Fun facts, details and storylines for tonight’s UFC 128 event
– UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones takes place on Saturday, March 19 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. It will be the tenth time the UFC has taken its show to the Garden State (UFC 28, 30, 31, 32, 41, 50, 53, 78 and 111 were held in N.J.).
– UFC 128 will be the third time Newark and the Prudential Center has hosted a UFC event. UFC 78 and UFC 111 were held there.
– Light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will defend his title for the first time. Rua, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mark Coleman are the only three fighters to win both UFC and Pride titles.
– Jon Jones challenges Rua for the belt in his first title fight. The 23-year old athlete has the chance to make history by becoming the youngest person to ever win a UFC divisional championship.
– Josh Barnett currently holds the record for youngest UFC champion. He won the heavyweight belt at the age of 24.
– Before I get emails and complaints, Vitor Belfort did not win the UFC divisional title at age 19. He won the Heavyweight Tournament at UFC 12, and Mark Coleman was crowned the first UFC Heavyweight Champion that night. Belfort didn’t become a UFC divisional titleholder until UFC 46 at the age of 27.
– Most everyone, including UFC president Dana White, considers Jones as undefeated. The only blemish on his 12-1 professional record is a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill at “The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale” for illegal elbows. He was in complete control of the fight and trying to finish at the time of the disqualification.
– Jones has won two fighter bonuses in his seven fights in the UFC. He was awarded Knockout of the Night for his technical knockout finish over Brandon Vera in the UFC’s debut on Versus in March of 2010. He won Submission of the Night honors for his modified guillotine choke win over Ryan Bader at UFC 126 on Feb. 5.
– “Shogun” Rua has received three bonus awards in his five fights inside the UFC Octagon. He won the bonus for Fight of the Night at UFC 93 against Mark Coleman. He secured Knockout of the Night honors for his UFC 97 finish of Chuck Liddell and Knockout of the Night at UFC 113 for putting Lyoto Machida to sleep with punches to win the title.
– Jones’ training partner Rashad Evans was originally scheduled to face Rua at UFC 128 for the title, but a knee injury forced him out. Jones received the offer to replace Evans in the Octagon following his UFC 126 win over Ryan Bader. He immediately accepted the fight on 42 days notice.
– In the UFC 128 co-main event a pair of former WEC champions make their UFC debuts. Former WEC featherweight titleholder Urijah Faber steps into the famed Octagon for the first time against the former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland.
– Faber made the drop to the 135-pound division for his last fight at WEC 52 against Takeya Mizugaki. Faber won his bantamweight debut by rear naked choke, putting the Japanese fighter to sleep with the hold.
– There’s been a lot of chatter about a coaching opportunity on “The Ultimate Fighter 14” for the winner of this fight, but I don’t see it that way. If Faber wins, he may find himself coaching against current champion Dominick Cruz considering Faber’s the only person to defeat Cruz. Wineland won’t be afforded the same opportunity, though.
– There are eight fighters making their promotional debuts at UFC 128, and seven of them are from the WEC. Along with Faber and Wineland, the WEC fighters debuting on Saturday include: Joseph Benavidez, Kamal Shalorus, Anthony Njokuani, Raphael Assuncao and Erik Koch.
– Constantinos Philippou makes his UFC debut this weekend as well. The Serra-Longo trained fighter stepped up on short notice to face Nick Catone after Dan Miller replaced Yoshihiro Akiyama against Nate Marquardt.
– The earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan recently also had an impact on the UFC 128 card. Japanese middleweight Akiyama was scheduled to face Marquardt on the main card, but due to travel complications from the disaster had to withdraw from the event. Opportunity came knocking for Miller and Philippou.
– As a result of Akiyama being removed, Miller was moved to the main card to face Marquardt. The match up is the biggest fight of Miller’s career against the highest ranked opponent he’s ever faced. Miller’s originally scheduled fight with Catone was on the preliminary card. It was not expected to air on Facebook, Spike TV, or the pay-per-view. Now, he’s on the main card against one of the top middleweights in the world.
– Philippou replaced Miller and makes his UFC debut in basically his New York backyard of Newark, N.J. He sports a 7-1 record and went from possibly looking for tickets to being on the fight card.
– UFC 128 marks the fifth time the UFC has streamed preliminary fights for free on their Facebook page. Lightweights Kurt Pellegrino vs. Gleison Tibau and welterweights Ricardo Almeida vs. Mike Pyle will begin streaming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. The live streaming of UFC fights on Facebook began with the “UFC: Fight For The Troops 2” card on Jan. 22.
– “UFC 128 Prelims” on Spike TV is the second of 12 planned “UFC Prelims” specials on Spike in 2011. At least two preliminary fights will air live at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. More could be shown depending on the duration of the two promised fights. Edson Barboza and Anthony Njokuani kick off the Spike card while Luiz Cane vs. Eliot Marshall is the other bout guaranteed to be shown.
– There was a lot made at the UFC 128 pre-fight press conference on Wednesday about getting mixed martial arts legalized in New York and a UFC event in New York City. New York City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera spoke to the crowd at Radio City Music Hall endorsing the sport and the UFC.
– The UFC has held one event in the state of New York. “UFC 7: The Brawl In Buffalo” took place at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo on Sept 8, 1995.
– 9,000 people were reportedly in attendance to see Ken Shamrock and Oleg Taktarov fight for 33 minutes to a draw in the main event. Back in those days, if the fight did not end in a submission or knockout, it was ruled a draw.
– After the one-sided fight for Shamrock at UFC 7 was ruled a draw, the UFC implemented cageside judges to determine a winner if a fight did not end in a submission or knockout. UFC 8 featured judges for the first time in the UFC.
– The feel good story of the fight card is the return of Eliot Marshall. Marshall has a 3-1 record in the UFC, but we released by the organization following a split decision loss to Vladimir Matyushenko in March of 2010. After being cut by the UFC, Marshall put together a three-fight win streak. He was in the right place at the right time when Karlos Vemola pulled out of his scheduled UFC 128 bout with Luiz Cane. Marshall returns to the Octagon and his fight will be shown on Spike TV.