Back on Nov. 12, 1993, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was born with its inaugural event, aptly-named "The Beginning," which emanated from the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. Tonight, the promotion returned to the "Mile High City" with UFC 135: "Jones vs. Rampage," which took place from the Pepsi Center.
And the pay-per-view (PPV), appropriately, marked another new "beginning."
Ladies and gentleman, meet UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. He is here to stay, whether you like it or not, for a very long time. Get used to it. He is indeed the real deal.
Just ask Quinton Jackson.
Jones, 24, and Jackson, 33, collided on the main event of the evening, pitting the present against the past. New guard vs. the Old. Speed vs. Power. Youth vs. Experience. Whatever it was branded prior to the 205-pound championship showdown now doesn't mean zip because Jones completely outclassed Jackson, a well-respected, formidable former champion, for more than three rounds.
And he looked amazing in the process.
Jones pulled out all the stops, including hyper-extedning knee sidekicks, spinning back elbows and leg kicks, head kicks, front kicks, switch kicks, flying knees, jabs, upper cuts, hooks and even a few other flashy things that would make Steven Seagal sit up and spit.
Jackson, who even after the fight was over via fourth round submission (rear naked choke) maintained that he was in the best shape ever, had absolutely zero answers to derail the "Bones" hype train. In fact, he played a dangerous game of chicken all night long, refusing to get off the tracks, and paid the ultimate price.
His corner pleaded with Jackson to find his range and close the distance, but it just seemed impossible given the ridiculous reach and superior skills of the incumbent champion. Jones basically fought Jackson's stand up game, hitting the floor only a handful of times.
Midway through the third round, in fact, Jones scored a takedown and was immediately able to secure full mount, scooting Jackson up against the cage and landing a skin-splitting elbow to the eye that appeared to signal the beginning of the end.
In the opening moments of the fourth round, the championship rounds and deep water that Jackson promised to drag Jones into, "Bones" stunned "Rampage" with a quick strike and scored a takedown shortly thereafter. Just a few seconds later, Jones took his back, sunk in a deep choke and did what no man (emphasis on man) had been able to do in the UFC up until this point:
Finish Quinton Jackson early.
Jon Jones aced his true test tonight. Passed it with flying colors. Crushed it. In doing so, he put the MMA world, as well as the rest of the division, specifically Rashad Evans, on high alert that he really is as good as he looks. And with just about three years of professional experience to date, it's absurd to think just how good he will get moving forward.
One thing is certain: It will sure be fun to watch.
In the co main event of the evening, former nine-time welterweight champion Matt Hughes was looking to bounce back from a first round knockout loss in his last outing when he collided with Josh Koscheck.
Meanwhile, Koscheck, who was cordial at just about every turn in the 19 days that led up to this showdown, which was nearly three years in the making (he filled in as a late replacement for the injured Diego Sanchez), was coming off a 12-month layoff to recover from a broken face.
Koscheck stopped being so nice about four minutes into their 170-pound battle. It was at this point where he began to turn the tide -- Hughes had found early success with surprising stand up that appeared to catch the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) star off guard.
He landed a strike that sent Hughes to the canvas, forcing him to fish for an ankle or other Koscheck body part to weather the storm. All he found, however, were several Koscheck knuckle sandwiches and hammerfists, the latter of which forced him to retire early for the EVENING.
Hughes was indeed completely out just as the buzzer blared to end round one. It took his corner, which included old friend Pat Miletich and Robbie Lawler, several minutes to peel him off the canvas and explain to him what had just transpired.
To his credit, Hughes, who could barely stand straight much less be expected to formulate coherent thoughts, refused to announce that he would retire from the sport. On the contrary, he requested that the promotion "put him on the shelf" until a collective decision can be made about his future.
Take your time.
Heavyweights Mark Hunt and Ben Rothwell hooked 'em up in a heavyweight tilt that, on paper, was pretty simple to predict. Hunt, a former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, wanted to stand and trade, while Rothwell wanted to exploit the Samoan's weak ground game and register a quick finish.
It wasn't a strikefest, nor was it over fast.
Rusty Rothwell, who was returning from a 15-month layoff because of surgery to repair and injured knee, made it clear early that he had zero intentions of exchanging often with the hard-hitting Hunt. As expected, he shot for takedowns, landed several and delivered some ground-and-pound damage with them in the opening five minutes.
In the process, he spent a ton of energy in high altitude, which is never too wise in a 15-minute bout. Especially, when you're pushing 265 pounds.
Hunt quickly capitalized on Rothwell's sluggishness in the second, finding his range and even doing significant work from inside his guard when the fight hit the floor. Rothwell appeared to be angling for a submission off his back, but it never came. In fact, all he did was waste even more energy and absorb even more punishment.
Rothwell was so spent when round two ended, a round in which Hunt nearly won the fight with a submission (kimura/armbar) of all things, that his team had to literally pick him up and drag him to their corner.
It was more of the same in the third and final frame.
Rothwell was so exhausted that he could barely walk, much less intelligently defend himself. Hunt, accordingly, poured it on early and landed a flush punch, which had little effect because Rothwell was so dead drunk tired at this point that he didn't even feel it.
Unfortunately, the fight continued until its merciful end with Hunt earning a hard-fought, albeit ugly, unanimous decision over "Big Ben," who is most likely still receiving fluids to recover from that draining performance.
His gas tank was missing about 10 gallons of something.
Browne bullied Broughton for most of the first two rounds, but the British bomber didn't seem too bothered by the leg kicks, Muay Thai knees and punches that "Hapa" was able to land. In fact, Browne got so tired (literally) of trying to end the fight with one punch that he shot for several takedowns.
Certainly not likely part of the gameplan coming into this fight for the 6'7" undefeated monster.
Broughton actually threatened with a kimura with a minute left in the fight, but Browne was able to escape and continue his assault until the final bell. Both men, when all was said and done, were gasping for air.
It wasn't a pretty fight, especially toward the end. And it certainly was a missed opportunity for Browne to capitalize on his sensational knockout of Stefan Struve. Sure, he got the decision win, but after that performance, it will be hard to match him up with the Top 10 opponent who he now feels he deserves to fight.
Then again, maybe someone like that can bring the best out of him. Regardless, with just three years of professional MMA experience, Browne still has tremendous upside.
Four years removed from his older brother Nick's sensational gogoplata submission over Takanori Gomi, a result that was later overturned to a "no contest" because an illegal substance (marijuana) finding, Nate Diaz was paired opposite the "Fireball Kid" to finish what his family started.
Did he ever.
Diaz, with his long reach a pressure boxing, painted the face of the former Pride FC poster boy with stiff jabs that hurt the Japanese import on numerous occasions. Gomi unleashed a few wild haymakers in a feeble attempt to make it seem as if this was a fair fight, but it wasn't.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 season winner was just too good and too much for him to handle, boxing up Gomi and dropping him with a few minutes to spare on the clock in round one. It was more than enough time for the Cesar Gracie-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist to wrap his legs around the neck of Gomi and set up the finish, which eventually came via armbar.
209 represents, once again.
That's enough from us -- now it's your turn to discuss "Jones vs. Rampage" in the comments section below. It was a solid night of fights, which was underscored with a career-defining win for on the the sport's most promising, and electrifying, talents.
There is much to talk about -- highs, lows, finishes and long-lasting legacies. How will you remember UFC 135?
For complete UFC 135 results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.