It would be overdramatic and not completely accurate to claim that a star was born in the main event of UFC 128. Jon Jones
was already a star, which is why the UFC did a pre-fight special on him after giving the champion, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua
, no such fully-focused push.
But while Jones showed up at the Prudential Center in Newark already a celebrity, it was his domination of Rua that made him an instant colossus in this sport. With that will come a lot of fame, money, and attention -- all things that can derail any 23-year-old if he's not ready for them. Whether this will be one more rule that simply doesn't apply to Jones as it does to mere mortals, time will tell. For now, he gets to relax and enjoy being champ. He just shouldn't enjoy it too much, since this title has had a way of slipping through the fingers of his predecessors.
Now on the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between after UFC 128
. Biggest Winner: Jon Jones
He stops a thief on fight day, then stops 'Shogun' Rua with only slightly more difficulty. Am I the only one who's starting to wonder if his talents are being wasted on MMA when he could be out saving the world? The beating he put on one of the most vicious fighters in MMA was enough to make every UFC light heavyweight think twice about whether he really wants to ask for a title shot right now. He's so young and has progressed so quickly, it makes you wonder how terrifyingly dominant he could become. With Jones' size, reach, and blend of unorthodox striking and overpowering wresting, he's also got to be almost impossible for potential opponents to adequately prepare for in the gym. Unless, perhaps, you've already sparred with him down at Greg Jackson's a time or two...Biggest Loser: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
He made sure that Brendan Schaub knew he'd been in a fight before it was all over, but seeing Filipovic crumpled up on the mat yet again just reminds us that his glory days are long since over. The once fearsome head kick is now too slow and too telegraphed, and his ability to take a shot has faded with age. Heavyweights of the modern era are bigger, more athletic, and more well-rounded than they were in Cro Cop's heyday, and they keep getting younger as he slips further into his twilight years as a fighter. Dana White says we've probably seen the last of him in the Octagon. Any fan who cares about the man should also hope that it's the last we see of him in any cage. He was great in his time, but the rewards aren't worth the risks at this point. Better Late Than Never: Urijah Faber
After toiling for years in the relative obscurity of the WEC (though you can't say he didn't make the most of his time there), "The California Kid" finally made his UFC debut in a victorious effort against Eddie Wineland. He proved to be the more complete fighter with the smarter game plan, but he didn't exactly run Wineland over. Is Faber not as powerful at 135 pounds as we thought, or is Wineland simply better than advertised? It's hard to say. It's also hard to see that version of Faber coming out on top against human pinball Dominick Cruz. At least the UFC now has a big time bantamweight title fight it can sell, regardless of whether it's on 'The Ultimate Fighter' or not.Shortest Career Revival: Eliot Marshall
You have to give him credit for jumping into a late notice fight against a very tough Luiz Cane, but after that performance it probably won't be enough to convince the UFC to keep him on the roster. He practically started with his back against the fence, which served as an open invitation for Cane to corner him there and unleash that big left hand of his. Again, no one can question Marshall's will. He said he wanted the chance to find out if he could make it in the UFC, and he got it. If they decide to cut him after that disappointing loss, which seems likely, it should be interesting to see if he really does hang up the gloves like he vowed to before this fight. It's one thing to say you don't want to fight anywhere but the UFC, but it's quite another to actually retire at 30.Too Polite For His Own Good: Jim Miller
He's got a UFC winning streak that's starting to make Royce Gracie jealous, and on Saturday he put away a very tough opponent who many thought was close to unfinishable. So why is it that Joe Rogan had to practically drag a request for a title fight out of him? True, there's a backlog of quality competitors waiting to see how things shake out in the lightweight division, but even Clay Guida said Miller deserves to skip ahead of himself and Anthony Pettis to get to the front of the line. One gets the sense that if only Miller were a little louder, a little more outspoken – if he simply had a bigger personality in general – he might get the opportunities that he deserves for his accomplishments in the cage. If he doesn't see that, however, no amount of prodding from Rogan can fix it for him.Most Poise Under Pressure: Brendan Schaub
Fighting Cro Cop on a pay-per-view card is a lot of weight on your back when you have fewer than ten pro fights to your credit. Schaub came in with a good game plan, didn't get rattled by head kicks or point deductions, and landed the big right hand when he saw the opening off a Cro Cop left kick. It's a huge win for Schaub since it not only proves that he has KO power and a solid chin, it also shows that, mentally, he's ready to make the jump to the next level. There's still a risk that the UFC may try to push him too far, too fast, but a bout with the winner of the Frank Mir-Roy Nelson fight makes a lot of sense, and it would be an easy one for the UFC to sell either way. Either Schaub gets a shot at avenging his only loss, or he gets a chance to knock off a former champ who he's been eyeing. Either way, the tests only get tougher from here on out.Brightest Prospect: Edson Barboza
After three rounds of sitting cageside and watching Barboza kick Anthony Njokuani about the legs, torso, and head area, I swear I got up from my seat with a limp, some chest pains, and a headache. The young Brazilian is absolutely brutal on the feet, and he keeps the pressure on so that opponents hardly have time to think about anything other than how much they don't want to get kicked again. We still haven't seen him tested by one of the many excellent wrestlers in the division, so who knows if he's well-rounded enough to really make an impact at 155 pounds. The good news is, if you keep turning in Fight of the Night performances with your striking, the UFC will probably keep giving you the type of fights that help you showcase that skill. For a little while, anyway.Most Awkward Moment: Rashad Evans & Jon Jones sharing the cage
It wasn't quite a confrontation. It certainly wasn't a celebration. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect out of a forced, pro wrestling-style encounter between two guys who aren't pro wrestlers. Evans said on his Twitter afterwards that he didn't want to take away from Jones' moment, but the UFC made him get in there (where he immediately became a magnet for boos from the salty New Jersey crowd). Neither he nor Jones seemed to know quite how to play it, and can you blame them? Neither of them really, truly wants this fight, and yet they both want the fruit that it will bear for the winner. Seeing them go through the motions of that bit of fight game theatre felt a little like watching a divorced couple trying to be civil to one another at their only child's birthday party. Neither person wants to be a jerk about it, and they both realize it's necessary, but they also want to get it over with as soon as possible and get back to their own lives. It doesn't make for the best post-fight show, but at least it should make for an interesting and somewhat historic fight. Too bad it has to make poor Greg Jackson miserable in the meantime.