Photo by April Pishna via MMA Weekly
Going into the UFC on Versus, two of the UFC's fastest rising young stars faced a pair of still-formidable veterans who had seen better days but some questioned if Jon Jones and Junior Dos Santos were for real. Brandon Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga were expected to present formidable tests. Both Jones and Dos Santos proved themselves apt pupils of mixed martial arts and passed their exams with flying colors.
Dos Santos, a 25 year old Brazilian, has officially set the UFC heavyweight division on notice that a fearsome set of boxing skills is loose in their midst. He blasted the much bigger Gonzaga with repeated shots to the body, escaped a take down attempt and then caught Gonzaga flush with a blasting left hand as Gonzaga fired a leg kick and dropped his guard.
A potential number one contender's match against Cain Velasquez could be in "Cigano" dos Santos' future. Frank Mir and Shane Carwin will fight for the interim heavyweight belt at UFC 111 and then face champion Brock Lesnar in a title unification bout. A match between dos Santos, the protege of former UFC and PRIDE champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Velasquez, the man who brutally beat down Nogueira at UFC 110, seems like a natural fight to be added to the UFC 116 card featuring Lesnar vs Mir/Carwin.
As for Jon Jones, the 22 year old is still too green for title contention, and the UFC light heavyweight division is amazingly packed. He still has a very tall ladder to climb to get near Lyoto Machida's title when fighters such as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Rashad Evans, Anderson Silva and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira are all vying for a shot.
The opponents I'd most like to see Jones face aren't in the UFC unfortunately. Strikeforce's light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi and his next challenger Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal are much more appropriate challenges for the fast-rising Jones. Mousasi has certainly faced by far the most formidable opposition, but he, Lawal and Jones are all incredibly athletic and much less experienced than most of the top contenders in the UFC's 205lb class.
I'd personally like to see Jones face a Thiago Silva or Luis Cane next. That fight, if he wins it, should be Jones' last against an opponent coming off a loss for a long time.
The rest of the main UFC on Versus 1 card didn't really have much significance. Most fans expected Cheick Kongo to show Paul Buentello by just how much the UFC's heavyweight division has improved since the "Head Hunter" left the promotion in 2006. Sakara and Irvin failed to deliver the hoped for dynamite, despite being ended by a beautiful widow-maker of a punch by Sakara -- who has now won three consecutive victories in the UFC.
Making the telecast from the undercard, John "Dooms Day" Howard finished UFC debutante Daniel Roberts with a savage series of punches on the ground in what had been a very competitive match. Howard is now 4-0 in the UFC and will likely get his long-awaited shot at Anthony "Rumble" Johnson next.
In other undercard action, TUF veteran Brandon Schaub showed Chase Gormley his UFC walking papers in less than a minute. The popular Clay Guida showed a new dimension to his game, finishing Shanon Gugerty via arm triangle. Eliot Marshall looked soporific in a loss to the world's most tedious good fighter Vladimir Matyushenko.