Jon Jones: Sometimes even when things turn out as expected one can still be impressed and that was the case with UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones’ successful title defense against former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135 in Denver, Colorado. Jones was the heavy favorite by oddsmakers and for good reason as he has looked unbeatable since entering the UFC including his title winning dismantling of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rampage on the other hand though having won back to back fights over Lyoto Machida and Matt Hamill, did not look overwhelmingly dominant in either. Thus it came as no surprise when Jones slowly picked Rampage apart round by round during their fight using his superior height, reach, athleticism, and varied arsenal. While Rampage stuck to his one dimensional style of slowing moving forward throwing big punches that rarely found their mark Jones retaliated with long range punches and kicks. Jones’ advantage in height and reach allows him to land shots on opponents at a distance from which they cannot counter.
“Bones” was never in danger during the bout and by the end of the third round Jackson looked both befuddled and disheartened in his corner. Jones may have very well picked up on this and as the fourth round began quickly worked to get Rampage down to the mat and did so while securing his back. From there Jones made quick work of Rampage cinching on a fight ending rear naked choke to which Jackson tapped out. It was only the second time in his 41 fight career that Jackson had been submitted. Whereas Rampages game has not evolved much over the years, Jones continues to both improve and expand his each time out and at only 24 years old and 15 fights into his career the sky is the limit to which Bones can accomplish. Next up for the young champion is a showdown with former friend and training partner turned foe Rashad Evans.
Alexis Vila: In a weekend full of memorable moments perhaps the longest lasting will be the one punch knockout of Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren at the hand of Alexis Vila in the opening round of Bellators batamweight tournament. Despite coming into the fight undefeated and a bronze winning medalist in wrestling at the 1996 games in Atlanta, Vila was a relative unknown amongst many. Joe Warren, no slouch in the wrestling department himself having been a 2008 Greco-Roman world champion, entered the tournament as the favorite based upon previously winning Bellators featherweight tournament which lead to a title winning fight against then champion Joe Soto. As has been the case in previous similar battles when two fighters with a strong wrestling base square off the fight ends up unfolding on the feet and this encounter was no different. Vila hurt Warren in the opening moments with a right hand that sent Warren into survival mode while attempting to recover. Just when it appeared he had Vila landed a devastating left hook that had Warren out before he crashed to the floor unconscious. Vila landed one final punch before the referee could get in between the fighters and end the contest. With the win Vila now is viewed as the man to beat moving forward and with a proven wrestling background and knockout power to go along with it he’ll be a tough out for whomever crosses his path.
Nate Diaz: Coming off two straight losses at welterweight former Ultimate Fighter winner Nate Diaz moved back down to lightweight and looked great in dispatching of former PRIDE lightweight kingpin Takanori Gomi. It must be pointed out that Gomi is not the fighter he was when he reigned supreme in Japan but nevertheless Diaz put on what was his best overall performance to date. Diaz dominated with his boxing and did just as well if not better when the fight hit the floor. After peppering and hurting Gomi standing the fight went to the mat where Diaz’ grappling prowess overwhelmed Gomi. After threatening with a couple triangle attempts Nate quickly transitioned to a fight ending armbar. Diaz is a welcome addition back to a talent rich division with numerous enticing matchups.
Travis Browne vs Rob Broughton: I don’t know whether to blame it on the fighters themselves or UFC matchmaker Joe Silva but the heavyweight bout between Travis Browne and Rob Broughton at UFC 135 was definitely the low point of the night as both fighters were fatigued midway through which brought the action to a halt. The majority of the final round took place on the ground with little offense from either fighter as both looked as if they were grappling in quicksand. Unfortunately this came as no surprise as the thin air of Denver, Colorado was surely going to effect some of the fighters, inparticular the heavyweights. Even UFC President Dana White more or less admitted his dissapointment tweeting “This one isn’t what I expected.”. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned if and when the UFC makes it’s next trip to Colorado.
Joe Warren: Not to beat a dead horse but not only was Joe Warren the victim of one of the most devastating knockouts of the weekend it’s almost a surprise it took this long to happen. Warren has been remarkably successful entering this past weekend with a 7 and 1 record despite numerous defensive deficiencies. Warren was the benefactor of close decision wins in fights against both Patricio Freire and Marcos Galvao as well as surviving dangerous moments against Joe Soto before rallying back to emerge victorious. Warren has gotten by on his wrestling, grit, and durability but as was evidenced against Vila that will only get you by so many times before the percentages catch up with you. I do think Warren will learn and improve from this loss, after all this is a man whose ascension in amateur wrestling was predicated on hard work as much as it was talent.
Mark Hunt vs Ben Rothwell: If something can be both ugly and beautiful at the same time the fight between Mark Hunt and Ben Rothwell was certainly such to myself. After the abomination that was Browne vs Broughton I had similar fears for this bout given the participants combined with the aforementioned Denver air. Well both fighters would indeed gas out, Rothwell doing so before the first round had come to an end, yet the fight was one of the more entertaining affairs I’ve seen in awhile. Witnessing two 260 plus pound men stagger around launching winging punches at one another is a sight often seen but rarely so rewarding as it genuinely seemed as if either would drop at any moment. How a visibly fatigued Rothwell survived all three rounds is still beyond my comprehension and watching Hunt tire himself out while trying to finish a gasping Rothwell only added to my amusement. I know there were plenty of fans who were appalled by the display but fighting is as much entertainment as it is sport and every once in awhile it’s fine to not take every fight so serious and just sit back and enjoy what’s taking place and this heavyweight bout was certainly a case of such for myself as well as those in attendance at the sports bar in which I viewed the event. In case you’re wondering Mark Hunt won by unanimous decision.