In the debut of the UFC on the Versus network, light heavyweight Jon Jones and heavyweight Junior Dos Santos put on performances that displayed just how talented the prospects of the UFC are.
Jones took on Brandon Vera in the night’s main event, a fight that was critical to both in that Jones was supposed to be finally fighting an equal talent wise, while Vera had the potential to derail the UFC’s most highly touted prospect perhaps in its now almost 17 year history.
From the outset he took control of the fight by closing the distance on Vera and securing a quick takedown. And despite Vera’s best efforts — including an illegal upkick to Jones’ head while he was still down on both knees — Jones secured the victory with a vicious elbow to the right side of Vera’s temple, possibly fracturing Vera’s orbital bone.
The strike caused Vera to immediately turn away and cover up. He was obviously hurt and Jones pounced, continuing the onslaught to garner the TKO stoppage from Herb Dean.
The win cements Jones as not only the fastest rising light heavyweight but certainly in the top five of the division’s rankings. He joins champion Lyoto Machida, No. 1 contender Shogun Rua and probably “Rampage” Jackson as well as Rashad Evans in that group while many others including Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture and the man they call Lil Nog.
In the co-main event, Junior Dos Santos took on brethren in fellow Brazilian competitor Gabriel Gonzaga. It was probably Dos Santos’ stiffest competition to date as he took on a challenger with an 11-4 record, previous title contention and a man who sports about as complete an arsenal as any heavyweight.
Through all of that, Dos Santos showed just how special he is.
The two heavyweights traded shots early on, however it was Gonzaga who looked to gain the early advantage with some nice leg kicks and straight rights before scoring an early takedown at about the two minute mark in the first round.
It was here Dos Santos showed his toughness. He gained his feet almost immediately against the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and within moments sent him sprawling to the canvas with a powerful right hand timed perfectly against Gonzaga’s body kick.
From there, Dos Santos’ ground and pound put matters to an end as the referee stepped in and gave Dos Santos a 1st round TKO win. The performance certainly answered any remaining questions about Dos Santos’ stand-up acumen.
In the other main card bouts of the evening, Cheick Kongo utilized a smart gameplan and superior strength and power to overwhelm the veteran Paul Buentello who had enough of the beating Kongo was dishing out in the third and tapped.
Meanwhile middleweight Alessio Sakara defeated James Irvin by TKO after Irvin wanted time for a poke in the eye that wasn’t, just a fist in the eye in actuality. Perhaps a disappointing finish, but a finish nonetheless for Sakara who needed the win to regain some footing in the UFC.
In the end, the night was owned by the UFC’s brightest prospects. Jones and Dos Santos — 22 and 26 respectively — simply made their divisional counterparts look over their shoulders, if they weren’t already.
They’re all on notice now — Dos Santos and Jones are here to stay.