Jon Jones began his career three years ago fighting Brad Bernard and Parker Porter -- names that sound like superhero alter-egos -- in venues across the Northeast. In one month, he fights Mauricio Rua for the UFC's light heavyweight title. It's a 13-fight career that is spectacular in the audaciousness of its rise.
But Jones does not travel on an unbeaten path.
"Shogun" Rua sat in a similar position in June of 2005. It was then that he met Antonio Rogerio Nogueira as a 23-year-old budding superstar in the quarterfinals of the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix tournament. Two months prior, he blitzed past Quinton Jackson in the tournament's opening round. He entered the fight equipped with a 9-1 record, with all of his wins by KO or TKO stoppage and the lone loss to Renato Sobral in the second round of a one-day tournament in September of 2003.
Nogueira compiled an 11-1 record in the shadow of his twin brother, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- a record which included victories over Dan Henderson and Alistair Overeem in his last two fights. It was a meeting between two of the very best 205-pound fighters in the world, and that Nogueira was a member of Brazilian Top Team -- bitter rivals of "Shogun's" Chute Boxe Academy -- only added to the dramatics.
The fight delivered in unexpected ways. While "Shogun" was known for an unrelenting Muay Thai attack, it was Nogueira who found the better of the standup, including a picture-perfect right hook three minutes into the first round. And while Rogerio carried the weight of Nogueira jiu-jitsu, it was "Shogun" who controlled the mat work, planting his counterpart on the floor over and over again from the clinch.
Early in the third round, referee Moritaka Oshiro stood the fighters up in order to check a cut on around Nogueira's right eye. The area around the eye had begun to swell and redden, and we caught a mirror image when cameras put "Shogun" into frame. After back-and-forth action in the first fifteen minutes, it looked as if the judges would be forced to evaluate between the bursts of clean, effective striking from Nogueira and the accumulation of "Shogun's" ground and pound.
"Shogun" was breathing heavily when the fight restarted, and Nogueira began countering his leg kicks with punching combinations to the face. Nogueira tagged Rua in multiple exchanges before leaving his right hand down as he threw a straight left. "Shogun" pounced on the opening, dropping Nogueira with a left of his own.
Nogueira would recover and push the pace after Oshiro stood them up again with just over two minutes left in the fight. With time winding down, Nogueira found himself on "Shogun's" back after a failed clinch takedown attempt, but an ill-advised soccer kick led to "Shogun" taking him down and ending the fight on top.
"Shogun" would go on to fulfill his destiny by taking out Alistair Overeem in the semifinals before making short work -- and avenging Chute-Boxe-teammate Wanderlei Silva -- of Ricardo Arona in the tournament final.
This is the legacy that Jon Jones will try to repeat and Mauricio Rua will try to protect on March 19th.
Check out the fight after the jump.