Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was scheduled to return to action at UFC 128 against top contender Rashad Evans but Evans sprained his knee ligament during training. After defeating Ryan Bader by submission at UFC 126, Jon Jones has been tapped as the new opponent for Rua. The fight will still be for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. UFC 128 is scheduled for March 19, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey at the Prudential Center.
The new main event was announced during the UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort PPV broadcast when Joe Rogan offered the title shot to Jones inside the cage after his victory and Jones dropped to his knees and accepted the fight. Rua then entered the cage, said he was, “ready to fight” and shook hands with Jones.
At the post-fight press conference, Dana White stated that the fight came together very quickly. “We found out for sure today that Evans was out. We talked to Rua and his camp about fighting Jones and he accepted the fight right there. There was no back up plan.” Jones said that he’s in great shape and he’ll be ready to go in six weeks. Rua stated, “(Jones) won convincingly and he deserves to fight for the belt right now.
Rua captured the UFC Light Heavyweight Title with his impressive first round KO over Lyoto Machida at UFC 113. One month later, Evans defeated rival Quinton Jackson at UFC 114 by unanimous decision to earn a title shot. After defeating Machida though, Rua underwent knee surgery that kept him out of action until early 2011. Instead of taking another fight, Evans decided to wait for his title against Rua. While training for Rua, Evans injured his knee and was forced out of the fight. Jones is a highly-touted prospect who many believed would get a title shot in late 2011 or early 2012 but now his opportunity comes in just over a month. Jones is 12-1 in his MMA career with his only loss coming via DQ against Matt Hamill. This will be Rua’s first title defense.