The UFC made its return to New Jersey Saturday night and earned $2.4 million at the gate for a card which featured a light heavyweight championship battle between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Jon "Bones" Jones.
Jones made headlines before UFC 128 even started,., just hours before the fight. "It was a great pre-fight warmup for me!" he told TMZ.
Shogun (19-5) is a well-rounded champion with many wars under his belt, and looked forward to being the first fighter to get Jones in any kind of trouble. The precocious 23-year-old Jones (13-1) is a fast-rising star whose only loss was a controversial disqualification for use of illegal "12-to-6" downward elbow strikes against wrestler Matt Hamill, a fight which Jones was winning handily.
"Bones" controlled the fight from the opening bell with speedy footwork, a substantial reach advantage and unorthodox striking. Shogun simply could not match the challenger's length or cardio in the opening two rounds, and missed an opportunity for a heel hook submission in the third round. Jones dropped down into Shogun's full guard, and hurt Rua badly with some big punches and clean elbows. Jones let Shogun scramble back to his feet before finishing him with a vicious left hand to the body and a tremendous knee to the head. The referee rushed in to stop the bout as the champion collapsed to the mat and tapped out. It was officially scored a TKO victory for Jones, who becomes the youngest champion in UFC history.
The co-main event saw Urijah Faber drop down in weight to 145 pounds and win a unanimous decision over former champion Eddie Wineland. Faber landed several good combinations in the final round, but was unable to put away the rugged Wineland. "The California Kid" is expected to get a title shot against UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz next.
Legendary heavyweight striker Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic suffered a third round knockout loss to Brendan Schaub, which likely ends his career with the UFC. The former Croatian Parliament member and Special Forces police officer drops to 4-5 in the Octagon after a storied career in the K-1, Pride & Dream organizations. Schaub (8-1) wins his fourth straight fight after suffering a knockout loss to "Big Country" Roy Nelson during The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 finale.
New Jersey natives Jim and Dan Miller had a mixed homecoming at UFC 128. Jim Miller continued to pile up the wins, improving to 20-2 overall with a third round TKO of lightweight Kamal Shalorus. But older brother Dan suffered a unanimous decision loss to Nate "The Great" Marquardt (#3-ranked Middleweight according to MMAWeekly.Com).
The preliminary bouts which aired for free on SpikeTV were high-quality, opening with a seesaw lightweight battle between veteran striker Anthony Njokuani and undefeated Muay Thai star Edson Barboza. Njokuani showcased his skills which had earned him three straight "Fight of the Night" honors in the WEC promotion, using a variety of rare techniques like spinning elbows, a question mark kick and a crushing flying knee to complement a variety of feints and an effective long jab. But Barboza staggered Njokuani early with a pair of right hands, and peppered Njokuani with brutal leg strikes and turning side kicks before punctuating the bout with a spectacular Chuck Norris-style roundhouse head kick which staggered "The Assassin" and earned Barboza a unanimous split decision victory. Both fighters also received $70,000 "Fight of the Night" bonus checks.
Light heavyweight striker Luiz Cane rebounded from two straight defeats by extinguishing jiu-jitsu practitioner Eliot "The Fire" Marshall with ground and pound at 2:16 in the first round. Cane used a bruising straight left hand and an uppercut to drop Marshall, who clearly had no desire to trade punches with the powerful Cane.
Featherweight newcomer Erik Koch (12-1) made his UFC debut a memorable one, stepping in on short notice to replace the injured Manny Gamburyan against former Top 10 contender Raphael Assuncao. Koch is a good deal taller than "Manvel the Anvil", and used jabs and footwork to frustrate his opponent in the early going. Assuncao rushed in to clinch, and got clipped with a perfect counter right hook to the chin which ended the fight. Koch won "Knockout of the Night" honors with the one-punch finish, along with the $70,000 bonus check that accompanies the award. Brendan Schaub also earned a second KO of the Night check, because there were no fighters won via submission to earn the traditional "Submission of the Night" bonus.
In other action, lightweight Gleison Tibau won a tough split decision victory over Kurt Pellegrino, while Nick Catone, Joseph Benavidez and Mike Pyle all won via unanimous decision.