Don't count out underdog Shogun in UFC 128

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:22 PM ET

TORONTO - It’s hard to argue with any guy who has been inside the Octagon. And it’s not just because they are downright lethal. It’s because they have experienced combat and know what they are talking about.

So when Brazilian jiu-jistu specialist Antonio Rogerio Nogueira says he is willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to compatriot Mauricio (Shogun) Rua’s upcoming title defence against American Jon (Bones) Jones at UFC 128, you had better take note.

Nogueira is going against the early odds in choosing the experienced 29-year-old Rua (19-4-0) over the youthful Jones (12-1-0) when the two tangle for Rua’s UFC light-heavyweight crown at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on March 19, but he seems pretty confident in doing so.

“Jon Jones is the guy now. People are creating great expectations about him, but I particularly disagree,” Nogueira, a light heavyweight himself, told Tatame magazine. “Jon Jones is talented, has a great reach, but he hasn’t confronted a guy like Shogun. I believe Shogun will win this one. I’d bet on him.”

So no disrespect to Nogueira — if he happens to be reading today’s Sun — but you have to like the 23-year-old Jones’ chances of beating Rua in his first title defence.

Not only has Rua put in a couple of questionable performances, including a loss to Forrest Griffin and a mediocre fight against Mark Coleman, he hasn’t fought since dethroning Lyoto Machida at UFC 113 10 months ago. Jones, meanwhile, has been impressive in victories over Brandon Vera and most recently Ryan Bader, and his wrestling skills just might trump Rua’s mastery of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.

And then there’s that reach Nogueira mentioned. At 84.5 inches, Jones’ reach is the longest in the UFC — and if he can utilize it against Rua, he’ll be in good shape.

At 6-foot-4, the lanky Jones also has reach with his legs, so any opponent trying to get at him must get inside his feet as well as his hands. And if they do penetrate his defences, Jones can always take to the mat where he showed his grappling skills against Bader at UFC 126.

Some say Jones will be worn out, fighting for the title just six weeks after disposing of Bader, but he’s young and fit and has dismissed suggestions the short turnover will derail him from his title quest.

“The time hasn’t been too much of a problem because I normally only do a six-to-eight-week training camp anyway,” Jones told UFC.com.

Add a three-inch height advantage to Jones’ wingspan and you could say his chance of wresting away the light-heavyweight crown from Rua is not out of reach.

This and that

Rogers Sportsnet just got a little bit better — at least if you are an MMA fan. The network announced it has signed a four-year deal with the UFC to carry preliminary fights of pay-per-view events and UFC Fight Night events as well as The Ultimate Fighter series. In addition, Sportsnet will broadcast live non pay-per-view international events … Weigh-ins for UFC 128 will take place on Mar. 18 at the Prudential Center and the lucky members of UFC Fight Club have access to the festivities. Hall of famer Chuck Liddell will be there to host a Q&A session as will champions Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz, who will be signing autographs … Along with a pair of free UFC 128 preliminary bouts on Spike TV, UFC looks set to continue its relationship with Facebook, offering up two additional live preliminary bouts for the event on the popular social media. MMA Junkie confirmed that UFC officials are planning on streaming the welterweight bout between Ricardo Almeida and Mike Pyle, as well as the lightweight fight between Kurt Pellegrino and Gleison Tibau ... Englishman James Wilks will be filling in as a replacement for the injured Duane (Bang) Ludwig at UFC Fight Night 24 on Mar. 26. Wilks will take on American Amir Sadollah in a battle of TUF winners.


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