Ten Things We Learned from UFC 126

Ten things to take away from the Super Bowl weekend card

Are You Not Entertained?

When the critics come for Anderson Silva next, and they will come, the UFC middleweight champion should invoke Maximus Decimus Meridius. What more does a man have to do to silence his naysayers?

Saturday night, Silva collected his 13th consecutive victory inside the Octagon and successfully defended his middleweight title for the eighth time. He finished Vitor Belfort with a beautiful and never-before-seen front kick to the face, courtesy of Steven Seagal no less.

The victory solidifies Silva as the best fighter on the planet, at least in my eyes, and further cements his place as one of the all-time greats in this sport. It also locks him in for what could be the biggest fight in MMA history, a meeting with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, provided the reigning 170-pound king defeats Jake Shields in April.

Belfort was once again supposed to be the man to stop Silva. Once again, Silva proved unstoppable.

Life Sucks for Yushin Okami

We kind of new this already, but the fact was confirmed by UFC President Dana White when he announced that a fight with St. Pierre is next on the list for the middleweight champion.

After defeating Nate Marquardt at UFC 122 in Germany this past fall, Okami was declared the #1 contender for the 185-pound title, but even then people warned not to get too invested in seeing the Japanese fighter square off with Silva.

In focusing in on a megafight (superfight doesn’t quite cut it) between Silva and St. Pierre, Okami once again gets bumped, with no end to his endless repositioning in sight. Despite a 10-2 record inside the Octagon and laying claim to being the last man to defeat Silva (by disqualification, mind you), the 29-year-old judoka continually loses out in the middleweight division.

What’s worse is that it’s only going to keep happening until Okami shows that he can dominate elite opposition and generate interest in a fight with Silva amongst the fans. Is it fair? Of course not, but life sucks, especially for Okami.

Jones vs. Rua at UFC 128

Shortly after Jon Jones handed Ryan Bader the first loss of his career, Dana White and UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua entered the cage. Six weeks from now, Jones and Rua will once again stand opposite each other in the Octagon.

With teammate and mentor Rashad Evans sidelined with a strained knee ligament, the UFC quickly shifted gears and offered the impressive 23-year-old the opportunity to face Rua for the 205-pound title in the main event of next month’s card in New Jersey. The surprised and jubilant Jones dropped to his knees and gave praise to the heavens, accepting the challenge and setting up an extremely interesting pairing in the process.

The 23-year-old phenom has ascended to the heights of stardom in a little over two years, and now has the chance to earn championship gold. While some will say the opportunity is undeserved and that the experienced Rua will be too great a challenge for Jones at this point, the Brazilian champion was the same age as Jones when he tore through the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix in 2005 and sported fewer fights on his resume.

More importantly, there are really no other options at this point. Rua has already been sidelined since taking the title from Lyoto Machida at UFC 113, and keeping the belt on the shelf any longer doesn’t make sense, not to mention the fact that no other fighter has the kind of momentum and hype Jones has going for him right now.

You strike while the iron is hot, and hammering out this bout at the side of the Octagon on Saturday night was a tremendous surprise and the right decision.

Limitless Potential

Jon Jones doesn’t just clear each obstacle that is put in his way, he shatters it and throws the pieces aside.

Coming into his fight with Bader, the TUF 8 winner was viewed as a powerful wrestler with heavy hands, a combination that could cause Jones more trouble than he’d encountered from the collection of good-but-not-great veterans he had previously demolished. Yeah, not so much.

Jones’ wrestling abilities are often lost amidst the spinning back elbows and belly-to-back suplexes, but he showed Saturday night that it is very much a major weapon in his arsenal. Bader was unable to take Jones down and couldn’t prevent the 23-year-old from putting him on the canvas, a realization that surely shook the previously unbeaten prospect.

From there, Jones unveiled an improving submission game, nearly finishing the fight in the opening round with a variant of Jeff Monson’s patented north-south choke before forcing Bader to tap to a guillotine in the second.

The display showed that there is no ceiling when it comes to Jones’ potential. A diligent student in the gym and a tireless studier of video, combining those traits with his natural athleticism, the guidance and support he receives from the team at Jackson’s and his unwavering belief in himself could result in the New York native becoming one of the very best to ever compete in mixed martial arts.