Even before he stepped into the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday night (March 19), Jon “Bones” Jones had already scored himself a victory. As fans began to file into the venue for UFC 128 (headlined by the battle between Jones and the defending light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua), everyone was passing around the story about how Jones had thwarted a mugger in a park earlier in the afternoon. Having gone to the location to meditate, Jones and trainer Greg Jackson heard someone yelling about being robbed, and Jones pursued the source of the trouble. He managed to thwart the mugger with a well-placed leg sweep and held the man down until police arrived. It was an everyday piece of heroism that made Jones’ narrative all the more intriguing.
If only the rest of the evening was as exciting. I have been a fan of mixed martial arts for a few years, but this was my first opportunity to see a UFC show live (they tend not to come east very often, and since the sport is illegal in New York, there aren’t any local opportunities). Unfortunately, a string of fights that ended in decisions (and were not particularly engaging) sucked the air out of the room, and I realized about half way through the second fight that MMA is best seen on television. In a live setting, it’s too difficult to follow everything, and the contact is sometimes too brutal to observe live.
That being said, there were some highlights. Nick “The Jersey Devil” Catone had a good showing in his home state, and Luiz Cane pounded Eliot Marshall in a brutal display of power. Perhaps most disappointingly, the UFC debut of bantamweight phenom Urijah Faber was somewhat tepid (Faber won a close decision in a flat fight).
In the end, “Bones” Jones fulfilled his destiny, finishing off the champ Rua in three rounds in which he absolutely dominated. Over the course of his career, Rua had never been manhandled the way Jones did, and he had no answers for Jones’ unorthodox striking, exceptional wrestling and phenomenal power. At only 23 years old, Jones is the new face of the UFC, and should sit on top of that mountain for years to come.