In the lead up to the main event of UFC 128, every aspect of the fight has been analyzed and discussed. Physical characteristics of both fighters have been dissected and advantages and disadvantages have already been predetermined. Both fighters have had their emotional status evaluated and dissected. Jon Jones is arrogant, cocky, and just overall too high on himself for this stage of his career. Shogun is upset, feels looked over, and is angry that the young phenom has been crowned long before his hand is raised in victory. This is the Shogun Era, damn it.
The skill sets of both fighters have also been broken down, looking for even the minutest of advantages for either fighter. Shogun has more power, Jon Jones is more unique. Bones has the takedown prowess to bring down anyone; Shogun doesn't defend the takedown well. Both fighters have advantages and disadvantages in the clinch, Shogun with striking and Jones with grappling. No one is sure who will win the cardio battle, with the outcome really depending on whose camp was stronger and who dictates the pace.
The one factor that I have rarely seen discussed is potentially the most interesting variable in breaking down this fight. Consistency.
Consistency is a quality that some fighters possess and others severely lack. All time greats have built their reputation on the basis of being consistent. For example, Randy Couture always comes to the fight ready to fight and in shape. One thing no one ever has to talk about in the lead up for a Randy Couture fight is whether or not Randy will come out ready to fight. Win or lose, Couture is always game and prepared to apply his gameplan to the opponent at hand. Recently, Frankie Edgar is a good example of someone who is always going to show up and be on point. There aren't many surprises when Frankie Edgar fights. He is going to be fast, he is going to box and wrestle well, and he will have the cardio to last way longer than needed.
On the other hand, inconsistency has marred the careers of some of the best fighters the game has ever seen. The greatest of example has to be "The Prodigy" BJ Penn. At his best, Penn can be the best fighter to ever grace the Octagon. At his lowest, Baby Jay can deliver underwhelming performances and leave fans wondering how things can go so terribly wrong. Another fighter that comes to mind when talking about inconsistency is Vitor Belfort. Rarely is a fighter described with the hyperbole that is placed on Vitor. If one listened to someone describing all of Vitor's amazing qualities the only plausible conclusion is that he is an undefeated wrecking machine. Yet his record reflects a fighter with way too many losses that could have went a different direction.
So far in Jon Jones' career, he is been the epitome of consistent. He comes into the fight with a sound gameplan, executes it at will, and leaves his opponent wondering how he could be defeated with such ease. Also, he gets better with every appearance. Never has a Jon Jones performance been less impressive than the last. If Jon Jones has a poor performance in him, we haven't seen it yet. Nothing in his past leads anyone to believe that he will come into UFC 128 and deliver an underwhelming performance. If past history is any indicator, Jon Jones will be better in this fight than he was against Ryan Bader.
Shogun, conversely, has had a career resembling a monster roller coaster ride. At his best, Shogun is arguably one of the best fighters to ever compete. Brutal is the best word I can find as a descriptor for Shogun. Never has a fighter been so skilled, athletic, and vicious than Shogun at his peak. But that is at his peak. At his lowest, Shogun comes in out of shape and unmotivated. Part of that can be due to his knee injuries. Coming into this fight, Shogun is coming of a knee injury. Motivation shouldn't be an issue, as Jon Jones is a challenge that no one can overlook. Only time can tell. As with any fighter that can be inconsistent, we won't truly know until fight night. Fans pulling for Shogun will be looking for Rua to buck the trend of his past and come in at 100%. Any less will probably make Shogun the former light heavyweight champion.