Get ready for an almighty encounter with UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones when these two guys clash for the light-heavyweight crown at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on March 19 – to be shown live on Spike TV.
With teammate Rashad Evans injured, rising star Jon ‘Bones’ Jones has stepped in on short notice to challenge champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua – but he might regret that eagerness to climb up the MMA ladder by facing this Brazilian colossus so soon in his career.
Jones’ previous outing, at last month’s UFC 126, saw him hand the previously undefeated Ryan Bader a first imperfection of his pro career. Right after that victory, the 23-year-old was asked by UFC president Dana White to replace Evans. Casting aside any doubts, Jones swiftly agreed to the fight.
But will this dream fight turn into a nightmare knockout for No.1 contender Jones? It seems likely, given Rua’s experience, aggression and talent.
However, working in Jones’ favor is the fact Rua is just returning from a third knee op following his knockout win over Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 that gave him the 205lb title in Montreal on May 8, 2010. That’s a long time out of the octagon.
The dynamic Jones might well be the favorite, but Rua’s older brother, Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua, reckons the American will “get hurt when my brother’s punches find his face”. That’s the crunch, right there. Can Jones cope with the 29-year-old’s shots to the face? Murilo doesn’t think so, although he expects “a hell of a good fight” as Jones is “one of the toughest fighters on MMA”.
However, Jones has improved with every fight, almost strolling through the majority of bouts, and finding no one to halt his rapid rise. Every encounter has been dubbed his “toughest challenge” so far. None have been tough, never mind a challenge.
Rochester’s Jones is also determined to become the youngest champion in UFC history, although a more feasible outcome is he will have to wait just a little while longer to dethrone a laidback and relaxed Rua. Then again, his unorthodox approach might just unsettle the champ.
MMA legend Rua, meanwhile, really isn’t interested in the switch of opponent that has added even greater intrigue to UFC 128, stating that, although “Rashad got injured, which is a shame, they are similar and I will continue to train with the same strategy, which is to focus on striking and wrestling”.
Rua’s style will not come as a surprise to Jones, but whether he is capable of halting the legend’s notoriously vicious punches and kicks is another question. Let’s see how his face stands up to a first pummeling.
Murila is in no doubt, though, that “my brother is the favorite for the experience he has”, while adding that “he’s fought tougher guys than Jones” and the matchup will just “be another fight on his career”.
Rua, of course, chooses more respectful words when stating that “they [Jones and Evans] are both tough fighters and the only difference is their body types”.
One certainty is that this is likely to be a contender for fight of the year – the young pretender to the throne challenging the reigning champion and star of the sport.
Be prepared for an exciting evening when the main card gets underway at 9pm ET/6pm PT with American Brendan Schaub’s heavyweight bout with Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, of Croatia.