There’s no denying that March 19th was a monumental day in MMA history. It’s on this day that a man who will go down as one of the most talented MMA fighters to ever enter the cage won his first UFC title. That man is Jon Jones and this is the day he dismantled Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua; a legend in his own right.
March 19, 2011: Jon Jones beats Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title
Jon Jones had been the heir apparent for the UFC’s light heavyweight throne ever since he — as a 22-year-old — dominated Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94 in 2009. His position as representative for the future of the sport was padded with incredible victories over Brandon Vera, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ryan Bader the following year. After beating Bader, a fellow up and comer, there were no doubts that the young Jackson-Wink disciple deserved a title shot.
Holding the title at the time was living legend Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. The Brazilian clinched the belt after surviving wars with Lyoto Machida. Jones was his first defense. It did not go his way.
In the headline bout of UFC 128, Jones showed the world he was worthy of the hype. He was graceful, clinical, vicious. The fight lasted less than three rounds, when it was all said and done Jones was the champion.
“Shogun is a champion for a reason,” Goldberg says to to open the round, trying to make the audience believe the fight will suddenly get a lot more competitive. Shogun misses badly with several punches, still chasing Jones, still unable to find him in range. Jones misses badly with an uppercut and the pace has slowed quite a bit from the furious first round.
Jones misses with a headkick, giving Shogun a momentary advantage on his back. The Brazilian tries to pull him to the mat. He wasn’t diving for a leglock, as Rogan claimed in the commentary, but when Jones didn’t budge and he slipped free of his waistlock, that was his fall back move. Jones ends up in dominant position, but can’t secure a Kimura.
“It’s man against boy,” Rogan says and it looks like it. Jones looks to trap Rua’s arm and do some serious damage, landing a couple of strong lefts before Rua can pull his arm free and defend. A three punch combination follows. Jones is starting to let loose, dropping seven consecutive punches on Rua, many at least partially deflected.
At the 2:50 mark, Jones lands a huge left hand as the crows oohed their appreciation. A left and right elbow were next and suddenly Shogun wasn’t defending nearly as effectively. Now Jon Jones is attacking furiously with a combination of elbows and punches. After a knee to the body, Shogun staggers to his feet. A big body punch is followed by a knee and Herb Dean is right there to stop the fight.
Jon Jones is the new light heavyweight champion of the world. It was a route standing, in the clinch, and on the mat. Jones showed as wide a variety of techniques as anyone in UFC history - including some beyond the confines of the rules. It’s a lot for potential opponents to take in. Jon Jones, it turns out, is an even more dangerous man than we thought.
You can watch video of those moments below, in a retrospective featuring Jones’ analysis - via UFC India’s YouTube channel:
After beating Rua Jones went on a title defense run that ranks among the most legendary in combat sports. He got eight defenses under his belt and then the wheels fell off. Jones’ controversies began in 2015. Troubles with the law and drug testers marred the following years. Though, despite those incidents, Jones remains a leading candidate for MMA’s Greatest Of All Time.
March 19, 2011: Brendan Schaub knocks out Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipović
On the same card that Jones won gold another fighter, who would have a big future in the sport, got an impressive victory.
Brendan Schaub came into the UFC with TUF: Heavyweights in 2009. After losing to Roy Nelson in the final he reeled off wins over Chase Gormley, Chris Tuchscherer and Gabriel Gonzaga. At UFC 128, he got to fight an MMA icon; Cro Cop.
The Croatian veteran of K-1 and PRIDE had faltered during his first UFC run in 2007. His debut was an awkward eye-poke assisted win over Eddie Sanchez. He then lost to Gabriel Gonzaga (in ironic, highlight reel headkick KO fashion) and Chieck Kongo. Cro Cop recouped some of his mystique with some wins in Japan and then returned to the Octagon in 2009.
In his second run he beat Mostapha al-Turk before losing to Junior dos Santos. He failed to build momentum after that, beating Anthony Perosh and Pat Barry before falling to Frank Mir. After the Mir loss he was matched with Schaub; an odd pairing at the time.
Many hoped that against the inexperienced former NFL player Cro Cop could regain some of his magic and turn himself into the dominant force UFC fans were desperate to see. That’s not what would happen, though. Instead Schaub would get a signature win, perhaps the greatest of his career.
Here’s how his current colleague Luke Thomas’ reacted to the win, via SBNation:
ROUND 3 - Leg kick for CroCop, but seemingly lands too low. Time is stopped to give Schaub recovery time. CroCop charges in and they clinch. Fantasically-timed takedown for Schaub lands and Mirko is on his back. Yet, another takedown for Schaub, blast-double like. Schaub passes to half guard. CroCop back to his feet. Two small left straights for CroCop find the mark. Head kick by CroCop blocked. Double leg stuffed for CroCop, but they go back to their feet. And then one right hand from Schaub ends the night. That’s a wrap folks.
You can see Schaub’s thoughts on the fight in the video below, via Fight Network/YouTube:
Schaub would lose four of his next six bouts and then retire in 2014. Since then he’s transformed into one of the sport’s most popular celebrities. Cro Cop soldiered on after this fight, competing another 13 times. His last fight was a rematch against Roy Nelson at Bellator 216 last February.
March 19, 2011: WEC coming out party
On the same night Jones beat Shogun and Schaub beat Cro Cop there was a slew of debuts from fighters who had been acquired when the UFC purchased WEC. Those debut fighters included Erik Koch and Raphael Assuncao, who fought each other in the event’s opening bout. Koch won that bout by KO. The co-main event featured the debuts of WEC mainstays Urijah Faber and Eddie Wineland, with the California Kid taking a decision. Joe Benavidez also made his UFC debut this night, with a win over Ian Loveland.