NEWARK, N.J. -- In a night of strange happenings, perhaps the strangest was saved for last.
As most thought he would, Jon Jones (18-1) defended his light heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 at Newark's Prudential Center, yet he did it in a prideful way -- by outwrestling the wrestler. Coming into the fight, the one bit of intrigue for the heavy favorite Jones was how he would respond to Sonnen’s constant pressure.
Instead, the 25-year old Jones took Sonnen down in the first 10 seconds of the fight, and repeated the process a couple more times before finishing him via TKO with 27 seconds left.
It was a dominant performance by the champion, who tied Tito Ortiz’s record for most 205-pound title defenses at five.
Then the revelation: In his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, Jones made a gruesome discovery -- his toe appeared broken.
Jones’ left foot was shown on the arean's Jumbotron and it dawned on him and the crowd at the same time that he had a mangled toe. It seemed that Jones broke the toe while pushing off the mat on a takedown attempt.
“I felt it pop,” he told ESPN.com afterward. “But I didn’t let it slow me down.”
Just how long he’ll be out, and what this means for the 205-pound division, remains to be seen. Coming into the fight, UFC president Dana White had mentioned that heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier might be a possibility for an automatic title shot in the lower weight class. And then there was Lyoto Machida, who was in attendance on Saturday night. Machida has also been pinky sworn by White to get a rematch against Jones. But with the injury, everything goes back up in the air.
And as far as Jones is concerned, Cormier isn’t on his mind yet.
“I don’t want to give Daniel Cormier any hype right now,” he said during a postfight interview with MMA Live. “That guy ... I won’t even make a comment.”
As for Sonnen, who coached opposite Jones on "The Ultimate Fighter" and took a lot of flak for not having the credentials to get the shot to begin with, he was gracious in defeat.
“He’s an excellent fighter, I have no problem with the stoppage,” he said. “[Jones] is very powerful. When he went for the kill, he never stopped. I thought I was all right, but he is the better fighter.”
Sonnen intimated that he may contemplate retiring now that it appeared that he had his last shot at winning a title. But he wasn’t definitive on that. Coming in, the thought was that Sonnen’s only chance against Jones was to use his wrestling to put Jones on his back, like he did with middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 117.
Instead, Jones turned the tables out of defiance.
“[Coach] Greg Jackson, he always teaches me to have a philosophy of ‘screw them,’” Jones said. “If people want to say you can’t do something, you say, ‘screw them.’ That’s the way I looked at the critics. Screw you guys.
“My wrestling coach told me that that they’re going to be watching, they want to see who’s the better wrestler, and everyone thinks that you can’t wrestle. I said, screw them. Let me show you guys I can wrestle. I take wrestling very seriously.”
On a night where two bouts ended in technical decisions for accidental eye-pokes, and another ended when Yancy Medeiros dislocated his thumb against Rustam Khabilov, Jones’ injury felt par for the course. It was yet another “what if” for Sonnen. Though the Jones fight was the polar opposite of Sonnen’s first fight with Anderson Silva, he once again came close to becoming the champion.
Had Sonnen survived the first round, it’s possible that Jones wouldn’t have been able to continue with the injury to his foot. In that case, Sonnen would have backed his way into a title. That would have been different from the Silva fight -- which he dominated for 4½ rounds before getting caught in a triangle/armbar with under two minutes left -- even if the nearness to the gold was the same.
For as close as that might have seemed, it was a million miles away. Jones was his usual dominant self, and he showed he can beat opponents at their own game. UFC 159’s main event was never in doubt. The only thing that is in doubt becomes what exactly happens next.
“We’ll see what happens with Jones’ [injury], and we’ll go from there,” Dana White said. But, before letting it go at that, he also dropped a bomb in the post-fight news conference. He said that Anderson Silva called -- and was asking for a fight. Was he calling out Jon Jones?
White left it for everyone to speculate, but added that it doesn't really matter right now, with Silva slated to fight Chris Weidman at UFC 162.
How’s that for timing?