After over a year's worth of build and a massive amount of hype along the way, the rivalry between UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and his former friend and training partner, Rashad Evans, culminated inside the Octagon at tonight's (Sat., April 21, 2012) UFC 145 event at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
And the champion is here to stay.
Jonny "Bones" may have proved tonight, without a shadow of a doubt, that he's the toughest light heavyweight in the world today. His long limbs kept Evans at bay throughout the duration of the fight. They also allowed him to score points where his opponent could not.
Evans showed flashes of offense that looked as though it could turn the tide in his favor but Jones all too often shrugged off big overhand right punches that landed clean on his chin.
By the time it was over, Jones had earned a unanimous decision victory to defend his 205-pound title and firmly establish himself as the very best in the world at his weight.
Who can beat this man?
Jones opened to the body early and fell. Rashad failed to capitalize, though, and remained at a distance. He clearly wanted to stay away from Jones' long limbs, though he wasn't doing a great job of it. Jabs, too. Evans first jump in was unsuccessful.
Evans, interestingly, stayed at the distance he said others were mistaken to. Despite this, he was doing well to avoid a lot of the champion's offense, which included plenty of kicks, low, high, and everything in between.
Patience was the name of the game, mostly. Both men were fighting smart. Jones was scoring with shots that weren't doing a lot of damage, simply because he was the only one able to land from so far away. Evans was failing to get inside and it was showing.
Late in the round, Evans landed a head kick that looked to stagger Jones. This led to a failed takedown attempt to end the frame.
Whew. So intense.
They opened round two the same as round one, patient as ever. A clinch led to a short elbow from Jones but nothing too big. The exchanges didn't favor either man throughout the beginning of the frame. Evans started taunting here, as he easily slid away from "Bones'" offense.
Jones continued to press forward but Evans was solid in his timing. Jones' started landing elbows, though, and one of them rocked Rashad and had him woozy against the fence. This led to a clinch, where Jones maintained the status quo.
Once they reset, Rashad appeared to be okay. Jones kept coming with the elbows, though, and they were landing. Evans had no answer for them, either.
A flying knee and a left hook from Jones had Rashad shaky to end the round and it appeared to be a matter of time before the champion asserted his will. It was a very bad round for the challenger.
Total momentum shift.
Evans gained some of his confidence back with a big right hand early but Jones seemed to shake it off well enough. "Suga" tried to keep the pressure on, however, just as his corner was shouting for him to. He started backing off a bit, though, and it allowed the champ to recover.
Suddenly we were back to Jones pushing Evans against the fence and Rashad circling around.
Not much going mid-way through the third after a dominant second round for Jones. Another flying knee into an elbow from Jones and Evans looked hurt ... again. He answered back with an overhand right but Jones proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that his chin could hold up.
Through three, it still looked like Jones fight to lose.
They tied up a bit more in the fourth round but once again, Jones proved too difficult to get to the floor. Granted, Evans didn't look too committed to the takedown but Jones was shrugging them off like he was playing with his children.
It was a game of control and Jones had it all.
Evans looked helpless by this point, swinging and missing while Jones was relaxed and confident in his approach, all while staying aggressive and keeping the pressure on.
Jones even landed a few shoulder strikes. That's right, I said shoulder strikes.
Headed to round five, it was clear Evans needed a stoppage to win the fight. He didn't look confident in the corner. He jut looked tired and worn.
Evans came out looking far more fresh than in previous rounds. He had the urgency, he just needed to find a way to translate it into effective offense. Unfortunately, that's not what happened.
Jones continued to push forward and played his game. Which is what it looked like, too. Jones was a kid with a controller, playing his game and having fun throwing whatever he wanted to throw and knowing his former teammate couldn't do a damn thing about it.
By the time it was over, all was clear. Jon Jones is the best in the world at 205-pounds, and maybe beyond.
Remember, too, to check out MMAmania.com's complete round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of UFC 145 by clicking here.