NEWARK - Within a few seconds of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua dropping the canvas in the third round, Jon "Bones" Jones did the same thing. One fell in defeat, one fell in glory.
Rua, the UFC light heavyweight champion coming into the cage for UFC 128 at the Prudential Center, collapsed after receiving a constant barrage of strikes from Jones, the new title holder.
"Champion 2011?" Jones said during his in-ring interview.
That was a nod to the hulaballoo this week about him signing autographs as "Champion 2011" prior to the fight.
Right from the outset, Jones took the fight to Rua. Flying knee, head strikes, effective kicks, spinning backfists. Jones opened up his entire repertoire of skills, just a few hours after helping to thwart a crime in nearby Paterson.
Jones (13-1) entered the fight with more hype than any recent fighter in the UFC or any other mixed martial arts promotion. Too often, it's impossible to live up to it. Not for Jones.
At 23 years old, Jones inspires all. He seemingly has the world -- the MMA world that is -- at his ungloved fingertips.
"Now I have huge target on my back," Jones said of his future light heavyweight opponents. "When you guys strike at me, I'll be ready to strike back."
In setting up the final series of vicious and powerful strikes to Rua, Jones landed a monster left hook that could be heard throughout the arena. He followed with a series of shots, but Rua managed to get back to his feet. Then Jones dropped him with a huge knee that ended the fight, validated the hype and kicked off a new age in mixed martial arts.
In-fight recap below
: Jon Jones (12-1) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (19-4)
Jones with a flying knee at close range. It hits, but not big damage. Then he takes down Rua a few seconds later. Rua is active from his back looking or submissions but Jones has control. Jones not able to get off much in the way of strikes for the first two minutes he has Rua on his back. Jones then got off a few shots that didn't do much damage. Rua got back to his feet with about 1:45 left and ate a series of punches from Jones.
Jones is striking and landing whatever he wants as Rua looks for his range. With about 30 seconds left, Rua made a mistake. He ducked under a spinning backfist and held Jones around the waist. He went for a takedown, missed and Jones was on top to finish the round.
Jones opens with assorted kicks, and he looks to be faster than Rua expected. He had Rua pinned against the cage and connected with a spinning elbow from close range. Rua has been unable to mount any offense yet six-plus minutes into the fight.
The eight-inch reach advantage for Jones seems to be giving Rua quite a bit of trouble. Jones connected with a big straight left that sent Rua backward at the three-minute mark. Jones now has Rua on his back in the middle of the cage with 2:30 left in the round. Jones laid on top of Rua for the next 90-plus seconds without doing much. Rua is unable to manuever, another example of Jones' wrestling pedigree (2005 New York State high school champion).
Shogun has a mouse under his right eye to start the round, a little sweeling around his left as well. Rua finally landed a good strike when he ducked under a kick and threw a right that connected to Jones' face. Shortly thereafter, Jones had Rua down on the ground and was in top control and throwing series of punches to Rua's head.
Jones landed a monster left hook that could be heard throughout the arena. He followed with a series of shots. Rua got back to his feet, then Jones dropped him with a huge knee that ended the fight. Jones then dropped to the canvas in excitement of becoming the new light heavyweight champion.