By Jared Jones
In a year that has seen nine pay-per-view headliners slip through the UFC’s fingers, Cain Velasquez’s injury and subsequent removal from UFC 180 might the biggest blow of them all (I hear a nasty tumble down a flight of stairs is to blame for all this). The TUF curse has now gone international, folks, and while I’m not prepared to start nailing the UFC’s coffin shut, I will say that the champ’s most recent injury has cast an ominous shadow over the UFC’s first trip to Mexico.
Then again, the UFC was able to book a hell of a replacement opponent for Fabricio Werdum in Mark Hunt, and an interim title fight between the two is probably the best thing us fans could ask for, all things considered. Late replacement main events are always a mixed bag, but before we start rioting, let’s all take a deep breath and try to remember a few last-minute headliners that actually worked out…
UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones
(This and all photos hereafter via Getty.)
That’s right, the event that marked the beginning of the end for light heavyweights with title aspirations was never meant to happen.
Having just ended the Machida Era™ at UFC 113 in stunning fashion, Mauricio Rua was actually scheduled to face Rashad Evans at UFC 128 until a knee injury forced the latter out of the contest. Rua, who had just had his own knee repaired following the Machida fight, was then matched up against a resurgent and likeable at the time contender named Jon Jones, who had unleashed an And-1 mixtape of asskicking on Ryan Bader just two events prior.
Although it was Rua who held the tremendous experience edge, it was Jones who would dominate the fight from start to finish. Flying knees, oblique kicks, and likely an eye poke or five from the challenger had Rua in defense mode until a particularly vicious knee put him away in the third round. Despite being called up to the biggest fight of his life on a month’s notice, Jones emerged a champion and sent a chilling message to the rest of the light heavyweight division.
That message: “
Hey pussy, are you still there? None of you will ever defeat me.”