Consider the star born.
Jon Jones handed Mauricio "Shogun" Rua a savage beating in the UFC 128 headliner, as he captured the light heavyweight championship in a third-round technical knockout on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Beaten almost beyond recognition, Rua finally wilted 2 minutes, 37 seconds into Round 3.
"It feels so good," said Jones, who, at 23, became the youngest UFC champion in history. "It's a testament that dreams do come true. Believe in yourself, and once you get there, don't slow down. It comes true, everybody."
Shogun never had a chance. Jones secured his first takedown inside the first 30 seconds and patiently brutalized the Brazilian with punches and elbows. Rua stood near the cage, ate a knee to the body, a shin to the face and punches to the head. He wobbled forward and was never the same.
Final Punch Numbers
Jones outstrikes Rua by a landslide
Jones landed one of his patented spinning back elbows to open Round 2, caught an attempted leg kick by Rua and drove his opponent to the ground, where elbows and punches to the head and body greeted the battered and broken champion. So complete was Jones' dominance that he attempted a kneebar on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt near the end of the period.
At the start of Round 3, it was clear Shogun had little left. He swooped in for a leg lock, only to wind up on his back. There, he was at the mercy of the challenger. Shogun returned to a standing position, as Jones backed him into the cage and cracked him with a mean left hook to the body that put him down for good. With that, Jones' ascent was complete.
"It means a lot to me, but now I know I have a huge target on my back," Jones said. "And when you guys come and strike at me, I'll be ready to strike right back."
The beating left Shogun a mangled mess.
"The strategy was to fight him anywhere the fight would go," Rua said. "I have to congratulate him. He was better than me. He is a very tough guy, and he showed great muay Thai and ground work. He is the man."
Former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who trains with Jones at Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M., entered the cage afterward. Recovering from a knee injury, he appears to be next in line to challenge for the belt.
"Well, I guess you should never say never, right?" Evans said. "We train together, but he's got that strap, and I have to go after it."
"We are teammates, and it sucks that we're going to have to do this, but this is my dream," he said. "This is everything I believe in. I have to do exactly what I have to do."
Urijah Faber outworked, outmaneuvered and ultimately outclassed Eddie Wineland in a competitive battle between former WEC champions. Faber earned a unanimous verdict from the cageside judges in the co-main event. The scores were 29-28 across the board for Faber, who made a successful, if not memorable, UFC debut.
Wineland enjoyed early success as he stuffed Faber's repeated takedown attempts in the first round, walked through a pair of heavy overhand rights and worked effectively from the clinch.
"I felt pretty good," Faber said. "Eddie is really tough. He caught me off guard coming with the clinch as much as he did. Eddie is a young guy. He has a bright future here."
Faber found his stride in Round 2, as he delivered his first takedown and attacked with elbows from the top and standing-to-ground punches from inside his foe's guard. He carried his momentum into the third, where his quick hands began to take their toll on Wineland. "The California Kid" sealed it with a takedown with a little more than a minute remaining.
"You don't know how fast or how powerful someone is until you get right in front of them, so I was gauging that," Faber said. "I felt comfortable standing in front of him and then tagging him defensively. I would have liked to have gotten the finish, guys. I'll be back, and I'll be stronger than ever."
Afterward, Faber set his sights on UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, a man he has already beaten.
"I'm coming to get that UFC belt," Faber said. "Dominick, if you're out there, hide your kids, hide your wife and hide that UFC belt, baby, because I'm coming to get it."
Surging lightweight contender Jim Miller stopped previously unbeaten WEC import Kamal Shalorus on third-round strikes in a 155-pound showcase. The world-ranked Miller, moving into position to challenge for the UFC lightweight crown, has pieced together an impressive seven-fight winning streak.
"That's seven in a row in arguably the toughest division in the UFC," Miller said. "I'm ready [for a title shot]. I come in here and I fight my heart out."
Miller picked apart Shalorus with clean, technical strikes, but it took some time to chop down the rugged Texas-based Iranian. The AMA Fight Club representative spent more than half the second round on Shalorus' back after a successful single-leg takedown, working for a choke.
"Kamal is as tough as a coffin nail," Miller said. "I hit him so hard. I might have cracked something in my hand. He's got a hard head."
Shalorus survived, but his outing took a turn for the worse in the third. The 27-year-old Miller connected with a beautiful uppercut and backed it up with a ringing knee that realigned his foe's nose. Follow up punches went unanswered, and the referee intervened on Shalorus' behalf. Miller owns a 9-1 mark in the UFC.
Marquardt decisions Miller
One-time UFC middleweight title contender Nate Marquardt took care of business against a game but overmatched Dan Miller, as he outpointed the former International Fight League champion en route to a clear-cut unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Marquardt, who won for the 10th time in 14 Octagon appearances.
Marquardt fought through a pair of guillotine attempts and a bloodied lip. The 31-year-old Grudge Training Center representative utilized a multi-pronged standup attack, made Miller pay when they went to the ground and peppered his foe with one straight right after another throughout their 15-minute encounter. By the time the fight reached the third round, blood was streaming down the left side of Miller's face.
A former middleweight King of Pancrase, Marquardt entered the cage in need of a victory, having lost two of his last three bouts. The Lander, Wyo., native was originally scheduled to meet Yoshihiro Akiyama, who withdrew from the event after a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11.
Schaub right hand downs 'Cro Cop'
"The Ultimate Fighter" Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub stuck another important feather in his cap, as he knocked out Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic with a clubbing right hand 3 minutes, 44 seconds into the third round of their featured heavyweight scrap.
Schaub and Filipovic spent a significant portion of their encounter in the clinch, trading blows and positions. Schaub, the larger man and the superior athlete, delivered takedowns in every round and more than held his own standing against the 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner. Schaub did not escape the bout unscathed, as Cro Cop opened a cut on his left eyelid and bloodied his nose with a nice close-quarters elbow.
"I just keep getting more and more experience," Schaub said. "I got to showcase my wrestling in this one, because Mirko is so dangerous [standing]."
Round 3 seemed to be following a similar pattern, until Schaub felled the Croatian with a right hand behind the ear. Cro Cop fell awkwardly onto his shoulder, his right arm pinned behind his back, and Schaub polished him off with another right on the ground.
"That's what we were drilling all day in camp," Schaub said. "I wanted to get him to kick. He didn't kick that much, but it paid off in the end."
Cane flattens returning Marshall
Luis Artur Cane Jr. steamrolled fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Eliot Marshall, as he stopped "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 semifinalist on first-round punches in their preliminary light heavyweight match.
Marshall met his demise 2 minutes, 15 seconds into Round 1.
Cane wasted no time in backing down his tentative foe. The Brazilian stuffed each of Marshall's attempted takedowns and went to work with his hands. He followed a straight left with a heavy left uppercut that put Marshall on his back. Cane then delivered a merciless stream of punches and hammerfists on the ground, forcing Marshall to wilt under the extraordinary pressures.
The defeat halted Marshall's three-fight winning streak. He had never before been finished so quickly.
Barboza stays unbeaten, decisions Njokuani
Undefeated lightweight prospect Edson Barboza Jr. passed his first serious test as a professional, as he took a hotly contested unanimous decision from WEC import Anthony Njokuani. All three judges sided with the gifted Barboza by matching 29-28 counts.
Barboza set the pace in the first round, as he backed up and wobbled the Texas-based Nigerian with a pair of clubbing right hands. Kicks to the legs and body provided nice compliments for the former Ring of Combat champion. Njokuani picked up his work rate in Round 2, as he mixed up his strikes beautifully and kept Barboza on his heels with lightning-quick punches.
The highly regarded Barboza answered the challenge in the third, as he matched Njokuani punch for punch, kick for kick and punctuated his latest triumph with a highlight-reel wheel kick to the head that nearly finished it in the closing seconds.
Pyle streak reaches three
Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative Mike Pyle mixed superior striking with timely takedowns, as he outpointed former King of Pancrase Ricardo Almeida en route to a unanimous decision in their welterweight dark match. All three judges scored it for Pyle: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Pyle staked his claim to the victory with a strong third round. The 35-year-old Dresden, Tenn., native struck with knees and kicks to the body and delivered a powerful takedown against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Almeida weathered the attack and defended against a guillotine later in the round, but by then, Pyle had built an insurmountable lead.
The Las Vegas-based Pyle has won three consecutive fights and now owns a 4-2 mark in the UFC.
Split verdict puts Tibau over Pellegrino
American Top Team's Gleison Tibau took a controversial split decision from Kurt Pellegrino in a preliminary lightweight duel. Two of the three cageside judges sided with the Brazilian by matching 29-28 counts; a third dissenting vote was cast in Pellegrino's favor by the same score.
Neither man appeared eager to engage at the outset, as the action between them stalled with regularity in the first round. Pellegrino moved in front in the second, however, as he stunned Tibau with a combination, took him to the ground and attacked in half guard, bloodying the Brazilian as he went. By the end of the period, Pellegrino's bleach-blonde hair was stained red.
Tibau turned the tables in Round 3, as he drew blood with punches of his own, put the New Jersey native on his back and worked into side control. Pellegrino ultimately returned to an upright position, only to be met by a series of short left hands during a failed single-leg takedown. In the waning moments, Tibau took Pellegrino's back from a standing position and was forced to defend a kneebar as the horn sounded.
Benavidez denies Loveland, wins decision
Former WEC bantamweight title contender Joseph Benavidez thwarted a stout challenge from Team Quest's Ian Loveland, as he captured a hard-fought unanimous decision in a preliminary bout at 135 pounds. All three judges scored it for Benavidez: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
The world-ranked Benavidez took control in Rounds 2 and 3, as he went on the offensive with takedowns, crisp combinations and ground-and-pound, despite sustaining a cut to the top of his head. The 26-year-old Team Alpha Male representative wobbled Loveland with a right hand and pounced in the third, but he failed to finish and settled for the nod from the judges. Benavidez has won four of his last five fights.
Catone outpoints Philippou
In his first appearance in more than a year, Nick Catone took a unanimous decision from "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 11 alum Constantinos Philippou in a 195-pound catchweight dark match. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Catone, who improved to 3-2 inside the octagon.
Catone controlled the Ring of Combat veteran with takedowns, top control and strikes from above, one of which, a first-round elbow, split open Philippou. The Cypriot faded late, as Catone racked up points on the ground and even mounted Philippou in the third round.
Koch Flattens Assuncao inside first tound
Erik Koch could not have scripted a better promotional debut.
A 22-year-old Duke Roufus protégé, Koch wiped out Raphael Assuncao with a crackling right hook in a preliminary featherweight matchup. The end came 2 minutes, 32 seconds into Round 1, with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on his back and unconscious. The once-beaten Koch, a rising star at 145 pounds, has rattled off three consecutive victories, all of them first-round finishes.
Brian Knapp is a contributor to Sherdog.com.