Here's my analysis of Jon Jones' performance last night originally on the Toledo MMA Examiner complete with gifs. To save your computers, I've linked to a few of the gifs and only kept the most significant ones.
Last night, Jon "Bones" Jones became the youngest man to become a UFC champion. At just 23 years old, he is now perched atop the UFC light heavyweight division after his destruction of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the main event of UFC 128. Below is my honest assessment of how everything went down.
The idea for this article sprang from the thought that perhaps Shogun's third knee surgery had something to do with his performance last night. After repeated viewings of the main event as well as Shogun's last two fights against Lyoto Machida, that simply was not the case.
Shogun's knee was fine, he just didn't get much of an opportunity to dance around and showcase it. Within five seconds of the first round, Jon Jones was already putting the champ on his heels with a flying knee and a headkick. Shogun only had a chance to throw one wild looping right hand before Jones closed the distance with a half-clinch and spun Rua to the canvas with a beautiful trip takedown.
At first, Shogun, as expected, was very aggressive from the bottom. He threw his legs up looking for a possible triangle choke and when that didn't work, Shogun went right back to work in half guard with sweep attempts. Jones, with his long legs and arms, kept a wide base and appeared unshakable.
Shogun ate some elbows from bottom when he finally saw his opportunity. Jones' legs were a little too close together and Shogun grabbed an underhook with his right arm under Jones' left leg and attempted to sweep him but Jones simply posted with his never-ending right arm and easily stayed on top. You can clearly see how hard Shogun tried to sweep Jones here by the look on his face.
After his failure to sweep, Shogun seemed resigned to stay in full guard and try to avoid damage, but this didn't work either. Jones landed a big glancing elbow to Shogun's face followed by big elbows to the body that forced the champ to put himself in a bad position as he had to get back to his feet.
On the way up, Jones threw a massive knee to the body, a knee to the face, and turned up the heat with a big flurry that ended with an Anderson Silva-esque front kick to the face.
Shogun was noticeably slowed and wobbled from this point on and Jones backed off, playing it safe. Shogun did land his most significant punch of the night, a right hook, but there wasn't nearly as much on it as he would have liked and Jones walked right through it. At the end of the round, Jones went for his patented spinning back elbow and Shogun took his back standing, dropping down for a leg lock but Jones easily stepped out of it and took top position.
Jones opened the second round with three consecutive kicks, a leg kick which Shogun checked followed by a high push kick that knocked the champ back and a side kick to the thigh.
Again, Shogun telegraphed a huge looping hook and Jones side-stepped it, pushing him into the fence. From here Jones threw a vicious spinning back left elbow followed by a straight left that was so quick it snuck through Shogun's defenses.
Shogun tried to counter by taking command of the center of the cage but he stayed on the end of Jones' leg and body kicks. Shogun threw several looping hooks but Jones stayed at the perfect distance to force Rua to hit nothing but air.
At this point in the fight, the announcers began to mention how tired Shogun looked in the cage but this wasn't a knee issue. Shogun had absorbed a TON of punishment and the accumulation was what was slowing him down. There are only so many times you can get punched, kicked and elbowed in the face.
Shogun finally attempted his first significant kick of the night but Jones timed it perfectly and punched him in the face hard with a straight left before he could even land it. After eating more punishment, Shogun attempted a kick to the body but Jones quickly grabbed his left leg and took him down.
Shogun would never attempt another kick for the remainder of the fight.
For the next 2 1/2 minutes, Jones battered Shogun from full and half guard with elbows and punches to the face and body. He also disrupted Shogun's breathing by keeping his hands and forearm on Shogun's mouth and nose. Jones closed the round with a half-hearted knee bar attempt and hit Shogun with a spinning backfist to the face right before the horn sounded.
As the third round began, Jones made his first significant mistake of the evening. A big right head kick attempt was ducked by Rua leaving Jones in poor position with Rua on his back standing. Rua immediately dove for Jones' legs with a leglock attempt and as Jones tried to spin away, Rua grabbed Jones' free left leg and took him down for the first time in his UFC career.
Jones, though, immediately turned his body, grabbed Rua's arm with a kimura attempt and shot forward with a takedown into Shogun's full guard. It was lightning quick, but very impressive.
From here, it was only a matter of time until the fight was stopped. Shogun looked exhausted and Jones really turned up the heat punishing him with big punches and elbows from full guard. This is something only a man with an 84.5" reach can pull off. Jones then landed a devastating left hand that appeared to completely suck the fight out of the champion and followed it up with serious elbows.
Shogun turtled and valiantly rose to his feet one last time but Jones sent him right back to the canvas with a nasty left hook to the body followed by a knee to the head as he was on his way down while referee Herb Dean stepped in and mercifully put a stop to the action. Shogun also taps with his left hand just after Dean pulls Jones away.
Some major points I noticed
- This was the first time in his career that Jon Jones truly utilized his ridiculous reach advantage. From start to finish he kept Shogun at bay with a quick straight left hand as well as several push and side kicks. It was a significant improvement even compared to his last fight just six weeks ago against Ryan Bader. If you thought he was scary last night, just wait til he has more time to practice it.
- Jones' elusiveness was just on another level. Time and time again, Shogun would lunge forward and swing at nothing but air. Jones would either side-step him as he waded in aggressively or he would be at the perfect distance to not even have to be concerned with Rua's punches. Considering how easily Shogun was able to hit the king of elusion Lyoto Machida, this was a tremendous feat.
- Jones diversity of striking and constant barrage of attacks kept Shogun guessing. Jones threw the kitchen sink and more at Shogun last night with spinning back elbows, front kicks, push kicks, body kicks, backfists and even a goofy headbutt to the stomach. Shogun never had a chance to really find his groove at any point in the fight.
- Jones wrestling completely took Shogun's kicks out of the equation. Shogun attempted two major kicks in this fight. The first was countered with a straight left punch to the face and the second resulted in a takedown. Many (including myself) thought Shogun's kicks were going to be a major factor in this fight but Jones neutralized them easily.
- The big flurry at the 1:48 mark of the first round completely changed the course of the fight. Shogun was hit with several power shots, was wobbled and was never the same after Jon Jones punished him as he tried to get to his feet. It was a serious fight-changing exchange.