The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight belt is on the line when Rashad Evans makes one of the longest-delayed attempts to regain a world championship when he takes on division champion Jon Jones in the UFC 145 main event later TONIGHT (April 21, 2012) at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Initially slated to face Mauricio Rua in March 2011, the injured Evans was replaced by then-teammate Jones, whose victory and two subsequent defenses rounded out a year of four wins (he'd submitted Ryan Bader in February), which was the most impressive in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA) outside of Rua's tear through Pride in 2005.
There are many things about Jones that make him a difficult match up for any 205-pound fighter in the sport, or that ever lived. His length skews every obvious tactic in the book, whether it's standing -- where he pecks, swats and pokes from impossibly long distance -- or grappling -- where those endless limbs avail him to submission that simply don't exist in other guys' repertoires. Jones' size allows him to do things that you can't deal with, and the scariest thing is that he's still improving.
Against Quinton Jackson last fall, Jones was eerily calm while picking apart Jackson, and remained patient as the uber-strong "Rampage" stuffed his initial takedown attempts, piling up points en route to a fourth round takedown and submission win.
Evans' thirst for revenge on Jones -- for glaringly childish reasons we will detail in a minute -- is based on the fact that they were "teammates" and the implication is that Jones somehow swerved into his lane and took his title shot. Or something like that. Whatever it is, it smacks of egoism and sour grapes, and the fact that they trained together early in Jones' career and Evans apparently got the better of him (as he should have, given Jones' inexperience) is reason enough for some fans and pundits to think Jones has Evans in his head.
And it's this line of thinking that will lead you to understand the reason people like me make fun of fans and writers like that, because history shows that the guy in Jones' position almost usually wins. Jones' improvement in recent bouts is the most impressive thing in his ever-expanding arsenal. His comfort in the stand up game his improved his overall striking beyond that of most light-heavies, and Evans' quickness will have to be exceptionally good in this fight for him to be competitive, because he's not going to outwrestle "Bones" nor wait around and make something happen without eating some shots.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 145 fight between Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans:
It's understandable that the UFC has to fall back on hackneyed promotional angles to pump a fight, but this one is plain getting old. You can't turn the channel without seeing some promo hearing Rashad kvetch, "We were friends, and then Jones betrayed me," or, "I'm going to get that belt back," or "Jon Jones borrowed lawn tools and didn't return them."
It's as though this is the first pair of fighters in the history of combat sports that trained together, competed in the same weight division, and crossed paths.
We get it. You don't like each other.
In related news, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell had a pact that they would never fight, which "Iceman" broke, mostly because when he made the pact they were on the phone after a long day of training together (Tito couldn't take the body shots), and when Tito insisted Chuck promise they'd always be pals and never fight, Liddell answered into the phone "Of course," but he was doing it through a sock puppet that looked like Bas Rutten dressed as Keith Hackney. The obvious deduction? The pact didn't count! Tito never knew this, of course, which is precisely the reason Evans is so mad at Jones.
Evans' best asset is his ability to game plan and execute, constantly sticking to what works while minimizing his weaknesses. However, Jones' ability to dictate standing and to take the fight to the mat seemingly at will are huge stumbling blocks for any opponent.
If there's a possible flaw in Jones' style, it's someone who can punish him with leg kicks. But, even that may be a reach, as Jones adjusted after a competitive opening round against Lyoto Machida and simply decimated the former champ with an eye-popping standing choke after taking a couple shots to start the bout.
Evans will come into this bout with a lot of emotion, but Jones will look to prove that he isn't the green, inexperienced kid Evans trained with when the two were teammates. "Bones" will be too long and dictate the range standing, and Evans might land a shot or two, especially with his fast right hand, which stretched Chuck Liddell.
However, Jones' ability to control the fight with so many weapons standing is what makes him so unpredictable. You never know where he's going to come from and that in itself forms a kind of operational paralysis. Throw in his outstanding takedowns, and the fact that the best of the light heavyweight division's efforts against him have meant one lost round in his career (the first against Machida).
Jones is a different breed of fighter. The next level. Evans will get picked apart standing and Jones will wear him down, then change gears in the second and takedown Evans, scoring ground and pound. Evans' heart and wiliness will carry him through the third, but in the fourth, he'll be ready for the taking as Jones puts him on his back and cinches home a fight-ending submission for the win.
Jones via decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 145 results of all the "Jones vs. Evans" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:00 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org