Jon Jones sits next to Shogun Rua as they answer questions about their upcoming title fight.
Vitor Belfort enters the press conference and congratulates Anderson Silva, just as Silva is explaining the tension between he and Vitor. Silva then discusses what a fight between himself and Georges St. Pierre would look like.
Fabio Borges on Silva/Belfort and Jones/Rua
Immediately post-presser: Steven Seagal discusses the front kick he trained with Anderson, and how happy he was when Anderson landed it on Vitor's face. Seagal is interrupted by the same fake nose wearing Brazilian goofball journalist who interrupted the presser.
photo by Anderson Silva's son
The author, left, "chilling out" after UFC 126
In other video action, a much more professional (though no less animated) Brazilian journalist named Fabio Borges explains his lip-reading of Anderson and Vitor at their pre-fight staredown, and gives some words of advice for his countryman Shogun, as he prepares to face Albuquerque's Jon Jones: "Start training, right now."
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.
Jones and Rua sat next to each other at the press conference after it was announced that Jones would challenge Rua for the title. As Jones answered questions, Rua often appeared as if he wished his English were better
Last week’s feature focused on two local UFC fighters who not only won their fights in Vegas last weekend, but both collected bonus checks: Donald Cerrone for his part in the “Fight of the Night” against Paul Taylor, and Jon Jones, who got submission of the night after his guillotine choke forced Ryan Bader to tap. Funny thing is, Jones’ fight easily could have been called Fight of the Night (that is, if it wasn’t so one-sided), and Cerrone’s rear naked choke could have been Submission of the Night. But whatever you call it, neither one is sweating the extra 75K worth of chedda.
In one of the more memorable post-fight announcements it was revealed to the world, including Jones himself, that Jones’ teammate, mentor, and friend Rashad Evans had just injured his knee in training for his fight, six weeks away, against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, the light heavyweight champ. It had been decided behind closed doors that if Jones beats Bader convincingly he’d be offered the title shot.
Jones’ drubbing of Bader was indeed convincing. Bader never threatened Jones with anything. The closest he came to a take down was when he pulled Jones down on top of him, giving Jones the opportunity to apply the choke.
Jon Jones with his favorite issue of his favorite paper
Jones was told about his opportunity to fight for the title by ring interviewer Joe Rogan. Jones, in disbelief, accepted.
In the press conference Jones mentioned how crazy it is that he’d been studying Shogun in order to mimic his fighting style when helping Rashad prepare for the fight. Jones is well-known for his study habits in preparing for fights, and now that knowledge is going to come in handy in his own fight prep.
In last week’s feature we mentioned that the teammate bonds at Jackson’s, which so far have prevented Jackson’s teammates from fighting one another, have never been tested with a title belt on the line.
Since Evans is only sitting out his title shot because of his injury he’ll be the automatic challenger for the title when he heals. But if Jones wins, Evans said yesterday, he’ll either move up to heavyweight or down to middleweight, rather than challenge Jones for the title, as he told MMA Live after the fight:
"I'm happy for Jones, I think it's a great fight for him. I think Jones is going to smash Rua."
"Training with Jones in practice, he's one of the best guys I've ever trained with. The level he's gotten to so fast is scary and alarming. He's one of those guys at the gym, he'll be the first one there and the last one to leave. ... He's hungry, he wants it, so I'm glad if it's going to be someone to step into my place, I'm glad it's him."
"I'm still not going to fight Jon. I will always find something to challenge myself. I will go up to heavyweight or down to middleweight. But I will not fight Jon."
Jones entering the cage, full of business and whooop-ass
"Pay up homie." Vitor Belfort (L) joins the presser
At the post-fight press conference, Anderson Silva mentioned that action movie star Steven Seagal had taught him The Kick that had Vitor Belfort's name on it. Seagal and Silva thought it might be a good one to use against Vitor, so he practiced it a lot, and discussed using it moments before the cage door closed.
Seagal was sitting in the shadows to the side of the press conference. I asked him if the kick had a name. It did not.
I suggested the "kickball kick," and immediately regretted it. (subsequent research suggests it may be distantly related to Seagal's famous "Dozen Nut" kick.)
The trick, he said, is you lift your leg "and spear it straight up the middle."
Vitor, gracious in defeat, showed up at the presser after his medical check up. He didn't get a single question.
I felt bad about that, though in the heat of the moment I couldn't think of anything to ask except. "How is your face?" It didn't seem like a very dignifying question, so I held my tongue.
After getting KTFO'ed, Belfort got a little neck rub from his wife, a former Brazilian Playboy model. Note her shoes.
“Like a G-six, like a G-six” The pop music is pumping and the energy in here is peaking with the end of the final fight before the Main Event. It’s like being in the engine room of a spaceship. If there were more funk I'd say the Mothership.
The vibrations in the air are here insane. If my phone were to ring or vibrate I wouldn’t hear or feel it.
Belfort's in the cage. Lights dimming as the champion prepares to make his way. Whoever wins tonight makes history.
At the end of the first round, after circling each other cautiously, Anderson "The Spider" Silva ended it with a rare straight kick to the face. With Belfort down and the ref not calling the fight, Silva seemed hesitant to finish. But after a second of consideration, and a quick unanswered one-two delivered to the face, ref Mario Yamasaki intervened on the challenger's behalf.
After Belfort was able to get to his feet, which took a few minutes, the two hugged it out like gentlemen.
And as Joe Rogan likes to say, "that's a wrap, son."
The Co-Main event is underway. Neither Rich Franklin nor Forrest Griffin are title contenders. The fight is interesting because both have held a UFC title. But given the two of them are a combined 0-4 against Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort (who fight for the middle weight strap in the Main Event), the relevancy of this fight in the title picture is non.
When Franklin proclaimed that this would be the fight of the year, that was enough to convince me to put a modest wager on Griffin (the betting underdog), who leads two rounds to zero by my count, going into the final round.
After three lively rounds, in which strikes and takedowns were traded, Griffin wins the decision - which Franklin appeared to truly believe he won until Bruce Buffer read the scorecards. I like Franklin, but he seems a little out of touch with reality these days. But I'm not complaining. I made money on the disconnect.
A match down the road between Griffin and Jones would be interesting, because they are the two tallest members of the UFC light heavyweight division.
Jones heading for the cage, where Ryan Bader waits
Reporting live from Mandalay Bay Event Center, I don't know how everybody else in here isn't starting to piss their pants just a little.
I'm sitting near the Ryan Bader cheering section. One of them has his shirt off.
First round was total domination by Jones. He jumped over Bader at one point - backwards!! Jones stuffed Bader's takedowns, turning some of them into takedowns of his own. On the feet, Jones put his reach advantage to good use, showing that sometimes size matters.
Bader fans getting quieter, but still chirping.
Round 2: More crazy strikes from Jones, including a very fast superman punch-like thing. More failed takedowns from Bader, the second of which resulted in Jones on top, locking Bader in a gillotine choke and getting the tap.
The Bader gallery has been silenced, and the Jones hype train has not been derailed.
In the post fight interview Joe Rogan announces that Jon Jones is given the next title shot against Shogun Rua, as Jones' teammate Rashad Evans, who was in line for that fight, has blown out his knee in training. It's huge news. Everyone is stunned.
Meanwhile, Team Jackson's has a lock on submission of the night bonus.
Boy, the UFC fans out bloodthirsty tonight. They just booed the shit out of Torres vs Banuelos, to open up the pay per view. It wasn't a knockout or submission, as all the other fights but one have ended as, but it was a good tactical striking match.
Torres by decision. Helps to have a fifteen foot reach advantage on your opponent. His welcome to the UFC was tarnished by the boos.
I’m watching from the ESPN press box, as a guest of MMA Live Host Jon Anik. I serve as the show’s Portuguese language adviser on an informal basis.
Donald Cerrone proved too well rounded for Paul Kelly – who followed a friendly glove tap with an immediate strike to open the match. Cerrone hobbled him with leg kicks and then danced around Kelly, taking him down at will in both rounds. In the first, he used the position to elbow Kelly’s face bloody. In the second, Cowboy took Kelly’s back like a bucking bronco, but instead of riding him off into the sunset he submitted Kelly with a rear naked choke. Welcome to the UFC, Cowboy.
This puts Cowboy on track for a submision of the night bonus, as this has been the only submission so far.
UPDATE: Cowboy's teammate Jones won that award, though Cowboy and Kelly each got 75K bonuses for putting on the "Fight of the Night."
During the fight, the UFC announcers pointed out, as first reported by the Alibi, that Cowboy recently bought a ranch.
Watched a dude lose 400 dollars in less than a second to a card sharp with no teeth and blood red eyes. The mark was so sure the card was going to be a queen when he turned it over, he peeled off a hundred. Then he looked at his woman, looked at the card sharp, and was just positive that he was smarter. He peeled off three more and flipped over the card. He walked away, shaking his head, while the sharp reset his trap without skipping a beat.
There are dudes wearing Tapout shirts everywhere, but they’re found in highest density around the UFC fighters wandering around, dispensing their ambassadorial obligations with disarming warmth.
The preliminary fights have started. British striker Paul Taylor just knocked out Gabe Ruediger in lightweight action. The arena is still mostly empty. Not for long.
The main event stare down from yesterday’s weigh-ins. If this doesn’t send tingles down your spine you might need to change your medication.
The current issue of the Alibi features Team Jackson’s, a Duke City MMA squad that is sending two fighters to UFC 126, tonight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jon “Bones” Jones will be representing, in the light heavyweight and lightweight classes respectively.
In the feature, I focused on the Jackson’s fighters, and didn’t bother to mention that the main event of the evening, a middleweight title match between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort, is one of the most anticipated MMA fights ever. So Mandalay Bay is quite buzzing, as only Vegas can buzz.
Here’s a highlight video of yesterday’s weigh-ins. If this doesn’t send tingles down your spine you might need to change your medication.
And if you’re looking for a place to watch the fight, allow me to recommend these three local sports bars, all of which will be showing the fights tonight.
Check back all day long for updates from fight day turns to night in fight town.
Albuquerque has perhaps the highest density of professional cage-fighters per capita, and many of these Mixed Martial Artists choose to live here because of Jackson’s MMA Academy. The Alibi takes a look at the world-class gym.
Saturday, Feb. 5—Jones vs. Bader, Cerrone vs. Kelly
Visit alibi.com on UFC 126 fight day for behind-the-scenes coverage. Ari Levaux will be following the Albuquerque fighters with video interviews and live updates from from Las Vegas, Nevada. And if you're looking for a place to watch the fights, check out Ari’s local sports bar reviews at bit.ly/abqsportsbars.