Two cards. One night. Mixed martial arts, the global sport that it is, was in full force Sunday evening deep into the morning Monday. From the continued growth of two of the UFC's most impressive prospects in Broomfield, Colo., to the return of a maligned heavyweight and a Dream featherweight championship fight in Yokohama, Japan, there was plenty to take away from a busy few hours of fights.
1. Jon Jones has top-of-the-division talent.
If ability was the sole indicator of greatness, we'd acknowledge Jon Jones future Hall of Fame enshrinement and move on. But it's never that simple. The best fighters possess far more than athletic talent or an inclination to make violence an ally. It's the intangibles really, and Jones -- now 11-1 after breaking the right side of Brandon Vera's face in three places with a perfectly brutal elbow -- certainly measures up in any category you can think of.
Physically: a beast. Long. Lanky. Full of speed and athleticism.
Mentally: strong and unencumbered. He'll push back when its required, and thus far doesn't seem prone to uneven focus, or the whims of chippy challengers.
Technically: unique and rooted in wrestling. There is a natural flow to the way Jones fights, and while some of that can be attributed to the confidence that comes with being a 22-year-old man, much of it has to do with his exploding skill set.
Vera offered challenges on all three fronts, and Jones, of Endicott, N.Y., responded amazingly well. He's unquestionably the best light heavyweight prospect in the UFC -- though Ryan Bader would probably disagree, which is why they should be matched next.
2. Junior dos Santos-Cain Velasquez must happen.
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva has done a wonderful job rebuilding the organization's heavyweight division. At the top is a marketable specimen of a man in Brock Lesnar. Nipping at his heels are powerful, skilled challengers. And lying in wait are the kids.
Some would call me foolish for wanting to see Dos Santos, 25, and Velasquez, 27, meet at this stage of their careers. I can see the e-mails already. Wouldn't a contender for the UFC be killed off if the talented duo came together before each grabbed a chance at a championship? In the near-term, perhaps, though "killed off" is a tad strong since dos Santos and Velasquez are young enough to rebound from a loss.
Think about the winner for a moment. The UFC would have at its disposal the hottest young heavyweight in the sport, tested against his toughest peer -- a man likely to be a rival for years to come -- having without doubt established himself ready for a title shot.
Dos Santos, who pushed his record to 11-1 Sunday night after smashing a left hook into the mouth of fellow Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga (11-5), has room to improve. Same with Velasquez. This kind of fight between legitimate contenders would do the UFC good.
And since I brought it up, I'd make Velasquez, who in February stopped Dos Santos' mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, a slight favorite.
3. The evening felt especially violent.
Brandon Vera's right cheek started swelling almost instantly. Gabriel Gonzaga absorbed multiple shots to the head after he was dropped. Paul Buentello took such an accumulation of punishment that, in the end, inconsequential-looking elbows to his hip were enough for one of the toughest men in MMA to tap out. James Irvin, gaunt at 185 pounds at Saturday's weigh-in, took a punch directly to his right eye that forced him into retreat. Duane "Bang" Ludwig suffered a severe ankle break that will require surgery. Daniel Roberts was knocked unconscious before absorbing three heavy punches as his eyes rolled to the back of his head.
In Japan, Siala "Mighty Mo" Siligia took a kick to his groin that was bad enough to make him wince an hour later during his post-fight rundown with the press. Yoshiro Maeda was out on his feet after a high kick slammed into his mouth.
Just some of the aftermath of a treacherous night.
4. There was plenty to take away from Dream.13.
• Bibiano Fernandes (10-2) and Joachim Hansen (19-9-1) went the distance en route to a split decision victory for the Brazilian titleholder. The bout, which served as Monday's main event in Yokohama, was competitive throughout. Fernandes' speed and grappling allowed him to overcome the veteran Hansen, who appeared skinny but capable in his first bout at 139 pounds.
• Dream must consider implementing meaningful drug-testing, otherwise it will deservedly earn the reputation as a haven for P.E.D. users like heavyweight Josh Barnett. "The problem of the Japanese promoter is that athletic commissions don't exist," Dream executive Sotaro Shinoda told SI.com last week. That's not a responsible position which stands up to the realities of sport. Barnett (25-5), in his first bout since January 2009, rolled through Siala Siligia (3-2), to score an opening-round submission.
• Too much boxing made KJ Noons less dangerous and dynamic than he could have been against Andre "Dida" Amade. Returning to MMA for the first time since 2008, Noons (8-2), the EliteXC champion at 160 pounds until the company folded, seemed intent on doing nothing but boxing Amade (6-5). Noons would only limit his effectiveness if he continues to fight this way.
• Cole Escovedo (16-4), the subject of a profile by SI.com last year on his recovery from a staph infection that wrapped itself around his spine and stole his ability to walk for a time, scored a knockout against Yoshiro Maeda (26-8-2) that will be in the discussion when it's time to hand out end-of-the-year awards. Since returning to active competition after a 30-month layoff, Escovedo, a former WEC champion, is 5-0.
5. UFC pulled credentials from ESPN's content partner Sherdog.com.
Two hours before doors opened Sunday at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., a UFC official informed Sherdog.com -- the largest independent MMA media site on the Web, the official MMA content partner for ESPN.com, and my home as an executive editor from 2004-2008 -- that its access had been pulled indefinitely because of a "executive decision," multiple sources confirmed to SI.com.
Asked to comment on the decision to revoke Sherdog.com's access, UFC president Dana White told SI.com via text that his reasoning was "none of your [expletive] business."
Darius Ortiz, the editor in charge of boxing and mixed martial arts for ESPN.com, and Sherdog.com founder Jeff Sherwood declined to comment on the UFC's position.
Sherdog.com went without access to the UFC from late 2005 until the middle of 2009, when it was allowed to return Octagon-side.