For the very first time ever, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) served up a Sunday night special on the Versus network, delivering a fantastic main card line up that had fireworks written all over it before the fighters even touched up their mitts.
Exciting light heavyweights Brandon Vera and Jon Jones were featured in the main event from The 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado. And ringside announcer Mike Goldberg may have actually put it best when he said, "OH BOY!"
Jones came out of the gates with a quick takedown and set an aggressive tone early. Vera was able to kick him off (legally) the first time, but shortly thereafter it was an illegal upkick from the bottom that forced referee Herb Dean to take away a point.
On the restart, "Bones" connected with a vicious elbow to the right orbital of Vera, which caused him to roll to his belly and turtle up to avoid additional punishment. Only seconds later Dean was peeling Jones off Vera, sealing the biggest victory of his bright young career.
At 22 years young, Jones is already making a bold case that he is a forced to be reckoned with at 205 pounds ... for a very, very long time. It's seemingly only a matter of time before he's fighting for a title.
Vera, meanwhile, could be at a crossroads in his career with the promotion. He's lost two straight and three of his last four inside the Octagon.
My how things have changed.
In the co main event of the evening, Brazilian big boys Junior dos Santos and Gabriel Gonzaga went toe-to-toe to determine who would stay alive in the suddenly heated heavyweight title contender battle.
"Napao" is lucky to be alive ... period.
After an initial feeling-out process, dos Santos uncorked a monster left hook that dropped Gonzaga like a 258-pound sack of spuds. He followed him to the mat like a cat, dropping three or four head bouncers that put Gonzaga out for good.
In his post-fight interview, dos Santos revealed that he is ready to take on the division's best. And after the brutal destruction that he has left in his wake since bursting onto the scene with a stoppage of Fabricio Werdum in 2008, there are probably not too many folks who would disagree with "Cigano."
Not to his face, anyway.
Cheick Kongo and Paul Buentello hooked 'em up in what supposed to be a hard-hitting slugfest. Kongo, initially, had other plans, taking the "Head Hunter" to the canvas twice for much of the first round.
Midway through the opening frame, Buentello yelped in pain, indicating that he dislocated a finger on his right hand. Fortunately, the ringside physician was able to Mr. Miyagi-it back to good in short order.
Kongo came out in the second, looking for more of the same ... takedowns.
This time, however, he mixed in some punishing ground and pound, which appeared to take its toll on Buentello. Kongo got a little overzealous and dropped an illegal knee to the grill of Buentello, forcing the referee to deduct one point from "French Sensation."
It didn't matter.
Kongo had Buentello tapping in the third and final frame from elbows to the thigh, indicating that he had simply sustained too much collective abuse throughout the fight to continue any longer.
Impressive performance from the Parisian. He wore down and made a very, very tough fighter quit tonight. It wasn't pretty, but it was certainly effective ... and painful to watch.
Capricious Octagon veteran Alessio Sakara introduced James Irvin to the middleweight division after a year-long layoff to rehabilitate a surgically-repaired knee and an addiction to prescription pain medication.
Let's just say the Italian slugger saved all the pleasantries for after the fight.
Sakara peppered a listless "Sandman" with solid punches to the head and the body en route to a first round technical knockout finish. It was an awkward ending, however, with Irvin hitting the deck after his right eyeball ate a looping left hook.
He thought it was a poke, but instant replay proved otherwise. And the referee eventually (and correctly) awarded the victory to "Legionarius" after a significant break in the action
Believe it or not, but tonight's victory marks the first time ever that Sakara has won three consecutive fights in his four-year UFC career. It's certainly not enough to earn him a title shot anytime soon, but it's a step in the right direction.
That's a wrap from the "Centennial State," Maniacs. Now it's time to share your thoughts on everything that went down tonight inside the Octagon.
For complete UFC on Versus 1: "Vera vs. Jones" results and play-by-play coverage of the televised main card click here.