We saw the future last night at UFC 126 as Jon Jones announced to the world that he was ready to challenge the UFC's very best. Jones completely outclassed a game Ryan Bader, controlling almost every second of their two round fight. Jones set the tone early, showing the former NCAA All American that he wouldn't even have the wrestling advantage. He made it look easy, putting Bader on his back and continuously looking for submissions and his already legendary elbows.
Jones was the better fighter in all areas, winning the wrestling battle, landing strikes whenever he wanted, and becoming the first man to make Bader submit, using a vicious top control guillotine to secure a victory. The fight was never in question; the real drama came after the bout was all over. UFC color man Joe Rogan shocked the world, announcing to the crowd and a stunned Jones that the young star would fill in for injured teammate Rashad Evans in a title bout against Mauricio Rua next month.
A surprised Jones dropped to his knees in thanks. It was the most memorable post fight moment since Georges St. Pierre did the same thing, begging the UFC brass for a title shot against Matt Hughes years ago. Is Jones ready for the champion? Although he's never fought anyone on Rua's level, signs point to yes.
Two former champions squared off in the fight immediately following Jones-Bader. Both Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin appeared to be fighting underwater, almost moving in slow motion compared to the slick Jones. It was a contrast that wouldn't escape any careful observer. Jones would wreck Franklin or Griffin. A healthy Rua is on another level entirely, but my money would be on Jones to use his reach and his wrestling to control that bout as well.
Jones has all the tools to become an all-time great. His coaches rave, not just about his physical ability, but about his smarts, composure, and work ethic as well. Are fans ready for the Jon Jones era? It could begin next month and last a very, very long time.
After the break, more thoughts on a stacked card.
- Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter in the UFC's long history. He danced around Vitor Belfort, luring him into a false sense of security. And then, like the spider he's named for, Silva struck like lightning, landing a front kick he claims to have learned from movie star Steven Seagal. It was an incredible knockout, just another great moment in a career filled with them.
Miguel Torres was extraordinarily cautious against a sleepwalking Antonio Banuelas. There's nothing wrong with working off a jab. Hell, I'm a guy with a seven disc DVD collection of Larry Holmes fights. But you have to actually work off the jab. If you jab, move, then jab again, that's not work. Torres is in a transition period under the tutelage of Firas Zahabi. I expect he'll start putting it all together soon enough.
- That was an uninspired performance Jake Ellenberger put in against Carlos Rocha. Did I expect Ellenberger to get the nod by virtue of some well timed takedowns? Yes. Can I be too bothered to care that Rocha was given all three rounds on one judge's card? No. It's the kind of fight I will be happy to forget, likely by tomorrow morning.
- It was a bad night for Japan as both Michihiro Omigawa and Kid Yamamoto both fell victim to WEC mainstays. Omigawa did well against Team Alpha Male's Chad Mendes, but didn't have an answer to the wrestler's explosive athleticism. It was the same story as Demetrious Johnson outwrestled and outfought a lethargic Yamamoto.