We're only a few hours away from tonight's UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones event, and we're previewing the main card of the PPV that begins at 10 pm ET. There are quite a few notable fights taking place, but let's start with the first fight of the night.
Jim Miller will take on WEC cross over lightweight Kamal Shalorus, despite having pleaded with the UFC to get a tougher opponent, and a title shot. Miller is riding a six fight win streak, where he's used his wrestling and submission grappling to control his opponents en route to victory. He'll meet another skilled wrestler in Kamal Shalorus, who's powerful punching and remarkable wrestling have secured him a 7-0-2 record in mixed martial arts. The question is will Shalorus look to put Miller on his back, or use his wrestling in reverse and hope to use his hands to hurt Miller. On the ground Miller has a significant advantage in submissions, which will certainly play a factor in what this fight looks like.
Ultimate Fighter season ten runner up Brendan Schaub will test his mettle against the legendary striker Mirko Filipovic, looking to increase his name value by toppling an aging star of the sport. Cro Cop's game is simple, stay at striking distance, work straight punches, and land his vast array of kicks, most notably the vicious left head kick. Cro Cop isn't as young and agile as he used to be, but he showed against Pat Barry that he's capable of hurting and finishing opponents still. Schaub won't be looking to play nice though, and will look to overwhelm Mirko early on, likely looking for big strikes of his own. Either way this fight goes, it should prove to be an exciting bout.
In the middleweight division, Nate Marquardt looks to rebound off his loss to Yushin Okami against Dan Miller. Miller is replacing Yoshihiro Akiyama, who opted not to fight to cope with the tragedy in Japan, but is just as tough and opponent. Dan, much like his smaller brother Jim, has solid wrestling and submission skills, but will be well matched against the likes of Marquardt. Marquardt has significantly more experience, and will use that and his powerful strikes to out work Miller, but should he get too careless, Miller is well equipped to make him pay. This will either be a squash match for Marquardt, or a tough fight that earns Miller some respect, win or lose. Marquardt should be feeling pressure, as anything short of a crushing victory will be viewed as a poor showing.
Two former WEC champions clash in the co-main event of the evening, with former WEC poster boy Urijah Faber going head to head with Eddie Wineland. Faber made his name as WEC featherweight champion, but after losing the title, and failing to recapture it against current champ Jose Aldo, he dropped down to bantamweight. Now, Faber is once again climbing the rankings, gunning for a title shot against UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Before Faber is granted such an opportunity, he must successfully make his UFC debut against Eddie Wineland, and powerful 135'er who's looking to derail Faber's plans. These men fight at a rapid pace, and will both be looking to prove a point, I expect nothing short of a firefight from bell to bell.
In the main event, Jon Jones will challenge light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua for the belt, after being granted the opportunity during his post-fight interview at UFC 126. Jones tore right through previously undefeated Ryan Bader, but faces the greatest challenge of his young career when he enters the cage to face Shogun Rua. Can Jones' size frustrate a muay thai specialist like Shogun? Will the challenger's wrestling be enough to manipulate the champion, and maintain dominant positions? Will Jones finally be hurt? These are just a few of many questions leading into the fight. Shogun isn't happy with the media placing the title on Jones' waist before the fight even begins, and he'll be looking to let Jones know exactly how he feels with punches, kicks, elbows, and submissions. This may be the beginning of an era for Jon Jones, or it may be that Shogun has returned to action completely healthy, and completely dominant. It's only a matter of time before we find out.