Saturday night was a heart wrenching evening for me as a fan. The man who made me take an interest in MMA, taking on the unstoppable young champion, who I’ve followed since the beginning of his career.
If you look in my closet, you see a host of Jon “Bones” Jones and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson gear. I’m huge fans of the both of them. In 2003, my cousin introduced me to PRIDE FC via a recorded cassette. On said cassette was the aforementioned Jackson picking up and slamming his opponents pro-wrestling style. Being a pro wrestling fan my whole life, I was drawn in. From his dominating victory over Chuck Liddell, to the horrible Rashad Evans fiasco, I’ve been a loyal Rampage fan.
Then came 2008, as I started to cover MMA, I would check over local results from around the country. Three times in April, and six times over the course of three months I would read that “Jon Jones finishes opponent in dominant fashion.” With that many wins, I assumed there were a couple of men with the same name fighting in the Northeast.
Less than a month later, I was notified that Jones was a late injury replacement against Andre Gusamo for UFC 87. I learned what I could about Jones, and placed my first bet on an MMA fight, which would be the only one I’d ever win money on. Jon Jones had just turned 21 years old.
Since then, he has simply dominated in all 8 fights in his UFC career, with his only loss coming from Matt Hamill via DQ. After almost 80 unanswered strikes from the mount, Jones became frustrated and threw unknowingly (to him) illegal elbows to Hamill, causing a disqualification.
I was a believer in Jones from the beginning of his UFC career, but not necessarily a huge fan until his dominance of Stephan Bonnar. Pro wrestling fans, and readers of this site would certainly appreciate that fight, as Jones delivered a picture perfect german suplex, double overhook suplex, and spinning back elbow to the UFC veteran Bonnar.
This is the first time I’ve been so torn as a fan. As a journalist, many of us have our tendencies and often gear our columns towards the direction of those fighters. I had no idea what to think going into Saturday night. Rampage- the reason I liked MMA, and Jon Jones- the 24 year old who completely reinvigorated the sport, and has brought MMA such positive attention.
From the start of the fight, Jones came out in an awkward, praying mantis-like stance, that would have to be witnessed to understand. From there on out, “Bones” Jones used his UFC best 84 inch reach to throw a diverse attack of kicks, punches, and even his signature spinning back elbow.
From an analytical standpoint, Rampage couldn’t find his range. The reason for this being, if you get inside on Jon Jones and his absurd reach, you bring yourself into easy clinch range for the champion. Because of this, a solid portion of the first round was spent against the cage. From there on out, it was the reach of Jones dominating Rampage until a fourth round submission victory for Jon Jones. It was the first time Rampage had been submitted in ten years, when he was only 23 years old.
Another problem I noticed was Rampage’s corner. Now I’m no world-class cornerman, but I’ve done the job, and it takes no genius to figure out that having three guys scream instructions simultaneously not only panics the fighter, but doesn’t help at all. Just across the cage you had a Jones team member say “Shut up and let Greg talk,” referring to top level trainer Greg Jackson, the only man allowed to speak to Jones in his corner.
In the end, as my friend and training partner J Grooms (@jgroomsmma) said, “You can’t teach reach.” Jon Jones is 24 years old, with excellent wrestling, a smooth submission game, improvisational and effective striking, and a great camp. I will boldly say this…at this point, having watched thousands of MMA fights, I can say that Anderson Silva, GSP, and Jon Jones are the three best mixed martial artists I’ve ever seen. Fedor and Rampage are top 5, Jon Jones is top 3. I’m sure I’ll catch some hell for saying that.
I did my typical trolling of Twitter following the fights, and was absolutely stunned at the number of fans saying Rampage Jackson should retire. I’ll just go ahead and put those blatantly ignorant comments to bed. Rampage has won 10 of 13 fights, including a questionable loss to Forrest Griffin, and a ridiculously boring snoozefest to Rashad Evans (who is now slated to fight Jones). Rampage has expressed his interest in fighting Shogun Rua in February, when the UFC returns to Japan. Also mentioned was a big-money rematch bout with Forrest Griffin.
While I dedicated the jist of this column to Rampage and Jones, it wasn’t the only MMA taking place on Saturday. 1Wrestling’s favorite Middleweight Gerald “Hurricane” Harris was dominant in a split decision victory over Kazuhiro Nakamura. Yes, I said dominant in a split decision victory. Some judges need to be drug tested.
Harris was able to unload a great combo in the first round, and had multiple near slams, which were prevented by Nakamura’s blatant rope-grabbing fouls. I was completely shocked that the refs took no action regarding this.
To me, Gerald Harris is the number 1 middleweight competing in Japan right now, as a large percentage of the talent is tied up with Zuffa and Bellator. Personally, I have no clue who DREAM could match him up with to give him a challenge, and more importantly, bring their Middleweight title back, and add yet another selling point to their events. Possible opponents could be Kendall Grove, Dennis Kang, or Giva Santana (who is 16-1). However, none of these are contracted by DREAM.
Josh Koscheck may have also ended the legendary career of Matt Hughes Saturday night, with a KO victory with only a second left in the round. This was a huge co-main event, as Josh Koscheck could fight a palm tree, and with his natural heel persona, the fight would feel important. Throw in the fact he’s facing one of the two best welterweights of all time, and it ups the ante. Matt Hughes said he was unsure of retirement at this point, but UFC President Dana White said he was positive it was the route Hughes was going to take.
Personally, I see no harm in Matt Hughes sticking around, but taking a step down in competition. People are far too quick to ask someone to retire based on age, and a two-fight losing streak. This is a job for these guys, and they are in the cage to make money. Would it be that bad to see Matt Hughes taking on Rick Story, Charlie Brenneman, or an up and coming fighter as the main event of a Fight Night card?
Other big winners Saturday…From DREAM 17, Shinya Aoki submitted Rob McCullough with three seconds left in the first Round, Kawajiri submitted Joachim Hansen, Caol Uno was brutally knocked out via head kick by Takeshi Inoue, Yan Cabral defeated Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba, and Minowa picked up a victory.
For those of you who watched Bellator, were treated to what some called an upset, as 40 year old, but undefeated Alexis Vila, damn near put Featherweight champ Joe Warren into a coma. This was a Bantamweight tournament fight, so Warren didn’t lose his title, but this solidifies Villa as the hottest 40 year old prospect in the history of MMA. This Cuban wrestler was a bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling in the 1996 Olympics, and has excellent hands. He’s right up there with Antonio McKee in the “Old guys that will destroy you” category.
That’s it for this week folks. Check me out on TWITTER, as I tweet live during Pro Wrestling and MMA events, and answer your questions!!