Sunday, March 20, 2011 1:10am
MMA NEWS MMA VIDEO
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Jon Jones signed a lot of autographs in the days leading up to his light heavyweight title fight at UFC 128. He kept adding after his name the words: "Champ 2011." It must have been a premonition. The charismatic 23-year-old Jones knocked out Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the third round Saturday night, becoming the youngest fighter to hold a UFC championship belt. "It feels so good," Jones said. "Dreams can come true, guys, they really can. Believe in yourself, believe in your heart. It comes true." In the co-main event, former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber won his debut under the UFC banner with a unanimous decision over former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland. It was an impressive performance by Faber, though nothing compared to what Jones did. Dominating the fight from the start, Jones used his superior speed and striking ability -- and some unorthodox kicks -- to set things at his pace. But it wasn't until midway through the third round that he put it away, landing several clean punches on the ground before letting Rua get to his feet. A couple more blows, including some vicious knees, finally ended it. Both of Rua's eyes were nearly swollen shut when the fight was stopped. "The strategy was to fight Jon Jones everywhere, anywhere the fight would go," Rua said through a translator. "I just have to congratulate him. He was better than me." UFC president Dana White believes that Jones, the brother of Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones, can become his promotion's next big star. He has a bright smile, displays a winning personality, and perhaps most importantly, takes care of business in the cage. Making his entrance to "Empire State of Mind," the young fighter from Rochester, N.Y., put on a show from the moment he cartwheeled into the octagon. An excellent wrestler with a collegiate background, Jones (13-1) showed against Rua that he can dominate a fight from anywhere on the mat. He spent the first round using an array of flying knees and spinning heel kicks, then measured him up with his boxing in the second round. The real damage came in the third round, when Jones landed several hard blows on the ground before letting Rua (19-5) to his feet. A few more punches, a couple of knees, and the referee wisely called off the fight to the delight of a sellout crowd at the Prudential Center. "It means a lot to me, but now I know I have a huge target on my back," said Jones, whose lone loss came by disqualification in a fight that he was clearly winning. "If you guys strike at me," he said, "I'll strike right back." The only person who might have had as much fun as Jones on Saturday night was Faber. One of the brightest stars of World Extreme Cagefighting, Faber was positively giddy last year when he learned the UFC, which had already purchased the smaller promotion, was folding it under the same banner by adding lighter weight divisions. Faber trotted to the ring with a broad grin on his face, slapping hands with fans hanging over the railings. By the second round, he was having plenty of fun inside the octagon. Showcasing his wrestling background from his days at UC-Davis, Faber (25-4) took Wineland to the ground and spent most of the round in the mount. Occasionally he would posture up enough to land a stiff right hand or elbow, but otherwise he ground his opponent into the mat. "Eddie is pretty tough," Faber said. "He caught me a little off-guard coming at me." The third round belonged entirely to "the California kid," who showed he can box a little bit, too. He landed a couple of hard combinations on Wineland (18-7-1) with about two minutes left in the fight, effectively sewing up the decision in his official UFC debut. "I want to get that UFC belt," Faber said afterward. "I'm going to get it." Earlier on the undercard, heavyweight Brendan Schaub scored an impressive third-round knockout of veteran Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic; perennial middleweight contender Nate Marquardt beat Dan Miller by unanimous decision; and lightweight Jim Miller knocked out Kamal Shalorus by landing a hard left uppercut, then a clean left knee midway through the third round. "I knew the first time I laid my hands on him, he was tough," said Miller, who hopes for a title shot after his seventh straight win. "I come in here and I fight my heart out."