but he managed to get the job done against Eddie Wineland, securing himself a title shot in a division new to the average UFC pay-per-view consumer. Heavyweight up-and-comer Brendan Schaub got the job done as well, putting away the aged warrior Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic for good after taking a few lumps, and Nate Marquardt dodged Dan Miller’s best to grind out a win via decision. But aside from the superstar performance of Jones, if anyone on UFC 128’s main card deserved accolades, it was lightweight contender Jim Miller.
Vaunted for both his power and his durability, Kamal Shalorus was by no means a contender, but he was one tough customer nonetheless. Yet Miller was never in trouble in their match-up, and after ruling over the Iranian on the ground like an angry despot, the New Jersey native found Shalorus’ heretofore unseen “button” and dispatched him on the feet. There’s a line of championship contenders stretching around the block (actually, it’s just Gray Maynard and Anthony Pettis right now, with maybe Clay Guida in the mix). Where does Miller fit in? Presently, his job may be to knock unworthy lightweights off the promotions swollen roster.
And as a fan of slick submissions and cringe-worthy knockouts, that’s just fine by me.