Updated – Shogun vs. Jones all set for UFC 128

Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua will take place at UFC 128The good news is that Jon Jones won’t have to wait much longer for a UFC championship match. The bad news is that he has barely six weeks to train for his first five-round fight, one of the greatest fighters in the world, and prepare to fight on the biggest stage of his career. Good luck!

Once MMA fans settled down after watching Anderson Silva‘s brutal knock out with a kick to the face of Vitor Belfort, the MMA world was buzzing about the Jones vs. Rua announcement. Following a dominant two round submission win over Ryan Bader at UFC 126, Jon Jones and the UFC crowd were informed together that he was awarded a shot at the UFC light heavyweight championship against Mauricio Shogun Rua at UFC 128. Seeing Jones drop to his knees in shock and excitement after the announcement was a moment that will go down in UFC history. Seeing Jones get dropped will likely be another.

It was revealed during the announcement that former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans blew out his knee in training and had to pull out of his scheduled title fight against Shogun at UFC 128. The UFC did a tremendous job of keeping this under wraps which is almost impossible in this day and age of 24 hour digital news. Surprisingly the UFC rolled their dice after an agreement from Shogun and told nobody else including Jones about the fight proposition. A gutsy call by the UFC considering that Jones vs. Bader on paper could have went either way.

I was really surprised when the announcement was made that the fight would take place at UFC 128 on March 19, the scheduled date of Shogun vs. Evans. I just assumed that they would push the fight back like they normally do in this kind of situation. As gracious as the UFC may come off here they are really screwing Jon “Bones” Jones. For one, they put him on the spot. I don’t think he would have turned the fight down behind closed doors (especially given his reaction) but what if he did? Two and more importantly, they are giving him six weeks to train for a five-round fight coming off a fight camp. That is just absurd. Yes I know a fighter is supposed to be a fighter but expecting a professional MMA fighter who has never trained for a five-round fight to all of the sudden change up his strategy in six weeks for the biggest fight of his life is unfair. But hey, at least the UFC doesn’t have to cancel a UFC 128 main-event.

To his credit, Jones doesn’t see this as a problem at all. “I usually spend my camp getting in shape, but I’m already in shape. (Coach Jackson) wants me to calm down. He said he can’t have me peak for six more weeks, but I’m not taking time off. Maybe physically I’ll take some time off, but I have a lot of studying to do. Six weeks is more than enough time, especially since I already have a six pack.” –

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The obvious solution here in my mind would have been to give Rampage Jackson the title opportunity. Jackson is already scheduled to fight Thiago Silva on May 28. Dana White already sees him as a top contender and he is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who never got his rematch. Pulling Rampage Jackson vs. Thiago Silva off UFC 130 wouldn’t have hurt the show with such a stacked lineup. Even with the short notice unlike Jones, Jackson has trained for five round fights so the quicker turnaround would be less of an issue. Jackson just beat Lyoto Machida while Jones just beat Ryan Bader. No disrespect to Bader but a win over Machida seems a heck of a lot more worthy in my mind to a title opportunity in this scenario. My gut tells me there is some underlying reason why this isn’t happening because it just makes the most sense.

Other than Rampage Jackson, there really weren’t any real worthy title contenders to fight Shogun. Unlike Strikeforce where guys off losses regularly get title shots, the UFC does try and book their title fights with some integrity. Other possible opponents for Shogun would have been Randy Couture, Thiago Silva, Matt Hamill, or Lyoto Machida. It would have been a real hard case for the UFC to make a case for any of those fighters to get a title shot. This is a stark reminder that the light heavyweight division in the UFC is not what it was a couple of years ago and may be in need of some serious rebuilding.

I don’t want this to seem like a bag on Jon Jones blog because that is not what it is meant to be. I am a big fan and I think with the proper training camp he could absolutely beat Shogun. As a matter of a fact I’d probably pick him if all things were even. I just think this is a bit much to ask of anyone, especially someone who has never been in a title fight against anyone the likes of Shogun. The good news here is at 23, chances are good that Jones will get another title opportunity the right way if things don’t go his way in the near future.

But if Jones does win, the UFC may have the biggest superstar on their roster since Chuck Liddell.

Update: Multiple reports confirm that the UFC attempted to give Rampage Jackson the light heavyweight title shot against Shogun Rua first. Jackson told that the turnaround time was too short to get ready for a five round fight with Rua. Jackson told that he would have to lose 51 pounds in four weeks and it just wasn’t enough time to train for a title fight.

The report confirms my suspicions that I wrote yesterday about the timing likely being the issue with Rampage. The easy solution here to me would have been to just move the fight off of UFC 128 and put it on UFC 130 or even UFC 131. My hunch is that would have been the plan if Jones got hurt, lost, or wasn’t interested. The obsession with keeping the fight on UFC 128 and expecting a challenger to train for a five round fight in such a short time is a bit ridiculous in my opinion. Unfortunately while the UFC has a ton of stacked shows coming up, UFC 128 is not one of them. They could have went with Marquardt vs. Akiyama as a main-event but that would have been a tough sell in the New York market.

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