If you ask an astrophysicist how stars are made he’ll likely tell you that all stars are formed from nebulae. The great molecular clouds of gas collapse and increase in density generating heat which helps to burn hydrogen into helium. Even in astrophysics not all stars are created equal, however. When the protostar is formed it may not be large enough to create the high temperatures and pressure needed for hydrogen fusion into helium. These brown dwarfs may never become a full fledged star. On the other hand you have the average to large sized protostars that can achieve the required temperatures through different means of fusion. The really big stars, those much larger than our Sun, eventually become supernovas while the smaller stars become white dwarfs.

What does any of this have to do with anything I would normally write about?

Well…

Ask a sports fan, or a film, stage, or music critic what it takes to create a star? How can they tell when a superstar is born? I’m sure the answers will be relatively close.  For instance, You can be a very talented basketball player. Be a damn good player at a premiere college (protostar). Once you have increased your recognition (density) enough to grab the scouts’ attention, you have to be able to create the magic on the court (heat) to really make them commit and want to not only hire you but pay you liberally. If you can handle the pressure and heat on you to become the next Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, or Ervin Johnson then you may become a superstar (supernova).

What’s the reason behind all this blabbering about a person undergoing the professional equivalent of a carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle to convert hydrogen to helium? Well I’d like to talk about a few fighters on the rise that have the minerals, so to speak, to become superstars. If they can achieve the level of a BJ Penn, Fedor Emilianenko, or a Royce Gracie then they will truly be seen as stars.

[side note: Why is Royce Graycie pronounced Hoyce Gracie and not Hoyce Ghacie? Just be consistent is all I ask, Portuguese]

Of course I’m talking about two of the newest and brightest young protostars in the ever stacked UFC light-heavyweight division and a young Heavyweight title contender. We may well be witnessing the birth of a few new supernovas of the MMA world in the 23-year-old New Yorker from Greg Jackson’ camp, Jon “Bones” Jones, and a pair of 27-year-old ASU wrestlers, Ryan “Darth” Bader and Cain “I don’t need no stinking nickname” Velasquez.

The Reno, Nevada native, Ryan “Darth” Bader, was a talented high school wrestler who won 2 state championships and was ranked 4th in the nation. The guy with one of the coolest nicknames in the business went on to be a 2-time Div. 1 All-American at Arizona State alongside fellow BAMF Cain Velasquez and good friend C.B. Dollaway. After winning his first 7 professional fights, six in 2007 alone, he took the now commonplace route to the UFC  by competing and winning the 8th season of Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). When he made his post-TUF UFC debut he was at 8-0 and scheduled to roll the 8-sided die against Carmello Marrero. He took the fight by unanimous decision then defeated Eric Schaffer at UFC 104 leaving him at 10-0 professionally (3-0 in the Octagon) in only 2 years. With two decision victories and a submission via strikes victory under his belt it was time for the big show. Uncle Dana called on Darth Bader to fight Kieth Jardine at UFC 110. Jardine’s awkward but often effective fighting style proved too little for Bader’s striking and wrestling. Bader dominated Jardine and finished him with a left hook in the 3rd round that turned the lights off on, both Jardine’s night and his UFC career. This left him at 11-0 and scheduled to fight PRIDE veteran and “little” twin brother of his former TUF coach, Antonio Rogerio Noguiera at UFC 119: Mir vs Noguiera II on Sept. 25th.

On that same UFC 110 card Ryan Bader’s former ASU teammate delivered a loud message to the UFC heavyweight division in the card’s main event as Cain Velasquez’s counter right hand connected dropping Big Nog’ to the mat and the multiple vicious, if not unnecessary, punches that followed reverberated throughout the entire division. Cain Velasquez is definitely a name even the most pedestrian of MMA fans knows by now. He is the 8-0 Heavyweight wrestler out of ASU that has ripped a hole through the heavyweight division dismantling a few  top names along the way.  His first pro fight was in the Strikeforce promotion back in 2006. He then went to St. Petersburg for a Bodog fight later that same year before coming to the UFC with a 2-0 record in April of 2008. The 16 month lay off apparently had little effect on his game as he ripped though his first opponent at UFC 83: Serra vs St. Pierre II and exactly 3 months later he knocked out his 5th straight victim, Jake O’Brien, none of whom had survived to see the end of the opening round. Cain had began to show why he was also a 2-time Division 1 All-American at ASU by out wrestling any and everyone, displaying vicious takedowns and uncanny takedown defense, and tremendous striking to a  5-0 record following a 2nd round TKO of Dennis Stojnik. Next up was to be his coming out party or his rude awakening as he was set to  meet renowned kickboxer and entrenched Heavyweight contender Chiek Kongo who was at the time sporting a 7-2 UFC record with losses on split decisions to Heath Herring and Carmelo Merrero. They would meet as the co-main event at UFC 99: The Comeback. Cain was once again dominant landing 251 of 309 head strikes (262 strikes all together) and scoring 7 takedowns on 10 attempts, 6 of 8 from the clinch and 1 of 2 shots. He even showcased his strength lifting the larger Kongo and slamming him multiple times in route to a uninamous decison victory. The absolutely demonic display of bad assery led him to a main event bout with Big Nog’ on the first card of 2010 and as Cain Velasquez’s counter right hand connected dropping Big Nog’ to the mat and the multiple vicious, if not unnecessary, punches that followed reverberated throughout the entire division and sent a very clear message to Joe Silva and Dana White. He is scheduled to be the next challenger for the crown that sits atop heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s head on October 23rd at UFC 121 in Anaheim, CA.

If Jon “Bones” Jones isn’t already in your list of fighters not to miss then please close this window and shoot yourself. His road to the UFC was a bullet train. He took his first ever professional fight on April 12, 2008 and exactly 3 months later on July 12, 2008 he was 6-0 and set to make his UFC debut on August 9, 2008. As one of the most exciting and youngest fighters currently in the UFC, he has dominated each of his opponents more and more impressively each time out. In his debut on the prelims of the GSP v Jon Fitch card at UFC 87: Seek and Destroy he defeated Andre Gusmao by unanimous decision at just 21 years old. He then went on to fight on the main card at UFC 94:  GSP vs Penn II, where he  throughly dominated veteran punching bag Stephan Bonnar for the first 8 or 9 minutes of the fight. He put on a clinic of how to execute unorthodox striking and grappling that included lessons in the spinning back kick, the suplex, and spinning back elbow. Bonnar was knocked or taken down again and again but held on for 15 minutes to lose by unanimous decision. Now, keep in mind that this is Stephan Bonnar in 2008 when he had only 3 losses in the Octagon and they were to Forrest Griffin (x2) and Rashad Evans, both who became Light-heavyweight Champions. In his next showcase on the preliminary card of the star studded UFC 100 card, he defeated Jake O’Brien with a 2nd round guillotine choke.  Uncle Dana then gave the kid a shot at his first main event on TUF season 10 finale where after utter beating Matt Hamill to a pulp for 4:14 before the ref stopped the fight, seemingly to announce Jones as the winner. After his celebratory cartwheel the Referee announced that Jones was disqualified for illegal 12-6 elbows to the head of Matt Hamill. The DQ was very controversial but stuck and left Jones with a blemish on his then perfect record. Dana White, having been present to see the beating Jones was putting on Hamill didn’t let the DQ derail the kid’s future and gave him another main card shot on the promotion’s newest venture. UFC Live on Versus 1 was headlined by Brandon “The Truth” Vera (7-4 in the UFC) vs Jon “Bones” Jones (3-1 in the UFC). Jones came in and immediately showed that Brandon Vera, who was billed as his biggest test yet, was no match as he repeatedly took him down before eventually landing a left elbow to the cheek from Vera’s closed guard. The ref came in and stopped it upon realizing Vera was in serious pain and had gone fetal. The pain was caused when the elbow strike landed and broke Vera’s face in 3 places. Today at just 23 years old, Jones has racked up an impressive 10-1-0 record, 4-1-0 in the Octagon. He’s scheduled to fight Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko in the main event of UFC Live on Versus 2 this Sunday night.

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