Jones neutralized Jackson’s offense, softened him with kicks and then finished him at 1:14 of the fourth round with a rear-naked choke in the main event of UFC 135 at the Pepsi Center. Jones opened a cut over Jackson’s right eye in the third round with an elbow, then quickly finished him with the choke in the fourth.
Jackson, a former champion, had spent more than two months training in Denver, working harder than he had in a long time, by his own admission. But he still had no answer for Jones’ length and varied attack.
“He insulted my striking and said I had no punching power,” Jones said. “I got together with Mike Winkeljohn to work on my striking to try to prove a point.”
Jackson, who staged a psychological battle against Jones leading up to the fight, came away impressed.
“I thought it was hype, but he’s the real thing,” said Jackson, who said he was better than he’s ever been.”
The Hall of Fame career of former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes may have come to an end when he was stopped at the end of the first round by Josh Koscheck.
[Related: Koscheck TKOs legend Hughes in brutal finish]
Hughes said after the fight, “I’m not retiring, but I’m going to tell the UFC to put me up on the shelf and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Koscheck cracked Hughes with a right late in the round that wobbled the former champion, who is on the final fight on his contract. Koscheck chased Hughes around the ring, landing hard rights, as Hughes retreated trying to clear his head.
Hughes finally went down and Koscheck pounded him out. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped it at 4:59, just as the horn sounded to end the first round.
“I’m growing as a fighter and as a person,” said Koscheck, in his first bout back after losing a title challenge against Georges St. Pierre last December.
[Related: Jones defends light heavyweight title in convincing fashion]
The hard-hitting Mark Hunt isn’t known for his conditioning, but he was in far better shape than Ben Rothwell and it and his power led to a unanimous decision. Judges had it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-27 for Hunt. Yahoo! Sports had Hunt, 29-27.
Hunt picked Rothwell apart with punches and, by the midpoint of the third round, Rothwell could barely pick himself off the canvas.
Hunt showed a more versatile grappling game and was able to connect with enough shots to open a large cut near Rothwell’s right eye.
Hunt outlanded Rothwell 90-20, according to CompuStrike. Hunt connected on 58 of 85 shots on the ground.
Travis Browne handled Rob Broughton and won a unanimous three-round decision in a fight that was more of a letdown than a reputation builder. Browne was coming off an impressive victory over Stefan Struve, but though he won all three rounds, he didn’t exactly stamp himself as a top contender.
I’m actually disappointed I didn’t finish him off. He’s a really tough guy. For some reason I just couldn’t take him out,” Browne said.
[Related: Iole: Can anybody stop UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones?]
Nathan Diaz had no such problem. Diaz put on a spectacular performance in a first-round submission win over Takanori Gomi, dominating the former PRIDE champion before the tap at 4:27.Diaz outstruck the heavy-handed Gomi, but quickly finished it when the bout when to the ground. According to CompuStrike, Diaz landed 38 of his 73 strikes on his feet, an astonishing 52 percent. He was hurting Gomi with his blows and likely would have stoppedht ebout with strikes were it not for the submission.
As impressive as he was, Diaz wasn’t taking bows.
“I need to see the fight on video,” Diaz said when asked to assess his performance. “I’m not sure.”
Tony Ferguson put on a superb boxing display, stopping Aaron Riley at the end of the first round with a precision attack. Ferguson hit Riley with a perfectly placed left uppercut that is believed to have fractured Riley’s jaw. Riley finished the round, but his corner stopped it when the round ended.
“I’ve done damage before, but I’ve never broken anyone’s jaw,” said Ferguson, who dropped from welterweight to lightweight.
Tim Boetsch had difficulty catching Nick Ring in what was a track meet of a first round. But he caught him in the last two and was dominant in earning his second consecutive win at middleweight.
Boetsch won a unanimous decision by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Yahoo! Sports saw it for Boetsch, 29-28.
Boetsch punctuated the win with a huge judo toss in the final minute, slamming Ring with authority to the canvas.
“Toward the end of the second round, beginning of the third, I knew I had him,” Boetsch said. “It was increasing my confidence. I was listening to my corner, and landing combos. He has a great chin. A lot of guys would have dropped earlier. When he relaxed in the clinch, I knew he was weakening.”
Junior Assuncao returned to the UFC after a four-year absence and, despite the crowd’s loud jeers, was pleased to take a unanimous decision victory over Eddie Yagin. Judges favored Assuncao by scores of 30-26 twice and 30-27. Yahoo! Sports also had it 30-27 for Assuncao.
He was deliberate and didn’t let Yagin start an offense. That enraged the crowd, but Assuncao said it was a move he learned from UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
“In the third round I gave it my all, giving him elbows,” Assuncao said. “I knew he was anxious but I wasn’t going to play Russian roulette. I have a capoeira background. People need to see me fight more to understand how I hit and then run away. My style is similar to Anderson’s and Lyoto’s. That’s why there’s not a mark on my face.”
Takeya Mizugaki used his sharp boxing skills to wear down and eventually stop Cole Escovedo in the second round of their bantamweight bout. Escovedo had a good first round, with knees and elbows, but the second was all Mizugaki until referee Adam Martinez stopped it at 4:20 of the second.
Mizugaki landed several combinations, going to the head and body, that sent Escovedo backing into the cage. From there, he pummeled away, even when Escovedo grabbed him in a Thai clinch. Mizugaki placed his punches well and Escovedo slumped to the canvas, forcing Martinez to stop it.
“I don’t think it was one punch but the combinations,” Mizugaki said.
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