The main event of UFC 135 tonight (Sept. 24, 2011) at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, featured one of the most highly anticipated light heavyweight match-ups in recent memory, as reigning division champion Jon Jones made his first title defense against number one contender Quinton Jackson.
Before the fight there were allegations of spying, talk of cockiness and, of course, the proverbial promise that someone's head was going to get knocked off. By fight time, most odds had the champion as high as a -900 favorite. In a championship fight at the highest levels of the sport, that was considered ridiculous.
Turns out, not so much.
That's because Jones proved worthy of all the hype by imposing his will and defending his title for the very first time at the unbelievable age of 24 by submitting "Rampage" in the fourth round.
Were you watching, Rashad Evans?
Jones came out with a goofy strategy. He kept one hand on the ground and circled like a spider before shooting for a takedown, one Jackson immediately stuffed. It quickly led to a clinch against the cage, though, where Jones went to work.
The pace was slow in the opening round, with both men maintaining and even keel while picking their spots to attack. Reach was definitely a problem for "Rampage," who struggled to find his way inside.
One round was in the books and neither fighter held a big edge.
They raced to the center of the cage to open the second and both men got aggressive, exerting the will of the champions they are and were. Still, patience was key, and both competitors utilized it as best they could. Openings were rare and no energy could go wasted.
Jackson was clearly looking for the proper time to counter, but Jones length negated this strategy tenfold. Color commentator Joe Rogan called for "Rampage" to "bum rush" his opponent, a call that went ignored as they headed into the third round.
Sweat gleaning from their bodies, the two Octagon warriors continued their chess match. If "Rampage" had a pawn or two, "Bones" took a rook with a takedown straight into side control. And just like that, he took the other by exploding into full mount with minutes still to go in the round.
Jackson responded with a power play by bucking his way out and getting back to his feet against the fence. He didn't do so without visibly showing the damage that had been done, however, as blood flowed freely near his right eye.
The champion controlled the stand-up, dictating the pace and owning the distance usually reserved for the seasoned veterans of the sport. He juked and jived his way to the championship rounds with an ease not seen since Anderson Silva was last plying his trade inside the cage.
"Rampage" looked tired -- and insulted -- heading into the fourth round. "Bones," meanwhile, was relaxed, calm as a kitten.
Jackson pushed forward early in the frame but ate a left hook for his troubles. It wasn't long before Jones asserted his dominance one again by physically overwhelming Jackson, taking his back and locking in a rear-naked choke that forced a tap.
"Rampage" Jackson tapped to a submission from Jon Jones. Who would have thought?
Can anyone stop this man?
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