On paper, Saturday night’s UFC 128 looked like it could be the best fight card of 2011 so far. It had everything from a title fight to the UFC debut of Urijah Faber, plus some other high quality match-ups. We’ve seen seemingly good cards disappoint in the past, but this one seemed almost certain to be good.
The UFC made sports headlines during the week leading up to the fight, when they made the very unexpected announcement that they had purchased Strikeforce. It was big news, but at the same time, it was nice to shift focus back into the Octagon for some great fight action. Keep on reading for complete results and analysis of the main card.
Brendan Schaub KO’d Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the third round. This looked like a good match-up for Schaub, who is definitely one of the rising stars in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Cro Cop is a legend, but his glory days are in the rear view mirror. I expected Schaub to use his versatility to win the fight and that’s pretty much the way it went. They stayed on their feet for most of the first two rounds. There were some good exchanges and near misses. Schaub got bloodied up pretty bad, but didn’t look intimidated. He definitely seemed to have a size advantage as well. Things looked bad when he had a point deducted in the second round for hitting Cro Cop in the back of the head. As we’ve seen many times with Schaub now, though, it only takes one punch. He landed a right behind Cro Cop’s ear that dropped him. He followed up with a ground strike and Cro Cop was out like a light. It was another impressive notch in Schaub’s belt, but I have a hunch his next opponent will be a bigger handful.
Nate Marquardt defeated Dan Miller by unanimous decision. Despite Marquardt’s most recent disappointing loss to Yushin Okami, Marquardt’s stock has dropped a bit, but he’s still one of the top middleweights in the world, in my opinion. Miller isn’t what most people would consider an elite 185-pounder, but he’s the kind of guy who hangs around in fights and is nearly impossible to finish off. Marquardt has had a tough time in those kinds of situations at times, so the match-up was slightly more interesting than some may think. Marquardt was supposed to fight Yoshihiro Akiyama, but the latter pulled out due to the tsunami disaster in Japan. Miller was scheduled to fight on the undercard, so was able to fill in without being unprepared. Marquardt looked good in the first round. He got Miller down and tried to establish a ground-and-pound attack, but Miller was active from his back and was trying to fight back and grab limbs whenever possible. Marquardt mostly controlled the second round as well, but Miller continued to be a nuisance. Marquardt’s striking was crisper, but when he took Miller down, he had to escape what looked like a pretty tight guillotine. Marquardt looked like the fresher fighter in the third and got some work done from top position, but Miller hung in and even tried to get a triangle choke set in the closing seconds. Miller is the kind of guy who presents a really tough challenge for anyone, so while it wasn’t a spectacular victory for Marquardt, it was a good one.
Jim Miller TKO’d Kamal Shalorus in the third round. Not content to be outdone by his brother, Jim Miller was on the UFC 128 card as well. He was facing a former WEC mainstay in Shalorus and both of them brought similar attributes to the cage. Miller is a good wrestler and even better submission artist, while Shalorus is a world-class wrestler who prefers to stand and strike. It was an interesting situation, because whichever fighter was able to dictate where the fight went, would probably have the best opportunity to win. They came out swinging for the fences and kept it up for the entire round. Miller looked happy to stand and strike, but did try to pull guard a couple of times. He did some damage with his strikes, though, and probably carried the first round. Miller got a nice single leg take down in the second and transitioned beautifully to take Shalorus’ back. He started working toward a rear naked choke right away, but couldn’t finish it before the round expired. I thought Miller was up two rounds to none going into the third, so the pressure was on Shalorus to make something happen. It was Miller that got it done, though. He landed a huge left that dazed Shalorus, then followed with a knee that dropped him. Miller finished him with strikes on the ground for one of the most impressive victories of his career. It was without a doubt the best I’ve seen his striking look.
Urijah Faber defeated Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision. Two former WEC champs faced each other in this fight, although there was no doubt that Faber had the more distinguished reign as champion. Faber was also going down from 145 pounds, where he made a name for himself, to 135 pounds for his UFC debut. He was supposed to have a size and strength advantage as a result, but Wineland was able to use his range effectively early in the fight. Faber landed a couple of nice shots, though and seemed to settle in, especially in the second round. He got his strikes dialed in a little bit more and just looked much quicker. He also looked like he had more gas in the tank at the end of the fight. He had a good take down in there as well and earned a solid decision over a tough opponent.
Jon Jones TKO’d Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the third round to become the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Due to an injury keeping Rashad Evans out for a while, Jon Jones was able to slide into the slot of number one contender after defeating Ryan Bader in his last fight. Although Jones is very young, I felt this was a good match-up for him. His athleticism, speed and perfectly adapted wrestling made him a threat to Shogun. Obviously, Shogun came in with the KO and submission potential, but I had a feeling that Jones would prove to be more than a handful. Either way, we were about to find out just how legit Jones really is. He started the fight by attempting a flying knee. Then he went for a spin kick before throwing Shogun to the mat. He got top position and started working ground-and-pound immediately. They got back to their feet, but Shogun looked hurt. He’d absorbed a lot of big shots already and Jones continued to tee off. They ended up back on the mat as time expired in the first round. Jones continued to absolutely wear Shogun out in the second round. He got him down on his back and pounded away. The third round brought more of the same. Jones just pounded away once he got Shogun down. He let him get back up, landed a big left hook and then dropped him with a knee against the cage. It was an incredible performance for Jones. No one would have blamed him if he was a little intimidated to get in the cage with a legend like Shogun. Instead, he ran over him. I mean, he ran right over him. It wasn’t even much of a fight. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he performs with the belt. It looks like his first test will be against his own teammate, Rashad Evans.