Jon Jones (12-1, 7 KOs 3 SUBs) is the hottest prospect in all of MMA, we know this. Besides the good looks and the star making charisma he is always a real joy to watch inside the Octagon because his brand of violence is both unrelenting and endlessly artistic. He has one loss, to Matt Hamill, and that was a fight that saw him dominate from bell to bell and lose only because his aggression got the best of him and he landed a series of illegal 12-6 elbows. Zuffa has rolled out a TV special for him this weeks in hopes of building his brand and they will most definitely be silently cheering him on as they see him as a potential cash cow going forward. But still, one has to ask, is making him a -175 favorite heading into his lightweight title shot at UFC 128 this Saturday rational on the part of the bookies? The reasoning behind it, most likely, has to do with the historical precedent Shogun Rua (19-4, 16 KOs, 1 SUB) has set for himself.
Rua has been here before and each time he has returned from a lengthy lay off the results have been less than grand. Probably the most damning example out there is the most recent one. Back at UFC 76 Rua made his UFC debut after a crazy successful run in PRIDE against Forest Griffin. There he got beat up for two rounds and submitted in the third. In the process though he re-aggravated an already existing knee injury and after the fight he elected to have it surgically repaired which landed him on the shelf until UFC 93 in January 2009. There he would face a wrinkly Marc Coleman in a rematch from their PRIDE days (the original was stopped due to a freakish arm injury suffered by Rua that resulted in him being out of action for 7 months). There he managed to pick up the W though nobody actually watching the fight would have thought him the winner of anything, still, inexplicably, the UFC bestowed it with (co) Fight of the Night honors. I didn’t know that the UFC was in the business of glorifying matches that featured an old man and a guy fighting like an old man huff and puff through three painful rounds. Just to give you an idea of how tired he was, for those who have never seen the fight, Rua looked even more gassed than Jake Shields did at UFC 121.
So the question remains for those of you looking to place money on this fight, do we trust the oddsmakers and their assessment of the situation, or do we trust Rua when he says that his knee is in tip top shape and has been ever since November? I’m picking Shogun to take this fight, his skill level out paces Jones’ at this early stage of his career and people have simply forgotten just how good Shogun can be, but my concern is more with his cardio than with his knee. I think he is a smart enough to dictate the direction the fight goes in and to steer it away from putting his knee in any real jeopardy. But unless he is able to knock Jones cold early, a la Machida/Shogun II, his conditioning is going to be called into question. Jones too is somebody who likes to score an early KO, and he has only ever gone the distance twice, but we must assume that he knows as well as the rest of us that the longer this fight goes the more it favors him.
Tags: jon jones, Matt Hamill, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Mixed Martial Arts, PRIDE, shogun rua, UFC 128