It was the eve of UFC 135, at the conclusion of the official weigh-in that Quinton “Rampage” Jackson stared down Jon “Bones” Jones, declaring to end his hype. Jackson proclaimed that Jones wasn’t what he was made out to be, and was on a mission to prove his claim.
Then came fight night! While Jackson’s intentions were clear, his efforts went without reward.
Staying true to form, Jones opened the bout sizing up Jackson in a “Night Crawler” (for you X-Men fans) like fashion, forcing the number one contender into a state of confusion about where the champ would strike first. When Jones planted his first shot, the precedent was set as to the kind of evening Jackson was in for.
As Jackson tried to figure out the Jigsaw puzzle that Jones was, the champion seized every opportunity given. When the two were distant, Jones’ 84.5 in reach allowed him to land some solid punches. Whenever Jackson blocked said punches, Jones successfully targeted the midsection and legs with multiple kicks. Jackson made many attempts to close the distance, but things did not go as well as he hoped. What I thought would be a concern was not even an issue. When the two were in close proximity of each other, Jones played the closeness so well that Jackson was unable to execute any clinching/dirty boxing. Bones successfully worked in knees and elbow strikes in close distance. Whenever space was generated between the two, the champion had the elusiveness needed to avoid Jackson’s comfort zone. In one series of clinching, Jones maneuvered his way out of the clinch, surprising with a back spinning elbow that run his bell. Jones was also successful in the takedown department. What Jones lacked in strength, he more than compensated with wit. As the fight progressed, it was evident that Jackson was gassed in the fourth round. Jones, who made his debut appearance in a championship round (4th and 5th rounds are deemed championship rounds in MMA), was the more comfortable fighter of the two. Jones again worked in a takedown, pounded Jackson and transited into a rear naked choke submission to secure a successful title defense.
As a baby in this sport (only three years experience in the UFC), Bones is making serious marks. He is the youngest champion in UFC history (at 24 years), he has now beaten two of MMA’s upper brass Light Heavyweights and is the first to ever force Jackson into submission.
With successive wins over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Jackson, the young prodigy is building a Mount Rushmore of MMA greats that he’s conquered. Up next is former training partner and UFC Light Heavyweight champion “Suga” Rashad Evans, who knows Jones better than anyone in their division. Can Evans avoid a place on Jones’ personal Mount Rushmore? I’ll get more into that as we draw closer to that fight.
By Antoine Hoffman