UFC.com has a fantastic article previewing the UFC 145 showdown between Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans. The UFC rounded up all of the former UFC light heavyweight champions to break down the fight and predict Saturday’s championship showdown.
Before I get into the quotes, there was one thing that immediately came to mind after reading this article. The article is a reminder as to how new the UFC really is as an organization. In the history of the company, there have only been 11 different UFC light heavyweight champions. Call me naïve but if you would have asked me before reading the article as to how many different light heavyweight champions the UFC has had in its history, I probably would have guessed much higher.
So let’s take a look at what some of the former champions had to say about Jones vs. Evans.
Frank Shamrock, inaugural champion from Dec. 21 1997 to Nov. 24, 1999
“This fight has a tremendous story behind it, with it having grown out of a friendship that went sour back when these two were teammates. The drama that’s fueling this is incredible. Fans can expect a fight that, stylistically, will be extremely challenging for Jones to overcome, and he’ll have fits with Rashad’s wrestling if he’s able to put Jon on his back. But ultimately, I see Jones being able to inflict more damage and walk away with the belt still in hand. This will be a fight that will not end as easily and devastatingly as Jones’s others have, but rather one of those moments in his career where he’ll have to pull himself up and battle until the final bell. In the end, this fight will help Jon become a better fighter and a better champion, and will endear himself to fans for years to come.”
What I like most about Frank’s comments is that he is one of the few guys interviewed to actually go out on a limb and pick a winner. Most of the other ex-champions give scenarios where each guy can win, but don’t necessarily pick a winner. You never have to worry about Frank Shamrock offering an opinion and backing it.
Randy Couture, two-time champion from Jun 6, 2003 to Jan 31, 2004 and Aug 21, 2004 to Apr 16, 2005
“I think it is going to be very interesting, Rashad has the speed and skills to win. Rashad has to avoid his propensity for standing up and just striking, which he has done in the past. He can’t just strike with Jones; if he does he will lose because Jon has more tools in the toolbox. Rashad has to take Jones down, not just once or twice but every single time he has any opportunity. If Jones is worried about getting taken down, that’s when Rashad can put his hands on him and do some damage. But he has to keep Jon guessing if it is a takedown or a strike that’s coming.
“I think Jones is super-talented and he is clearly getting better in each fight. He could turn into a very special type of champion. He poses some very unique problems in the Octagon – and so far no one has solved too many of them. I think this is a huge fight for the division. “Bones” Jones is very hot right now and with the personalities and the back story, it all hypes this up into a very interesting fight.”
Interesting take from the former UFC champion. I do agree with Couture that Rashad needs to win this fight with takedowns. I did find it interesting that for a guy that is never shy about offering a prediction, he really doesn’t pick a winner here.
Chuck Liddell, champion from Apr 16, 2005 to May 26, 2007
“Everyone is different but, I think, for most fighters getting into the Octagon with someone they don’t like is a great motivation in training. Every time you are tired or holding a little back, you think about losing to this guy you can’t stand and it helps you give 100%. That’s how I was with Tito, I couldn’t stand the idea of losing to him and so I trained harder.
“I’d love to know who really got the best of it when these guys trained together. You get a feeling for someone when you spar with them. That’s why I was so confident against Tito; I’d beat him up standing, wrestling and at BJJ when we trained together years before out fights and I knew I was in his head because of that. Listening to Rashad, it seems from watching the Primetime show that he feels he’s in Jon’s head a little. He sounds very confident and I think that’s based on experiences in the gym. I’m glad he is confident, because that’s something you have to have against Jones. If you don’t go after Jon you are in for a bad night.”
While the Iceman didn’t outright say he was picking Rashad, it sure sounds like it. Liddell also offers a very interesting glimpse into the mental makeup of Evans going into this fight. I think a lot of people are discounting the history that both guys have as training partners. Liddell doesn’t and brings the motivation of beating his old training partner into play. I love it!
Lyoto Machida, champion from May 23, 2009 to May 8, 2010
“Jones vs Evans is a big fight for the fans and a big fight for the division. It is a very interesting fight; Jones is very unorthodox and is strong in all aspects of the game, but Rashad is a great wrestler and has the hand speed to catch Jones.”
Way to go out on a limb Lyoto! I don’t think Machida is breaking any ground here. This quote represents the last couple of years of Machida’s career, a big letdown.
“Rampage” Jackson, champion from May 26, 2007 to Jul 5, 2008
This is an interesting take from Jackson and you almost get the idea that he is pulling for his biggest rival. He makes a great point here about Evans’ speed. I think a lot of people are not looking hard enough at Evans’ speed and footwork in predicting the fight. Jones is fast but in my opinion, a healthy Rashad is fast enough to catch Jones at any time during the five rounds.
Check out the full article on UFC.com to hear comments from Shogun Rua, Tito Ortiz, and Forrest Griffin.