When Jon Jones defeated former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Shogun Rua, many fans declared Jones the leader of the new generation of mixed martial arts. Jones’ physical characteristics and unorthodox fighting style has created signature highlight knockouts and submissions. MMA may be seen as a complicated science but Jones has passed all his tests flying colors. But on September 24th, he faces the most difficult test of his career when he defends the title against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Lately Jackson has been known more for intimating reporters and lackluster fights than his punching power and vicious takedowns. But Rampage claims he's in the best shape of his career after moving his training camp to Denver, Colo. Even his weight cut has gone smoother than normal by making weight a week early. Jackson has even gone so far as to use psychological warfare by claiming Jones has a spy in his camp. Jones denies the accusation, but based on fan uproar and unwarranted media attention, this story could work to Rampage's advantage.
Despite Jones destroying his competition, critics and fans question if he can fulfill his title as the future of MMA. Bones' ability to take a punch has never been tested and despite the submission victories, its unknown what ability Jones has when he's put on his back. Also since capturing the belt, Jones has attracted more mainstream spotlight by appearing in Bud Light and K-Swiss commercials as well as late night talk shows. Meanwhile, Jackson knows the pressure of becoming champion and losing luxuries such as privacy and anonymity. It's hard to predict if Jones can excel under the magnified spotlight or crumble under the pressure.
But Jones remains a 5 to 1 favorite for a reason and should win a decision victory. Rampage has more than a 'puncher chance' but Jones' natural gifts along with his conditioning will be too much for Jackson to overcome.
Co-Main Event: Josh Koscheck vs Matt Hughes
UFC 135 also has a co-main event featuring one of the greatest welterweight fighters ever against a top welterweight contender. Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes was set to face Albuquerque's own Diego Sanchez, but a hand injury forced Sanchez to withdraw from the fight. Josh Koscheck had planned to move to the middleweight division, but when hearing of the open slot, he jumped on the opportunity. Both men are looking to rebound off bad losses and Hughes faces a must-win situation. Hughes looked terrible against B.J. Penn and needs a win to keep his career alive. Meanwhile Koscheck looks to overcome his failure to capture the welterweight title from George St. Pierre and prove he's fully recovered from his eye injury. Koscheck has youth on his side and should smother Hughes with constant double leg takedowns en route to a decision win.
2011 Gold Cup Soccer has gained more mainstream coverage within American sports the last couple of years—Team U.S.A. had relative success in the 2010 World Cup and there's been a growing interest in Major League Soccer. So when the United States faced Mexico in the finals of the Gold Cup, the U.S. was poised to give American soccer some much needed creditability. 93,420 fans filled the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to witness the U.S gain a quick two goal lead. But Mexico turned up the pressure and overwhelmed the U.S with four unanswered goals to capture the title, 4-2. Along with the loss, many of the fans were rooting for Mexico, jeering the Americans with insults throughout the match. While Mexico earned a birth in the 2013 Confederations Cup, the U.S will look for answers to improve in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
UFC on Versus There was little excitement surrounding the original main event of Nate Marquardt versus Rick Story. And on Saturday afternoon the main event fell apart after Maquardt failed his medical tests. Then UFC President Dana White fired him and named Charlie Brenneman as the last second replacement. Despite all the troubles with this card, the fights delivered some awesome finishes. Former NFL standout Matt Mitrione KO'd Christian Morecraft and Brenneman pulled off the upset by earning the decision against Story. Pat Berry and Cheick Kongo moved into the main event and delivered one of the best comebacks in the history of MMA. Berry caught Kongo with a series of punches and almost finished him, but the referee didn't stop the fight. Eventually Kongo gained his composure just enough to nail Berry and win the fight. The comeback victory could give Kongo some momentum to make one more run at the heavyweight title.
Jon Jones, at 23, became the youngest UFC champion in history by defeating Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a light heavyweight title match at UFC 128 on March 19 in Newark, NJ. A few hours after the fight I sat down with two of his trainers, Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn of Jackson's MMA in Albuquerque.
Of "Shogun's" inability to mount any offense whatsoever, Winkeljohn observed, "He got Jones-ed."
On Saturday, March 19, I'll be live-blogging from UFC 128 in Newark, N.J., as two UFC fighters who train at Jackson's MMA here in Albuquerque will be competing. Nate Marquardt will face Dan Miller in a middleweight bout, and Jon “Bones” Jones will face “Shogun” Rua for the light-heavyweight title. Stop by alibi.com tomorrow for behind-the-scene updates.
Despite Christina Aguilera screwing up the national anthem and another horrible halftime show, viewers were treated to an entertaining football game. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers performed well enough to make even the most loyal Brett Favre fan embrace a new era of Packer football. Rodgers' three touchdown throws combined with three Steeler turnovers left too much for Pittsburgh—lead by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—to overcome. “Big Ben” had the chance to lead a fourth quarter comeback but couldn't get past the top ranked Packers defense. The 31-25 victory marked the fourth Super Bowl victory for Green Bay.
Football fans should savor this Super Bowl as it could be the last game they see for a while. Labor talks between the owners and players are moving at snail-like pace and could lead to a lockout. Hopefully both sides can come to an agreement or it will be hockey and soccer highlights on Sunday nights.
Most fans expected the Anderson Silva/Vitor Belfort main event to be the most exciting title fight in MMA history. That or the longest staring contest even know to mankind. The result was a mixture of the two with both fighters gun shy for the opening minutes of the first round. Eventually Belfort exchanged strikes with Anderson only to be greeted by a massive Steven Seagal-esque front kick. In fact, Seagal gave Silva some pointers before the match. Silva landed a knockout that opens the door for a possible superfight with UFC champion George St. Pierre (a.k.a. GSP). Barring some miracle, GSP should beat Jake Shields in April and move up to middleweight to face Silva. A GSP and Silva bout could rival the hype of a Manny Pacquiao v. Floyd Mayweather fight.
Greg Jackson's fighter Jon Jones was expecting to move up the light heavyweight rankings with a victory over Ryan Bader. Jones' second-round choke of Bader earned him new recognition and a title shot against champion Maurício "Shogun" Rua. Former champ Rashad Evans had to pull out due to an injury in practice, opening the door for Jones. Evans injury (while unfortunate) maybe a blessing in disguise as Jones presents a more dynamic match-up against Shogun. Jones youth and unpredictability could aid mixed martial arts' break into the popular sports culture. No matter what happens, Jones potential is limitless.
Jackson’s gym defends the Duke City’s title as a stronghold for tough talent
By Ari LeVaux
Life—be it human, plant or animal—doesn’t last long in this scrappy landscape without barbs, armor or a few aces in the hole. Maybe that’s why Albuquerque has perhaps the highest density of professional cage-fighters per capita. Officially called Mixed Martial Arts, the sport’s biggest stage is the Ultimate Fighting Championship. But its best fighters are not confined to the UFC: Smaller promotions like Strikeforce and Bellator have their share as well. Albuquerque is home to fighters in these and just about every other major promotion in the U.S.
The Lobos had a rough start to begin 2011. The Dayton Flyers won the 2010 NIT tournament and have put themselves in a position to make the 2011 NCAA tournament. With the Lobos barely beating Texas Tech the game before, New Mexico had to overcome the Flyers three-point shooting. The game was sent into double overtime with strong performances by Dairese Gary and Kendall Williams.
Williams had 14 points and had a chance to send the game to another overtime with a three-pointer, but it bricked the top of the rim. The 76-73 loss sends the Lobos to 11-3 and searching for a win against Cal State Bakersfield at home on Wednesday, Jan. 5.
Many fans were dreading the UFC 125 main event between Frankie Edgar and Grey Maynard. After all, both men fought to a boring decision in which Maynard dominated Edgar with takedowns. However the rematch played out very differently, and Maynard hit Edgar with huge punches, almost finishing the fight in the first round. Somehow Edgar survived and responded by pushing the bout to a judges decision. With both men having strong moments in the fight, the judges ruled a draw.
UFC President Dana White at first stated Anthony “Showtime” Pettis would get the next shot but then changed his mind and booked an immediate rematch.
It was also a good night for Jacksons MMA fighters Brian Stann and Clay Guida. Stann knocked out the strong favorite Chris Leben and moves up the middleweight rankings. Guida had an impressive submission of Pride lightweight legend Takanori Gomi in the second round.
The last week in the season resulted in some anti-climatic results. The Jets, Steelers and Patriots destroyed their opposition and look ready to make a impact in the postseason. The Indianapolis Colts provided the only drama of the day, defeating the Tennessee Titans with a game-winning field goal. Colts lock up with AFC South and now face the cocky New York Jets in the wild card game.
Normally, Detroit doesn't have too much to cheer about. But on Saturday night UFC 123 took center stage in front of 16,404 MMA fans. The main event featured Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida locked in a three-round chess match. Jackson won a close decision despite getting thrashed by Machida in the third round. Even Jackson was surprised he won when UFC cage announcer Bruce Buffer read the result. Both fighters and the fans are open to a rematch but UFC President Dana White felt Jackson won the first two rounds and thinks a rematch is unnecessary. With UFC light-heavyweight champion Shogun Rua still recovering from a knee injury, White may not have a choice but to give Machida another shot at Jackson.
From the moment the bell rang, B.J. Penn looked determined to beat Matt Hughes by any means necessary. Penn was on a two fight losing streak and needed an impressive victory to keep himself relevant as a contender.
It only took 21 seconds for Penn to destroy Hughes and remind the MMA world why 'The Prodigy' is still one of the most dangerous fighters in the game today. Meanwhile, Hughes may see retirement looming on the horizon. Penn's impressive victory earns him a shot at tough contender Jon Fitch in Australia early next year.
The California Bears gave Lobo basketball their first loss of the season and a major reality check. With no home crowd to save New Mexico, bad shooting and turnovers allowed the Bears to score 51 points in the second half to capture the 89-64 victory. Lobo point guard Dairese Gary had a team-leading 16 points but also had five turnovers. The Lobos now turn their focus on Northwood for Wednesday's home game.
BYU continued to add to the nightmare of Lobo football. The Cougars are having a disappointing final season in the Mountain West Conference, but it did not stop the 40-7 beatdown. Cougar quarterback Jake Heaps totaled three touchdowns to make BYU bowl-eligible. Stump Godfrey continued to be the only glimmer of hope by throwing for 125 yards and a touchdown. Now the Lobos welcome BCS contender TCU to University Stadium for the season finale.
Usually when watching the UFC, my stoke level is through the roof but with Randy Couture vs. James Toney, my excitement turned into anxiousness. If pro-boxer Toney somehow knocked out Couture, old-school boxing fans would quickly devalue MMA as a competitive sport.
Luckily Couture did his job and destroyed Toney with ground and pound before choking him out with a arm triangle in round one. Now Couture can move on and face top contenders in the light heavyweight division.
When the main event ended between Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn there was no doubt, Edgar had confirmed his spot as the No. 1 lightweight in the world. Unlike their first bout earlier this year, Edgar dominated Penn in every aspect of MMA. From takedowns to powerful striking, Edgar took the heart and will from Penn to win a lopsided decision and retained the lightweight title. Penn seemed confused and had little help from his cornermen to counter Edgar's gameplan. Now Edgar will collide with No. 1 contender Grey Maynard and try to avenge his only loss. Meanwhile Penn needs to reflect on his career and evaluate if he will continue as a lightweight, or challenge much bigger fighters in the welterweight division.
Boston heroes like Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and the new member of the Boston Celtics Shaquille O'Neal witnessed an average undercard. The fight of the night went to Nate Diaz and Marcus Davis, which featured a Diaz submission in the third round. Despite an ugly and un-fan-friendly style, Grey Maynard finally got his title shot by winning a decision over Kenny Florian. Also Demian Maia showcased textbook Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and overwhelmed Mario Miranda.
The Little League World Series ranks as one of the most underrated sporting events in the country. It's refreshing to see these competitors playing for the love of baseball instead of money and fame. Japan broke the United States streak of five straight victories by defeating Hawaii 4-1. Major League Baseball should be paying special attention this year because instant replay made its debut in the tournament. From all accounts, replay was a success and will hopefully be used to review every close call in Major League Baseball.
Everybody said Tiger Woods would never win a major again and his career was over. But, as usual, Woods proved his critics wrong and had his best performance of the year at the Barclays Tournament. Woods didn't win but proved he's still a threat by shooting a 65 and 67 during the first and final round.
Even though the final round didn't feature Woods, Matt Kuchar made sure to add excitement by defeating Martin Laird in a playoff. Critics needs to cut Woods some slack this season and evaluate his career when his mind is fully committed to golf.
Chael Sonnen probably talked the most trash to hype a fight in the history of the sport. But once he stepped into the octagon, could Sonnen practiced what he preached? He’d have to beat up the man who, pound-for-pound, is considered the best fighter in the world, Anderson Silva.
Sonnen did exactly what he said he would and punished Silva with takedowns, and ground and pound for four rounds. Silva lost every round but only needed a couple minutes to pull off a comeback victory with a a triangle armbar. Once known for one sided beatdowns and boring performances, Silva will be remembered for one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history.
Dana White has an interesting dilemma. as he must decide between giving Sonnen a rematch or finally giving Vitor Belfort his title shot.
The main event was awesome, but the UFC 117 undercard featured compelling action with future contenders. Welterweights Matt Hughes and Jon Fitch had impressive wins. Heavyweight Junior dos Santos looked like a threat for the title regardless of the winner of Lensar vs. Velasquez.
Hall of Fame Weekend features the official start of the football season, but the main event is the induction ceremony. Despite my overwhelming hatred for the Dallas Cowboys, you can't help but respect Emmitt Smith's career. Smith's speech was emotionally engaging and respectful to his teammates, who help him achieve all of his accomplishments in the league. Jerry Rice was also inducted and during his speech stated he never took time to enjoy special moments of his career. Hopefully Rice and the rest of the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 can reflect and take pride of the impact they had to the game of football.
Tiger Woods continues struggle and many critics are enjoying his slow demise on the PGA tour. Woods finished 18 over par, second to last at the Bridgestone Invitational. This year should be viewed as a lost cause for Woods and not a representation of Woods' future golf game. Lets wait until next years Masters Tournament to determine if he’s truly lost his golf game.
UFC 113 had everyting it needed—controversy and knockouts—on Saturday night. Over 17,000 Montreal fans witnessed "Shogun Rua capture the title with a first-round KO over Lyoto Machida. But Rua has little time to enjoy the victory as he waits for the winner of the Rampage Jackson/Rashad Evans fight later this month.
Josh Koscheck's trash talk about George St. Pierre should have been what fans remembered after his victory over Paul Daley. Instead Daley's suckerpunch stole the headlines, prompting Dana White to hand Daley his walking papers. Koscheck also accused Daley of “oiling up” before the fight. Maybe he should focus on coaching on the next season of reality show “The Ultimate Fighter”—and his title shot.
As usual White had plenty on his mind including the fate of Kimbo Slice.
Tiger Woods' comeback isn't exactly going as planned. He pulled out of The Players Championship. Finishing only one tournament since his break, Woods suffered a neck injury during the seventh hole of the final round. Reports surfaced that he’s been having neck problems for quite a while, which begs the question: Did Tiger Woods return too early?
Much talk has centered on the phantom elbow injury of LeBron James and the fall of Kobe Bryant. But many fans have forgotten about the Phoenix Suns, who completed the sweep of the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs dominated the Suns in playoff action, so Phoenix was motivated to prevent a miracle comeback.
Before Sunday, Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden was infamous for calling out New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. Now Braden will forever be remembered for throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Football fans favorite NFL holiday continues on Friday and Saturday, with diehards hoping to find their diamond in the rough. With Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy still on the draft board, a normally boring second round is now guaranteed to deliver some excitement. Despite Sam Bradford being selected number one, Florida Gator poster boy Tim Tebow stole the show by being selected no. 25 to the Denver Broncos. Tebow's excitement is written all over his face in this interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap from his Florida home. Still looking for draft info, stick with ESPN's Draft coverage and the NFL.com Draft coverage. Both have great videos and articles breaking down every pick for your viewing pleasure.
Aldo vs Faber
After two lackluster MMA events, WEC presents Aldo vs Faber, which hopes to leave fight fans with a better taste in their mouths after lackluster UFC and Strikeforce shows.
Dana White continues his infamous video blogs and hypes this main event as the most important fight in featherweight history. These videos contain White's foul mouth, but are worth a look as he talks to the media and visits fans at his favorite yogurt shop, Pinkberry.