Jones steamrolls Rua, becomes youngest UFC champ

NEWARK, N.J. – Jon Jones has been the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s most hyped prospect since B.J. Penn entered the promotion more than a decade ago. And Jones more than lived up to the hype Saturday, demolishing highly regarded light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and stopping him in the third round to become the UFC’s youngest champion in the main event of UFC 128 at the Prudential Center.

Jones landed a series of kicks, elbows, punches and just about anything else he wanted to land. It was a complete blowout as Rua, the fourth-ranked fighter in Yahoo! Sports’ rankings, had next-to-no offense.

Jon Jones (top) dominated Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to win the light heavyweight title.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Rua’s face was a mess when the fight ended, with his eyes closed and swollen and blood coming from his nose and mouth and welts covering his body.

Jones, now 14-1 overall, blistered the Brazilian throughout and never let Rua get on track. Jones came out hard with a flying knee early in the bout and then a pair of kicks.

“He was better than me tonight,” Rua said. “He’s a very tough guy. He showed good ground work. He had very good Muay Thai. He’s a great champion.”

After the fight, the UFC brought former champion Rashad Evans into the cage and announced he will fight Jones in Jones’ first defense. Jones and Evans have been teammates and long said they would never fight.

But Jones said Saturday he would take the fight and Evans said, “I guess you should never say never.”

Former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber had a difficult challenge in his UFC debut, but he rallied to win the final two rounds to pull out a unanimous decision victory over Eddie Wineland.

The win may set up a rematch with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who watched the fight from Octagonside and stood for most of the bout.

Wineland took the first round, using superior takedown defense and landing the harder strikes. But Faber’s speed took over in the final two rounds. He managed to land a clear number of strikes and, in the second round, pounded Wineland with a series of hard elbows.

Faber’s hand speed was a difference in the third too, as he was consistently beat Wineland to the punch.

“Going in, you don’t know how fast someone is, or how powerful they are, until they’re right in front of you,” Faber said. “I was gauging that [in the first].”

Jim Miller won his seventh consecutive UFC fight and put himself near the top of the lightweight division, stopping Kamal Shalorus in the third round.

Miller had controlled the action in each of the first two rounds and had Shalorus’ back in the second. He worked for a rear naked choke, though Shalorus successfully fought that off.

But Miller, who is now 20-2 overall, used his hands and his knee to end the fight at 2:15 of the third. Miller raked Shalorus with an uppercut that staggered him and sent him back to the cage.

Miller charged and landed a knee to the face that put Shalorus down. Miller ended it with a quick ground-and-pound finish.

Afterward, he was thinking about fighting for the title.

“That’s seven in a row,” Miller said. “I’m ready. I’m ready for it [the title shot].”

His brother, Dan Miller, wasn’t so fortunate. Earlier on the card, Dan had no defense for a right hand and so Nate Marquardt kept throwing it. The result was that it cut Miller by the left eye, swelled it shut and helped Marquardt to pull out a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Marquardt, who hopes to fight his way back into contention in the middleweight division.

He had to fight off two guillotine chokes by Miller, one in each of the first two rounds, but Miller mustered very little offense other than that. Marquardt pummeled him with the right hand, raked him with elbows on the ground and controlled the fight virtually all the way.

Brendan Schaub is a young up-and-coming heavyweight star, but he had his hands full with veteran Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic before ending it in the third round with a right hand to the temple.

Brendan Schaub (left) continued his rise up the heavyweight ranks by beating Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
(Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Filipovic was preparing to fire one of his legendary kicks, but Schaub was quicker and his overhand right got to the target first. Filipovic went down immediately. Schaub landed a power fist on the ground before referee Herb Dean stopped it at 3:44 of the third.

Schaub is one of the heaviest-handed fighters in the UFC, but he used a lot of wrestling on Saturday. He took Filipovic down several times as a way to avoid getting into a slugfest with the powerful Filipovic.

“I keep getting more and more experience,” Schaub said. “I showcased my wrestling because Mirko is so dangerous [on his feet].”

Luiz Cane made short work of Elliot Marshall, landing a punch that knocked Marshall down and finishing him with a barrage of punches on the ground. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped it at 2:15 of the first.

Marshall may have been poked in the eye in the sequence that knocked him down. When he hit the mat, he covered up and did very little. Cane fired punch after punch and, while many of them did not land, they did enough to force Miragliotta to step in and halt the fight.

The best match on the preliminary card was a lightweight battle between Edson Barboza and Anthony Njokuani, a fight which featured spinning kicks and elbows and plenty of powerful strikes.

Barboza connected with a spinning kick to the head at the bell in the third round, punctuating a late rally that enabled him to claim the unanimous decision. All three judges gave Barboza the third for a 29-28 victory.

Mike Pyle won a very closely contested fight with black belt Ricardo Almeida, managing to avoid bad positions on the ground en route to a unanimous decision. All three judges had it 29-28 for Pyle.

Gleison Tibau disappointed a large hometown contingent that came out to root for Kurt Pellegrino, rallying in the final round to claim a split decision in a welterweight match. Judges Cardo Urso and Doug Crosby each had it 29-28 for Tibau while Anthony Tamburrino saw it 29-28 for Pellegrino.

Pellegrino knocked Tibau down in the second and did some damage on the ground, but Tibau controlled the third. He took Pellegrino down late and did some damage in the latter part of the round to give him the victory.

Ian Loveland’s length and strikes were posing problems early for Joseph Benavidez, but Benavidez kept pressing the action and pulled out a unanimous decision in a bantamweight bout. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.

Nick Catone used his wrestling skills to take Costantinos Philippou down and control him on the ground en route to a unanimous decision in a catch-weight bout. All three judges had it 30-27 for Catone, who used some hard elbows in the third round to close Philippou’s eye.

Philippou managed to keep the fight on his feet for most of the first round, but Catone took him down frequently over the last two and, in the third, kept him on his back for long stretches.

Erik Koch opened the night with a spectacular knockout, catching Raphael Assuncao with a right hook to end the fight at 2:32 of the first round.

The fight was slow and neither man did much in the opening minutes of the bout, much to the crowd’s consternation. But as the boos began to pick up, Koch landed a counter right on the chin to knock Assuncao down. He tried to follow Assuncao to the ground, but Kevin Mulhall quickly jumped in to halt it.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Mar 20, 2011