We all remember Joe Rogan’s iconic call from UFC 98. As Lyoto Machida ran around the Octagon, the new UFC Light-Heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans folded like a lawn chair on the other side of the cage.
In that moment, Rogan’s inner fan boy, that quality that makes him such a passionate announcer, was shining through.
“Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the Machida Era!”
Of course, that comment seems a whole hell of a lot more iconic (or is that ironic?) in light if what has happened since then.
Machida went 1-1 with Shogun (0-2, some would say) then dropped a close decision to “Rampage” Jackson. As of now, the vaunted “Machida Era” is pretty much on life support.
Having said all that, I still feel pretty confident when I say that we are about to enter, really, have already entered, the Jon “Bones” Jones era.
Tonight at UFC 126, Bones did pretty much whatever he wanted to ultra-tough Ryan Bader. He took the Division 1 All-American down at will, and controlled him effectively when he did.
He used his range and superior speed to dominate in the stand-up. He took him down, advanced position, and submitted Bader with a choke there probably isn’t even a name for yet. Jones-itine? Jonaconda choke?
As Jones has done so many times, he took a tough, experienced guy and made him look like he was a sparring dummy.
Ok, Bader did catch him with that nice cross in the second round. But that was about it. A nice cross followed by a bunch of failed double-leg attempts.
That of course was followed by the bombshell announcement that it would be Jones, not team-mate Rashad Evans, who would be getting the next title shot against champion Maurico “Shogun” Rua.
You know the UFC was sitting on the news of Rashad’s unfortunate injury all day long, waiting for an opportune moment to announce Jones as the new No. 1 contender. Even Jones seemed stunned by the news (as a side note, if Jones had lost vs. Bader, I wouldn’t have put it past the UFC announce the Forrest/Franklin winner as the new de facto No. 1 contender).
With this latest beat down, Jones moves to 12-1 overall, and 6-1 in the UFC. In either case, the 1 should be a 0 in the opinion of most fans.
Every guy he has fought, all of them tough, world-class fighters (most of them, anyways), Jones has shown us something new.
And I don’t mean new as in “something we haven’t seen from Jones before.” I mean new like “things we’ve never seen in MMA before.”
Jones is on that level. Not since Anderson Silva circa 2007 has a fighter commanded so much hype and buzz. And Jones is only 23 years old.
I said going into this fight that the winner could rightly be given a UFC title shot, and the shocking post-fight announcement has borne that line of reasoning out.
Jones vs. Rua is an absolutely phenomenal fight, one that I firmly believe will be the firmest test in both Jones’ and Rua’s careers.
It’s also a fight I firmly believe Jones can win. Sorry Shogun fans, but his effectiveness against elite-level wrestlers is hardly a proven commodity.
I remember an ancient Mark Coleman taking Rua down easily in both of their fights.
But even if Jones loses his title fight against “Shogun,” it doesn’t change the remarkable ascent we are witnessing right now in MMA.
With this performance, I firmly believe it’s now a matter of when, not if, Jones wins UFC gold. If it’s not in Newark in March, it’ll be some other time, probably sooner rather than later.
For years, we’ve been talking about what will happen when the “future” stars of MMA finally arrive and dominate the sport. Ladies and gentlemen: the future is here, and it’s name is Jon Jones.
By Elton Hobson