UFC 128 Recap & Results

There aren’t a lot of high-profile notes to come out of UFC 128, but the one angle that fans and the fight community will be talking about for the next few months, Jon Jones’ winning the UFC light heavyweight title from Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and the ramifications of Jones’ first title defense, is as layered and complicated as if Quentin Tarantino wrote a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.

With Jones, a member of Greg Jackson’s MMA team in Albuquerque, NM, now the 205 lb. champion, he is scheduled to face ‘Sugar’ Rashad Evans in his first UFC title defense. Evans is / was a friend and teammate of Jones at Jackson’s (see related videos below), and has seniority both in terms of team membership as well as title ownership (Evans won the light heavyweight championship from Forrest Griffin at UFC 92). Evans did say to MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani that he would be leaving Jackson’s in order to prepare for his challenge against Jones, though Jackson noted that some things said in the heat of the moment don’t always stand the test of time.

Ariel Helwani (MMAFighting.com) interviews Rashad Evans here:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-sports/rashad-evans-ufc-128-post-fight-interview/841794798001

Ariel Helwani (MMAFighting.com) interviews Greg Jackson here:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-sports/greg-jackson-ufc-128-post-fight-interview/841876053001

Needless to say, the ‘training triangle’ storyline has its characters. Evans was the heel in the build-up for his match against Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson, largely by default, as Rampage was too comedic and fun-loving to hate. Ironically, Evans was also the perennial underdog throughout his rise to the top.

Jones is a fresh face, a young wunderkind fighter, and all-around nice boy, accentuated by his infamous crime-stopping incident in the hours before the fight. If you haven’t already heard the story, here’s the play-by-play by Jones himself:

http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-sports/jon-jones-ufc-128-press-conference/841977182001

With all these roles (which fans will force on Jones and Evans anyway) played right, coupled with the mixed emotions of team allegiance, friendship, and proving oneself the best in the world, Jones-Evans could end up being a more powerful ‘storylines-to-Fight-Night’ than even Evans-Jackson (which was one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view events of all-time). Where does Evans go to train? Do fans cast him as the heel (my guess is yes), and how does that affect him? Does Greg Jackson truly stay out of this match, and what will all fight teams take away from this experience of having teammates square off for not just a championship, but ‘The Championship?’

Jones-Evans also points to a developing issue regarding fighters’ careers and team allegiances. As fights get more competitive, fighters seek out higher-level training partners in the same weight classes, some of whom are in the same promotion and perhaps on track for title shots. As gyms / team gather more high-level fighters and form larger teams, the more competitive, reputable schools grow bigger and the smaller ones fall off. Moreover, teammate vs. teammate crossroads become more frequent.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen, and in fact not even the first time Jackson’s MMA has faced it. In late 2007, then-welterweight Diego Sanchez left the team and relocated to San Diego, CA after reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre joined the Jackson team. In several interviews, Sanchez noted in several interviews that part of his motivation was that St-Pierre’s addition both came at the detriment of Sanchez’ training, and also was forced encouragement for Sanchez to drop down to lightweight (155 lbs.).

Likewise, when Tito Ortiz was the UFC light heavyweight champ and Chuck Liddell’s star was on the rise, Ortiz claimed that they had an agreement that they’d never fight each other for the title. Liddell always denied that such an agreement ever existed.

Team alliances in a one-on-one sport like boxing or MMA are difficult. The team benefits financially from its fighters winning championships, but teammates don’t directly benefit from each others’ victories. For fighters at any level, whether the Jones-Evans-St-Pierre-Sanchez stratus or among the young aspiring fighters who take their team and training environment seriously, it’s a choice that everyone makes at some point. Some will forego their Big Shot and some will eschew team alliances for the opportunity for their own individual success. Both choices are right.

There’s little else to note about UFC 128. Brendan Schaub, a former AFL and NFL football player who transitioned into MMA via season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, defeated aging legend Mirko Cro Cop with a third round TKO. Cro Cop is 3-3 since his return to the UFC, not wholly embarrassing, but certainly not the record for which he’d want to be known. The bigger and more relevant knock is that his unbeatable aura is very much a thing of the past. Combined with what is surely a hefty price tag, this is likely Cro Cop’s last hurrah in the UFC (at least for the time being). For Schaub, it continues to build his name as a future title contender.

Urijah Faber defeated Eddie Wineland by unanimous decision, which is a win that needed to happen for the UFC’s plans with Faber to go forward. The promotion is greatly behind Faber’s star potential, and understandably so. The guy is a tremendous athlete with an easygoing, polite charm and poster boy good looks. His was the only name that popped WEC ratings on the Versus network, and he was a great straight-man to Kenny Fucking Powers in the K-Swiss Tubes commercials. Moreover, there’s been talk of Faber and UFC 135 lb. champion Dominick Cruz coaching season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (though Dana White denied that to Ariel Helwani in their post-fight interview). Had Wineland won, Cruz vs. Wineland would have been a tougher season to promote.


However, Faber didn’t look dominant in this match, having difficulty landing takedowns and, for much of the match, being stuck in Wineland’s clinch. Watching the match, part of me truly wondered if Faber hasn’t already hit his athletic prime. He’s been fighting since 2003, and went on a 13-fight win streak from 2005 to 2008, with only one of those victories going to decision (his one-sided domination of Jens Pulver at WEC 34). Streaks like that aren’t typically repeatable, and although the Wineland match marked his second win at 135 lbs., I question whether we’ll see Faber’s MMA career dominance coincide with his newfound exposure as an official UFC star.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for Event:

145 lbs. – Raphael Assuncao x Erik Koch:
Prediction: Assuncao via decision
Result: Koch via KO (round one)

185 lbs. – Constantinos Philippou x Nick Catone:
Prediction: Catone via TKO (round one)
Result: Catone via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

135 lbs. – Joseph Benavidez x Ian Loveland:
Prediction: Benavidez via submission (round two)
Result: Benavidez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

155 lbs. – Kurt Pellegrino x Gleison Tibau:
Prediction: Pellegrino via unanimous decision
Result: Tibau via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)

170 lbs. – Mike Pyle x Ricardo Almeida:
Prediction: Almeida via submission (round three)
Result: Pyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) though apparently scores were 29-28 across the board

155 lbs. – Anthony Njokuani x Edson Barboza, Jr.:
Prediction: Barboza via KO (round two)
Result: Barboza via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. – Elliot Marshall x Luiz Cane:
Prediction: Marshall via decision
Result: Cane via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Brendan Schaub x Mirko Cro Cop:
Prediction: Schaub via TKO (round three)
Result: Schaub via TKO (round three)

185 lbs. – Nate Marquardt x Dan Miller:
Prediction: Marquardt by TKO (round one)
Result: Marquardt via unanimous decision (30-27 across the board)

155 lbs. – Kamal Shalorus x Jim Miller:
Prediction: Shalorus via unanimous decision
Result: Miller via TKO (round three)

135 lbs. – Urijah ‘The California Kid’ Faber x Eddie Wineland:
Prediction: Faber via submission (round one or two)
Result: Faber via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)

205 lbs. (UFC Light Heavyweight Title) – Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua x Jon ‘Bones’ Jones:
Prediction: Jones via TKO (round three or four)
Result: Jones via TKO (round three)

The Finish

Not every UFC event is going to be remembered as one for the ages. If anything, UFC 128 will be marked as the night when an amazing young talent got his chance to reign supreme and start his path to potential crossover superstardom. Of course, in fighting his friend, Jon Jones first challenge will be a personal and physical test.

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