Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is finally going to put us out of our misery this Saturday night (April 21, 2012) by bringing closure to the longstanding feud between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, the former friends and training partners who had a falling out that over the past few days, has played out more like reality television than combat sports.
In just over 24 hours, "Bones" will put his 205-pound title on the line against "Suga" in the main event of UFC 145, live from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with burying the hatchet between Jones and Evans, this weekend's pay-per-view event may also determine who meets Dan Henderson later this year to see if "Hendo" can finally get his hands on UFC gold.
First things first.
In addition to the main event, the future of mixed martial arts (MMA) will be on display this Saturday night in "The Big Peach," as Rory MacDonald, Michael McDonald and Stephen Thompson try to take one step closer to getting themselves "in the mix" within their respective divisions.
Whose career heats up in "Hotlanta?"
I've laid out my best guess for the main card fights below. In addition, I've also provided links to our complete undercard preview as well as a closer examination of the UFC 145 odds and betting lines.
Well, you gonna take the jump or whistle Dixie?205 lbs.: Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
Nostradumbass predicts: What I always find interesting in bouts like this one is how quickly MMA fans forget the business we're in. Rashad Evans is a 5:1 underdog heading into his title fight against Jon Jones and for good reason. "Bones" has almost cleaned out the entire division and barely broke a sweat in the process.
But let's not act like upsets don't happen.
This is why our sport is so exciting, because it allows just the slightest margin for error in any given fight. One punch, one dangling limb, one blown call by the referee and it's lights out in Georgia. Think it can't happen tomorrow night? Now you're just being a hater.
I'm picking Evans in this fight for a couple of reasons.
What I won't do is pretend that Jones hasn't been a complete heart attack inside the cage. The kid is a terror. But that kind of prolonged success, especially when your camp treats you like a god, can lead to a diminished respect for your opponent.
And Rashad is a baaaad man! (See what I did there?)
There's a reason he's 17-1. He's got the best MMA wrestling at 205-pounds. Phil Davis found that out at UFC on FOX 2 earlier this year. He also punches deceptively fast, which is why "Rampage" Jackson was on queer street in round one of their fight in early 2010.
Jones talks about Rashad not seeing the best "Bones" back in training camp, well, that door swings both ways, as he hasn't seen the best of Evans, either.
But he will on Saturday night.
If your argument against Rashad winning has anything to do with the knockout loss to Lyoto Machida, ask yourself, did getting knocked out by Matt Serra do anything to stop Georges St. Pierre from taking over the 170-pound world?
In fact, getting pasted by "The Dragon" made The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 2 Champion a better fighter, which is why we've seen a more patient, calculated and mature Evans in his past two contests.
That said, I expect the champion to give him all kinds of problems on the feet.
His reach is too much to overcome and Rashad's chin can't take a ton of punishment. Fortunately for him it won't need to. He's going to show the young buck why he transitions from striking to wrestling better than anyone at light heavyweight by putting him on his ass for five straight rounds.
Think Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 117 -- minus the submission and TRT -- and you should have a pretty good idea of how this thing plays out.
Prediction: Evans def. Jones via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
Nostradumbass predicts: UFC welterweight sophomore Che Mills is kind of a big deal across the pond, racking up a handful of consecutive wins on the International circuit before clowning Chris Cope in his Octagon debut last November.
He also has a 2010 win over "The Hitman," though I'm not sure what the Hecht that has to do with tomorrow night's role of lamb to slaughter. I can't really poke too many holes in his game, either, as he's done exactly what he needs to do on his way up and that's win.
But he's outmatched here.
MacDonald has also done his share of winning and he's beaten some pretty big names in the process. Before he made Mike Pyle look like some guy they pulled out of the stands at UFC 133, he rag-dolled Nate Diaz like he was nothing at UFC 129 back in April of last year.
True, "Ares" has the technical knockout loss to Carlos Condit, but "The Natural Born Killer" was getting worked in that fight before the miracle comeback in the waning seconds of their fight.
And he's only 22.
Mills will be game and the first round should be competitive, but once MacDonald settles into a rhythm, he's going to put on a show. A knockdown followed by a submission, something Mills has succumbed to in three of his four losses, would not surprise me.
Prediction: MacDonald def. Mills via submission
265 lbs.: Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell
Nostradumbass predicts: It wasn't that long ago when Brendan Schaub was complaining that he was tired of fighting fat wrestlers. So the UFC gave him Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and "Minotauro" sent him home from Rio with keys to the heavyweight gate.
Now Ben Rothwell wants to get in.
It's a shame, too, because the "Big" fella had carved himself out a nice little career on the regional circuit and made some noise in the IFL over pretty recognizable names. Unfortunately, that success failed to transfer over to the Octagon, where he stands at 1-2 with losses to Cain Velasquez and Mark Hunt.
His "win" over Gilbert Yvel at UFC 115 has to be one of the sorriest displays of cardio in the history of heavyweight huffing-and-puffing and with such a long gap in between fights, I expect more of the same in Atlanta.
He's going down.
Schaub isn't even close to contending for the title but let's face it, he's much more athletic and can do three rounds with ease. His striking is good, but not good enough to finish "Big Ben," but he doesn't need to. He just needs to pound on him for fifteen minutes and cruise to a sweep on the judges' scorecards.
Prediction: Schaub def. Rothwell via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald
Nostradumbass predicts: Like Stephen Thompson on the undercard (boo!) and the aforementioned Rory MacDonald, Michael McDonald is the future of fight. He's got a very stiff test ahead of him in Miguel Torres, who has 44 professional bouts to his credit and championship experience.
So why does the former WEC bantamweight kingpin fall?
Well, for starters, I think he's the more talented fighter at this stage of their respective careers. But for all his prowess on the feet and on the ground, he just hasn't been able to make them come together in recent fights.
Torres seems to be constantly reinventing himself and what's unfortunate is he was never really in need of an overhaul to begin with. I understand the Brian Bowles knockout loss was a tough pill to swallow, but that had more to do with not respecting Bowles' power than it did with Torres' skill set.
Winning 17 fights in a row can make you cocky.
McDonald has hit a few speed bumps along the way, but at just 21 years old, he's improving dramatically with every contest and already has 15 fights to his credit. That includes seven straight victories with three under the Zuffa banner.
Torres can win this fight, but he won't, because he's trying to be the patient, relaxed attacker instead of the ruthless aggressor that defined him in his WEC days. This will by no means be a landslide for "Mayday," but he should do enough -- and do it more often -- to secure a closely-contested victory.
Prediction: McDonald def. Torres via split decision
145 lbs.: Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin
Nostradumbass predicts: As I'm sure you've noticed by now, I've mentioned on more than one occasion how a fighter's ego can leave them staring at the lights if they let it get the best of them.
Mark Hominick is no exception.
"The Machine" was unplugged by Chan Sung Jung at UFC 140 last December because he thought he was going to walk in and put on a striking display. Instead, he got displayed in one of several highlight reel clips showcasing his knockout loss to "The Korean Zombie."
If he's the kind of fighter I think he is, you can be sure he won't make that mistake again.
That's bad news for Eddie Yagin, because a calculated and focused Canadian lights this kid up all night. I'm not sure if he'll secure the stoppage, as "The Filipino Phenom" is a durable opponent with a ton of experience, but he just doesn't have the hands to make this thing a fight.
Not likely. Even if Yags does get it to the ground, Hommy knows a thing or two about triangles, having tapped Bryan Caraway with one at WEC 46 back in 2010. I don't want to get down on Yagin over his debut loss at UFC 135 to a very-tough Junior Assuncao, but in the end, this is a rebound fight and it was designed as such.
I expect no surprises in this featherweight affair.
Prediction: Hominick def. Yagin via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio
Nostradumbass predicts: Mark Bocek is frequently overlooked in the UFC's crowded 155-pound division and that's partly because he's been inconsistent, going 3-2 over his last five fights. It's also because he's not particularly flashy or outspoken.
That will change.
If you look at his career overall, you'll see that three of his four losses came to a current and former lightweight champion (Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar) as well as one of the toughest S.O.B.'s at 155-pounds in Jim Miller.
He also finishes 70 percent of his fights by way of tap, nap or snap.
On paper, John Alessio looks like the favorite, based on his wealth of experience and level of competition. But inside the Octagon he's been, well, putrid. There's just no way to spin 0-3 into a positive and the quality of opposition isn't getting any easier.
The trip to a smaller weight class has done him good but with seven submission losses to his name, especially against a mat wizard like Bocek in a place he's yet to taste victory, I have nothing but bad news for the Canadian prior to his long-awaited return.
Prediction: Bocek def. Alessio via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., April 21), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the preliminary bouts.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 145 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Jones vs. Evans."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.