What a year for Jon Jones, eh? In three trips into the Octagon he crushed TUF winner Ryan Bader like an empty can of Diet Coke, smashed Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and took his belt, and demolished Quinton Jackson in the kind of title defense that resembled more of a mugging than a fight. And now, with UFC 140 slated for Saturday night, “Bones” once more gets to flex his unmatched talent and ever-improving skill against karate’s last great representative in Lyoto Machida. Man, oh man, Machida is going to get obliterated. But more on that in a second. First, a little lip service to the other fighters on the card, such as the aging Tito Ortiz, the stalwart Nogueira brothers, the intrepid Frank Mir and the undead Chan Sung Jung, all of whom make for the kind of rock-solid fight roster that the UFC only gives us once every few months and must be savored now that it’s upon us. It should be great, it should be grand, and at the end of the night, light-heavyweight champ Jones is going to add another name to his “confirmed kill” list. Preview time!
-Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida – We thought Bader was going to test Jones’ wrestling, and Jones tossed the poor guy around like a ragdoll. We assumed Shogun was going to Muay Thai the hell out of the American youngster, and instead Jones out-struck him. And we guessed that maybe, just maybe Rampage was going to be able to land some of his dangerous counter-punches, but nothing even came close, and with his impossibly-long limbs Jones beat him up from the halfway across the cage. What, then, will Machida offer to challenge the champ? Clearly, the former 205-pound champ, who got KO’d by Shogun and slightly outworked by Rampage before knocking out the ancient Randy Couture to earn his title shot, has got his karate. So there’s probably some katas “The Dragon” knows that will give Jones pause in a kind of “what the hell is this guy doing” way. Regardless, Machida is doomed. The only question is how Jones wants to end it (stunning strike or submission after said strike?) and when.
-Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – When not getting pounded out by behemoths, ex-champ Mir is usually employing ace submissions and chin-checking strikes to great effect. “Big Nog”, meanwhile, is like a battered old warhorse that still has the occasional successful charge in him (see: Brendan Schaub), but more often than not shows his age. That, and the fact that when last these two guys met Mir was feeding him enough knuckle-sandwiches to feed a cafeteria of starving third graders (if kids ate those kinds of sandwiches), does not bode well for the beloved Brazilian. Watch for Mir to need over two rounds to put away Nogueira this time around, and for everyone – Mir included – to feel bad about hurting one of the nicest guys in the sport afterwards.
-Tito Ortiz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – The clock is ticking on Ortiz, and though he’s evolved and now wields a sufficient amount of standup to stun those who aren’t expecting it, his wrestling ability has faded like an old “Clash: Combat Rock” T-shirt that your mom has washed about a thousand times since the late 1980s. Sadly, “Little Nog” is fantastic at boxing (he medaled in boxing at the Pan American Games, which means he can throw leather), and his lone weakness for unstoppable wrestlers provides for a riddle that Ortiz no longer has the answer for. Sure, the former light-heavyweight champ likely has a few double-legs left in him, but after the first round, if Nogueira is still around, Ortiz is dead meat. And therein lies the prediction: Little Nog via TKO in Round 3.
-Brian Ebersole vs. Claude Patrick – In 15 bouts, Canadian Patrick has lost only once, and that was back in 2002. Now he’s a damn good sub machine, and a threat to anyone. Ebersole, however, is not everyone. He’s got 64 fights to his name, and is riding a nine-fight win streak that includes Octagon victories over Chris Lytle and Dennis Hallman. Unless Patrick casts a Magic Missile spell or uses heretofore unknown mutant powers, he’s got nothing Ebersole hasn’t already seen and figured out how to deal with. Ebersole is getting the decision here, and he’s going to look calm, cool and collected while doing it.
-Chan Sung Jung vs. Mark Hominick – Hominick took a monstrous beating at the hands (and shins) of champ Jose Aldo, but would not give up and even poured it on the featherweight king in the last round of their UFC 129 scrap. Jung, a.k.a. the “Korean Zombie”, is cut from similar cloth in that he keeps coming until he’s unconscious. Where does that leave us? Thankfully, with something that promises to be exciting and satisfying, although given Jung’s somewhat sloppy striking defense, it could end anytime Hominick draws a bead on him. I see the Canadian KOing the Korean, but it should be fun until then.