NEWARK, March 19 – Champion. At 23 years old, Jon Jones now has that title next to his name after a dominating third round stoppage of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at Prudential Center Saturday night that justified all the pre-fight hype and may one day have fight fans asking “where were you when ‘Bones’ Jones’ won his world light heavyweight championship?”
The kid is that good. And despite his unmatched run to the belt, it was this victory over one of the best light heavyweights of this era that marked him as a once in a lifetime talent. But Jones, mature beyond his years, knows that his work is far from done.
“There’s a huge target on my back and when you guys strike at me, I’ll be ready to strike back,” said Jones, who is now in the history books as the UFC’s youngest world champion ever, replacing Josh Barnett. See post-fight interview
It wasn’t even all he did, as Jones foiled an attempted robbery earlier Saturday in a Paterson, New Jersey park that he and trainers Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn visited for a pre-fight meditation session.
But tonight was truly all about the fight.
With Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” leading him into the Octagon, Endicott, New York’s Jones was as loose as he’s been throughout the six weeks leading up to the biggest fight of his life. It was an eerie calm for such a monumental moment, and it was a demeanor shared by Rua, as he made his way from the locker room with his brother Murilo “Ninja” Rua shouting encouragement to him.
As Jones waited, he warmed up as if preparing for a sparring session, taking the time to turn and greet his family and friends at Octagonside. The time for business would come soon enough though, and Jones clicked into fight mode with a punch and a knee into the padded Octagon wall seconds before Bruce Buffer introduced the champion and his challenger.
After the introductions and a handshake, referee Herb Dean began the fight and Jones tried to end things quick with a flying knee. Rua defended it well and stalked his foe, but wasn’t able to stop Jones’ takedown attempt. While on his back, Rua looked for a submission, but Jones avoided trouble while seeking room to lay down his lethal elbows. Rua was visibly bothered by Jones’ smothering attack, but with less than two minutes left, he was able to get back to his feet. Jones didn’t let up with his attack, and Rua looked out of sorts as “Bones” bullied him. As the final minute got underway, Jones missed a spinning elbow and Rua appeared to get some daylight as he got his foe’s back while standing, but it was Jones who ended the round on top on the mat, punctuating the frame with an elbow to the face.
The determination on Rua’s face was evident as he came out for round two, but he was unable to get his offense in gear. Jones’ second spinning elbow attempt landed flush, but Rua shook it off and continued moving forward. After a brief period where the two simply circled and measured each other, Jones countered a Rua kick attempt with a punch over the top, and after some more solid attacks, he was able to get the champion to the mat again. Jones opened up with his elbows, but he didn’t do so in a reckless fashion, aware that should Rua survive, there were still three more rounds to fight. Rua did his best to tie Jones up, hoping for a restart from Dean, but it would be the bell that intervened.
Entering round three, Jones’ face was unmarked, while Rua’s showed the effects of the previous ten minutes. Rua was far from done though, and after a missed strike he shot for Jones’ leg and looked for a submission. Jones punched his way out of trouble, working his way into the half-guard. Rua took Jones into his full guard moments later, but the challenger answered with a flurry of punches, and moment s later, he unleashed his full arsenal on the battered champion one crushing shot at a time. Rua courageously staggered to his feet, but all that was left was a finishing series of shots from Jones that dropped Rua and brought in Dean to end the bout at 2:37 of the third round.
With the win, Jones improves to 13-1; Rua falls to 19-5.