Rashad Evans will get his chance to not only exact some sort of "payback" against former sparring partner Jon Jones this weekend (April 21, 2012) at UFC 145 in Atlanta, Ga., he will also look to be the first fighter to solve the enigma that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion.
During Jones' three-year tenure with the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, nine men have tried -- including three former world champions -- and nine men have failed to hand the New Yorker his first loss. Of course, Matt Hamill has a win over "Bones," though it was because of a "disqualification" from illegal elbows delivered by the 205-pound kingpin.
Essentially, no one has yet to really defeat the young champion, and Evans, for one, would love nothing more that to be the first to defeat him.
However, should "Suga" come up short in his bid to dethrone Jones, former UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight champion, Randy Couture, has a few select people in mind who he feels posses the tools and skillset to hand Jones his first true defeat.
"I really don't have a prediction and I could make a case for either fighter winning the bout. The favorite is probably Jones because of his range and he is so athletic with such a dynamic striking style. Rashad has the tools and the skill set to make it a tough fight for Jones, but he has to make it a wrestling match and take him down at every opportunity. That's not the style we tend to see out of Evans since he landed that head kick on Sean Salmon. Being a stand-up fighter is not a great style match-up when you are facing a guy like Jones. The question is can Rashad formulate a game plan and make Jon wrestle with him? If he can do that he certainly has the ability he can win the fight, but I question he'll be able to do that for a five round fight. The rage and hatred thing it's overblown, Rashad has taken that road with other opponents. Yes they were training partners and there is some rhetoric going back and forth, but I'm not sure how heartfelt any of that really is. I think because they were training together they need to put it on a level so they can beat the hell out of each other. At the end of the day they will pick each other up and say great fight win or lose. This isn't like Tito (Ortiz) and Ken (Shamrock) or Tito and Chuck (Liddell) where they really hate each other (though) they were close at one point."
Who does the UFC Hall of Famer feel can defeat Jones?
"I think a fighter like Dan Henderson or even Chael Sonnen who is a very big 185-pounder and used to compete as a light heavyweight with strong wrestling. They have to take him out of his comfort zone and take away his reach advantage. There is no longer in the division and maybe not in the sport as far as Jones reach. His takedown defense is good and he has very good wrestling. He has very unorthodox striking which makes him very dangerous. I think you have to use the fence, use your wrestling and force him to fight your fight. Either one of those guys can do that."
Henderson is currently set to receive the next title shot at 205-pounds, so he will be a very eager viewer the showdown in "Hotlanta" this weekend.
Sonnen, meanwhile, has his hands full with 185-pound champion Anderson Silva at UFC 147, which is currently without a date and a location. However, should Sonnen ever get the opportunity to face off against Jones, he has a simple blueprint:
How about it Manaics, do you agree with Couture's picks as to who can give the reigning 205-pound champion fits inside the Octagon? If not, then who do you see as the one to defeat the young phenom if Evans fails to do so this weekend?