Well CCB’ers and fellow fight fans, I hope that all of you enjoyed your six week long vacation from the world’s largest MMA promotion, because now the UFC is ramping up into full swing for the summer months. Fresh off a great card and a stellar night of fights in Sweden last weekend on FUEL TV, the UFC returns to the realm of Pay Per View this weekend, with UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans live from the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
The main event of the evening sees the long awaited grudge match between former friends and training partners Rashad Evans and Jon “Bones” Jones, as they battle for Light Heavyweight supremacy and the UFC Light Heavyweight title. The co-main event of the evening sees an intriguing Welterweight match-up between two up-and-comers in the division as hard-hitting Brit Che Mills, takes on Canadian Rory “Ares” MacDonald. Rounding out the six bout main card are a Heavyweight tilt between Brendan Schaub and Ben Rothwell, an intriguing Bantamweight bout with possible title implications between former WEC Champion Miguel Torres and Michael McDonald, a Featherweight bout between Mark Hominick and Eddie Yagin as well as a Lightweight bout between Mark Bocek and late replacement opponent John Alessio.
Clearly the main event is the bout that everyone has been waiting for, but the rest of the card features a number of intriguing match ups and all in all, I believe this is a stellar return to the PPV airwaves for the UFC. There will also be a four-fight preliminary card feature live on FX before the PPV as well as two preliminary card bouts streaming live on Facebook. Let’s get right down to it.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Featherweight Bout: Marcus Brimage vs. Maximo Blanco
Marcus “The Bama Beast” Brimage is an American fighter from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Brimage currently splits his training time between American Top Team in Coconut Creek Florida, as well as his own personal gym, Spartan fitness in Birmingham, Alabama. Brimage is a cast-member of The Ultimate Fighter and was actually cast for several seasons, but was forced to withdraw multiple times due to injury, before finally appearing on the Mayhem vs. Bisping season of the show. Brimage is a decent striker who can put together combinations well, as evidenced by his first bout on TUF where he threw every strike known to man at Bryson Hansen before the referee finally intervened. Other than that, Brimage is fairly average on the ground and is relatively new to the sport. He currently holds a professional record of 4-1.
[adinserter block=”2″]Maximo “MAXI” Blanco is a Venezuelan fighter from Falcon, Venezuela. He is a veteran of the Japanese MMA scene where he is a former Lightweight King of Pancrase and a former Lightweight contender for the World Victory Road organization. Blanco was a standout wrestler as a youngster in high school and actually earned himself a scholarship to a Japanese university where he was an All Japan College wrestler. Blanco like his opponent in this bout currently splits his time training between two major MMA gyms, the Yoshida Dojo in Saitama, Japan and Greg Jackson’s MMA in New Mexico. Blanco is one of the most devastating strikers in the world and has one hell of a mean streak. He is extremely aggressive, constantly moving forward with big power punches and the constant threats of takedowns are always forcing his opponents to be on the defensive. Blanco is making the drop to Featherweight for the first time, but it’s more suited to his frame to fight at 145 pounds, rather than his previous home at 155, where he was often the noticeably smaller fighter. Blanco holds a career record of 8-3-1-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Maximo Blanco is an absolute nightmare for most fighters to have to handle. He made a successful career as a wrestler competing ten pounds above his natural weight, now at Featherweight the only issue will be how well he handles the cut. Brimage has been impressive, but Blanco is on another level. His wrestling skills and takedowns, combined with his nasty knockout power earns him a TKO in the first round here. Maximo Blanco via TKO in Round One
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Welterweight Bout: Keith Wisniewski vs. Chris Clements
Keith “The Polish Connection” Wisniewski is an American fighter from Portage, Indiana. He is a veteran of the sport of MMA with over 40 career bouts on his record. He made his UFC debut way back at UFC 56 against Nick Thompson. He was cut from the promotion soon after that bout and proceeded to bounce around the regional fight scene. An impressive six fight winning streak got him back into the UFC, where he lost via TKO to Josh Neer at UFC Live on Versus. Wisniewski is sort of a jack of all trades type of fighter, who excels at nothing, but is capable of fighting anywhere the fight goes. Unfortunately for him in his bout against Neer, he came in with a terrible game plan and never really switched it up and was subsequently battered and TKO’ed in the second round. Still he has a somewhat impressive MMA record of 28-13-1.
Chris “The Menace” Clements is a Canadian fighter from Chatham, Ontario. He is a member of the famed Team Tompkins gym in Ontario, Canada and may actually hold the record for fastest KO of all time in an MMA fight. (It’s a hilarious video by the way, check it out on YouTube. His opponent Lautaro Tucas sprints across the ring into a punch and goes lights out in only three seconds.) Clements is a strong striker like most of the pupils that come out of Tompkins gym. Clements is also notable for having finished all of his opponents via Knockout or TKO. He holds a career record of 10-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Clements is an impressive striker, but he has struggled with top-notch competition in the past. Wisniewski is an experienced veteran fighter, but he’s never exactly been a world beater either. Neither of these two fighters is likely ever going to be on the elite level, but someone has to win. Wisniewski looked pretty bad against Neer, constantly pressuring to get inside, but never doing anything once he got inside the clinch except getting pummeled by Neer’s elbows. If he employs a similar strategy against Clements, it’s likely that he’ll suffer a similar fate as he did against Neer. Chris Clements via TKO in Round Three
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Mac Danzig vs. Efrain Escudero
Mac Danzig is an American fighter from Cleveland, Ohio. The vegan MMA superstar was the winner of the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Danzig currently fights out of Los Angeles, California and is a member of the PKG/Fight Science Gym there. Danzig is a strong and dangerous grappler with the majority of his wins coming by way of Submission. Still, Danzig has proven to be a capable striker, throwing decent combinations, albeit slightly lacking in power. Danzig is an always entertaining fighter, although lately it has come at the expense of winning bouts. Still Danzig is a well-rounded and dangerous opponent for anyone, he owns a professional MMA record of 20-9-1.
Efrain “Hecho en Mexico” Escudero is a Mexican fighter who now trains out of the MMA Lab in Tempe, Arizona. Like his opponent Escudero is a former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, winning the eighth season of the show. Escudero is a strong wrestler, a former collegiate wrestler from Grand Canyon University. He has shown developing stand up skills, but he still mainly relies on takedowns and top control to grind out decisions against his opponents. Escudero was previously released by the UFC for missing weight and losing a bout to Charles Oliveira (making him only the second TUF winner to be cut by the organization.) After being released Escudero went 5-1 outside the organization, before being recalled to face Jacob Volkmann where he was outwrestled and outworked over three rounds. Escudero holds a pro record of 18-4.
Analysis and Prediction: This is an interesting bout between two former Ultimate Fighter winners. Escudero has the better wrestling chops, while Danzig is the better striker and the better-rounded of the two. Danzig has struggled against some of the better wrestlers of the divisions, but despite Escudero’s skills, I’m not convinced he has what it takes to hold Danzig down for three rounds. Escudero’s stand up has always been lacklustre, so it’s likely Danzig wins all of the stand-up exchanges. This one comes down to Danzig’s ability to keep the bout standing. Mac Danzig by Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: John Makdessi vs. Anthony Njokuani
John “The Bull” Makdessi is a Canadian fighter from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He now trains full time in Quebec at the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Makdessi is a strong striker with backgrounds in kickboxing, Tae Kwan Do and a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Makdessi has proven to be a very creative and powerful striker throughout his career, owning an impressive seven knockout victories. Makdessi is a short and compact striker, which gives him a lot of power, but he also fights small, with a short range and usually at a reach disadvantage. Makdessi’s other problem is that he looked awful on the ground in his last bout against Dennis Hallman, luckily for him, his opponent in this bout is unlikely to take him to the ground. He owns a professional record of 9-1.
Anthony “The Assassin” Njokuani is a Nigerian fighter from Lagos, Nigeria. Njokuani is an impressive kick boxer with a vast array of kicks, knees and punches. At 6’1” and with a 75.5-inch reach he is one of the tallest and lankiest fighters in the Lightweight division. Njokuani now trains out of Las Vegas, Nevada at the Janjira Muay Thai Gym. Njokuani like Makdessi has struggled on the ground against some of the upper-level wrestlers of the division, not faring well in the takedown and grappling game, but against Makdessi he shouldn’t have to worry about that. Njokuani has a professional MMA record of 14-6-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Makdessi had his hype train rolling along at full speed until he was taken down for the first time. Likewise, Njokuani has struggled against the wrestling based attacks of several fighters in the Lightweight division. In this bout, neither man will have to worry about hitting the mat. So this one is going to come down to a striking battle and that favors Njokuani. Makdessi is giving up height and reach to Njokuani and is more of a counter-puncher than an attacker himself. Njokuani will keep this fight ranged and use leg kicks to chop Makdessi down and slow the Canadian down. Expect a clinic on how to destroy a shorter and slower fighter from the Nigerian, as he carves Makdessi to pieces for three rounds. Anthony Njokuani via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Welterweight Bout: Matt Brown vs. Stephen Thompson
Matt “The Immortal” Brown is an American fighter from Xena, Ohio. He is a former cast-member of the Ultimate Fighter competing on the seventh season of the show. Brown is a former student of Matt Hume, one of the best trainers in the sport. He is a Judo based fighter with a brown belt in the sport. Brown is a member of the JG MMA in Cincinnati, Ohio where he trains regularly with Rich Franklin and Jorge Gurgel. Brown is a tough and rugged brawler with a flair for exciting bouts. It’s his fan-friendly striking style that keeps him employed, despite his relatively mediocre record, which currently stands at 13-11.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is an American fighter from Simpsonville, South Carolina. He is one of the most impressive kick boxers in the history of the UFC. As an amateur and professional kick boxer he held a 63-0 record, with 30 wins via Knockout. In his UFC debut, he showed off his impressive striking skills with a highlight reel head-kick knockout. Thompson trains at the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Thompson holds black belts in Kenpo Karate and Muay Thai Kickboxing and a blue belt in BJJ. Thompson’s training partners have said that despite his impressive striking skills, he actually has a decent grappling game, but no opponent has yet to test that theory. With Brown’s penchant for brawling, it’s unlikely that Thompson’s ground game will be tested in this bout. Thompson is undefeated as a pro fighter with a record of 6-0.
Analysis and Prediction: Thompson is the superior striker in this bout, but the ground game is an unknown. It’s unlikely that Brown is going to want to take this fight there, it’s more likely that he is willing to brawl to try and prove a point. The fans are going to love this one as long as it lasts, but if Brown is willing to stand and trade, Thompson is going to pick him apart. This one is likely to be fairly one sided, but Brown is tough to finish and it’s likely that he survives to the final bell, but this one should be a unanimous decision. Stephen Thompson via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Heavyweight Bout: Travis Browne vs. Chad Griggs
At 6’7” tall Travis “Hapa” Browne is one of the largest men currently employed by the UFC. From Oahu, Hawaii, Browne now trains with Greg Jackson’s camp in Alberquerque, New Mexico. Browne is an imposing, physical fighter with ten stoppage victories, including eight in the first round. Browne has great power in his stand up, with nine knockouts. He is also beginning to show improvements in his ground game, showing off some impressive takedowns and ground control in some of his more recent bouts. One thing that Browne has struggled with is his cardio, as he has proven to be gassed out in a couple of his more recent fights, most notably against Rob Broughton and Cheick Kongo. Still Browne is an undefeated prospect with a 12-0-1 record.
Chad “The Gravedigger” Griggs is the owner of the best sideburns in the entire sport of MMA. Besides that, he is also one of the most unheralded fighters in all of MMA. He is a constant underdog, who is extremely tough and durable and has massive power in his punches. He is a member of the Fight Legion Gym in Tucson, Arizona. He is most notable for his upset victory over former WWE Wrestler Bobby Lashley at Strikeforce Houston. Griggs is a finisher, who has never been to a judge’s decision in his entire career. Griggs is mainly a striker, with fairly limited ground skills, so this will be a tough match up for him, but being the underdog isn’t anything new to Griggs. He owns a professional MMA record of 11-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Browne has a lot of hype behind him, but being the underdog is nothing new to Griggs. Browne has looked impressive in many of his bouts, but his cardio is still an issue. He’s going to have a significant size and strength advantage over Griggs, but if he tires, Griggs is certainly capable of making him pay. Browne has massive power, so he’ll be looking to end this one early. If Griggs can survive the first round, it’s likely that Browne gasses and he may have a chance. Expect Griggs to storm back after a rough first round to take over in the second and put away his massive foe in the final frame. Chad Griggs via TKO in Round Three
Main Card (PPV): Lightweight Bout: Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio
Mark Bocek is a Canadian fighter from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Bocek is now a member of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec. Bocek is a grappling based fighter with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is a black belt in Kempo Karate. He has long been considered one of Canada’s best grapplers for many years and was the first BJJ black belt from Canada. Bocek has fairly limited striking, but he has been improving in that area as he continues to train with some of the elite level strikers that call the Tristar Gym home. Still he remains one of the biggest threats in the Lightweight division on the ground, and as his wrestling and takedowns improve as well, he is becoming more and more of a problem for fighters. Bocek owns a professional record of 10-4, with seven submission victories.
John “The Natural” Alessio is a Canadian fighter from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Alessio has fought for nearly every major MMA promotion in the world including WEC, PRIDE, King of the Cage, MFC, DREAM and a previous stint in the UFC. Despite his Canadian heritage, Alessio actually trains in the mecca of MMA Las Vegas, Nevada with the Xtreme Couture gym. Alessio is a late-replacement for this bout, replacing an injured Matt Wiman. Alessio is a veteran of the fight game, who recently made the drop to Lightweight, this is the toughest test that he has faced since dropping to 155-pounds, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles it. Alessio holds a career record of 34-14.
Analysis and Prediction: This is a tale of two different types of fighters. Alessio is a better-rounded fighter who will hold the advantage in the striking department. On the ground Bocek holds the edge, although he prefers to use his Jiu Jitsu from top position as opposed to working from the bottom. If Alessio can earn a few takedowns of his own, he could definitely make things difficult for Bocek. Alessio is taking a step up in competition here and is doing so on late notice, he has the tools to win this bout, but in the end I think Bocek uses his improving wrestling to earn some key takedowns and control Alessio on the mat to earn a close decision victory. Mark Bocek via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (PPV): Featherweight Bout: Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin
Mark “The Machine” Hominick is a Canadian fighter from Thamesford, Ontario, Canada. Hominick is a pupil of the late Shawn Tompkins and trains out of the Adrenaline Training Center in London, Ontario. Hominick is a strong striker with a background in kickboxing, he also has improving ground skills to compliment his striking, although he still prefers to bang it out with his opponents. Hominick throws strong combinations and is excellent at controlling the range that a bout is fought at. Despite losing two in a row, Hominick is much better than his latest fight indicated. It’s unlikely that he is as careless with his punches as he was against Chan Sung Jung and will be more patient and composed on the feet in this one. Hominick has a career record of 20-10.
Eddie “The Filipino Phenom” Yagin is a Filipino-American fighter from Hilo, Hawaii. Yagin is a well-rounded fighter with a decent grappling acumen and an aggressive stand up style. Yagin however showed one glaring weakness in his last bout and that is his defensive wrestling. He was taken down at will and controlled on the mat by Junior Assuncao. Assuncao is no slouch on the ground, so being controlled there is nothing to be ashamed of, but he is far from an imposing wrestler and Yagin offered very little resistance to his constant takedown attempts. Yagin also looked nervous and tentative when striking in his last bout, but that may have been octagon jitters, as Yagin is usually an aggressive but sometimes sloppy striker.
Analysis and Prediction: Be it octagon jitters, or fear of being taken down, or whatever you want to call it, Yagin looked tentative on the feet in his last bout. If he looks that way again, he is going to be in for a long night. Hominick is on another level in terms of kickboxing ability, so in a pure striking battle it’s likely that Hominick carves up his opponent with a variety of kicks and punches over the course of three rounds. Yagin’s best chance at upsetting the Canadian lies on the mat, but Hominick has stellar defensive wrestling and it won’t be easy for Yagin to get the fight there. I expect a fairly one-sided beating as the Canadian gets back on track. Mark Hominick via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (PPV): Bantamweight Bout: Miguel Angel Torres vs. Michael McDonald
Miguel Angel Torres is an American fighter from East Chicago, Indiana. He currently splits his training between his own gym Torres Martial Arts Academy in Hammond, Indiana and the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec where he trains under Firas Zahabi. Torres is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a strong grappling and submission game. At 5’9” with a 76-inch reach though, Torres is a very lengthy and lanky fighter, who puts those traits to excellent use with a varied Muay Thai attack. Torres is a former WEC Bantamweight champion and is looking to get back into contention for the UFC Bantamweight title. Torres holds a career record of 40-4.
Michael “Mayday” McDonald is an American fighter from Modesto, California. He is a member of the Oakdale MMA Gym in his home town, where he is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. McDonald is also an aggressive striker, who began training kickboxing at the age of ten. McDonald is one of the top young prospects in the UFC’s Bantamweight division and is taking a serious step up in competition in this bout. In recent bouts McDonald has struggled against somewhat lower tier level of competition but he has admitted that weight-cutting issues contributed to a slower performance than he was happy with. In his last bout, it looked like he got those issues sorted out as he absolutely destroyed Alex Soto via KO in 56 seconds. McDonald owns a professional record of 14-1, and has since avenged his only career loss.
Analysis and Prediction: This is a very close bout, in fact the bookmaker’s currently have this fight as the closest on the board, with this being a nearly dead even pick-em. One has to be concerned with McDonald’s previous struggles against Chris Cariaso in a bout where he allowed a lower level striker to hang with him and nearly steal a decision. If weight-cutting truly was the issue for that, he had better hope he has that taken care of as Torres will surely test him striking like he’s never been tested before. Torres will have a six-inch reach advantage in this bout and is smart about putting that to good use. He has a strong jab, backed by crisp Thai boxing combinations. He has struggled against wrestlers in the past, but McDonald hasn’t proven to be an effective wrestler who can control fighters on the mat in any of his previous bouts, so it’s likely that this one becomes a stand up affair. McDonald is a little too young and won’t be able to handle Torres in this bout. Torres uses his jab and a steady diet of leg kicks to keep his young opponent on the outside, picking him apart on the way to a late submission victory. Miguel Torres via Submission in Round Three
Main Card (PPV): Heavyweight Bout: Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell
Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub is an American fighter from Aurora, Colorado. Schaub was the runner-up on the Heavyweights only season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is also a former professional football player, playing in the AFL and as a member of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills’ practise roster. Schaub is a member of the Grudge Training Center in Colorado and also spends time at Jackson’s Submission Fighting Camp in New Mexico. Schaub is a speedy Heavyweight, who moves very well for a man of his size, which is probably attributed solely to his athletic gifts as a former pro football player. Schaub is a capable striker with decent power, and solid combinations. He also has a solid wrestling base and has a decent double leg takedown. Schaub’s main flaw has been his defensive boxing and his chin, both of which have been fairly non-existent in his professional losses thus far, being flattened by punches both times. He holds a professional MMA record of 8-2, with 7 stoppage victories.
Ben “Big Ben” Rothwell is an American fighter from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rothwell is a wrestler and a kick boxer who trains with the Roufusport Gym in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rothwell is a capable striker with decent combinations, however, he is a touch on the slow side and his stand up often gets sloppier as the fight wears on. At 6’5” and 265 pounds, he has a lot of mass to carry around and that weighs on any fighter as fifteen minutes go by, but it was especially evident in his last bout, where he was dominated by Mark Hunt for fifteen minutes, with both men nearly dead from fatigue at the end of the bout. Rothwell is likely going to want to get this fight to the mat as quickly as possible, as Schaub hasn’t really been impressive fighting off his back. Rothwell is a veteran of the sport holding a professional MMA record of 31-8.
Analysis and Prediction: Rothwell has to make this fight his kind of fight. He’s not a finesse striker, or a smothering wrestler, he’s some odd combination of the two who happens to be 6’5” and 260 pounds. His best bet is to try and work Schaub to the floor and grind away on him for the first rounds as Schaub has never really been tested from his back. Schaub on the other hand is going to want to make this a striking battle and look for takedowns of his own. Schaub holds a significant speed advantage and likely has the better cardio if he can drag the fight out for longer. Rothwell hits like a truck, so you always have to worry that Schaub’s chin fails him again, but if Schaub fights intelligently on the feet, darting in and out with combinations and threatening takedowns he can outbox Rothwell soundly en-route to a clear-cut decision. Schaub hits hard, but Rothwell is very tough to finish, so it’s likely that this one goes to the judges. Brendan Schaub via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (PPV): Welterweight Bout: Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
Rory “Ares” MacDonald is a Canadian fighter from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. He is a very young fighter and is one of the top Welterweight prospects in the entire UFC. At 22-years old he is still rapidly improving and growing as a fighter. He is a member of the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec. MacDonald is an extremely well-rounded fighter with strong skills in all areas of the fight game. His stand up consists of solid kick boxing with great speed and accuracy. His clinch game is particularly nasty where he can attack with elbows, knees or use impressive throws and takedowns to drag his opponents to the mat. On the ground MacDonald is very aggressive, constantly pressuring his opponents with ground and pound and passing his opponent’s guards. MacDonald has a career record of 12-1, with his only career loss coming to current Interim Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit.
Che “The Urban Monkey” Mills is an English born fighter from Gloucester, England. Mills is a 29-year-old former Cage Rage British Welterweight Champion. Mills was actually a short-lived cast member on the US vs. UK season of The Ultimate Fighter, but was eliminated in the elimination round of fights and never made it into the house. Mills is a strong striker, who is going to want to keep this fight standing for as long as possible. He has solid footwork with good timing, which he uses to counterpunch effectively against his opponents. Mills has been largely untested on the ground throughout his career, so it’s tough to say anything accurately about his ground skills. Mills holds a career fight record of 14-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Mills is going to want to keep this fight standing for as long as possible if he wants to have much of a chance against MacDonald. Mills looked impressive in his last bout against Chris Cope, but he’s going to notice a significant difference in skill when he steps in the cage against MacDonald. It’s more likely that MacDonald uses his well-rounded skills to get inside and punish Mills, before earning a takedown. From there it’s likely to be academic as MacDonald overwhelms his English foe with ground and pound before finding a submission. Rory MacDonald via Submission in Round One
Main Event (PPV): Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
Jon “Bones” Jones is the reigning and defending UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Jones is a 24-year-old from Rochester, New York and is the youngest UFC title holder in history. At 6’4” tall with an extremely length 84.5-inch reach he is an extremely difficult foe for any fighter to deal with. He is a member of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jones was a standout wrestler in high school in New York and was a JUCO national champion at Iowa Central Community College. He has put his wrestling skills to excellent use inside the cage as he has excellent takedowns and some of the nastiest ground and pound in the entire UFC. Jones has lost only one bout in his entire career and that was a Disqualification loss in a bout that he was dominating against Matt Hamill. The champion holds a professional MMA record of 15-1.
“Sugar” Rashad Evans is a 32-year-old fighter from Niagara Falls, New York. Evans is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and was the winner of the Heavyweight Division of The Ultimate Fighter Season Two. Evans is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a black belt in Gaidojutsu. He now trains with the “Blackzillians” at Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Florida. Evans is also a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Michigan State University. Evans has transformed himself from a one-dimensional wrestler to a well-rounded martial artist throughout his career. He has some of the slickest boxing in the Light Heavyweight division and has great speed in both his hands and his footwork. Evans is coming off an impressive victory against Phil Davis where he dominated the fight from bell to bell. Evans has a professional record of 17-1-1.
Analysis and Prediction: There has been a ton of psychological warfare for this bout and a ton of trash talk. Undoubtedly most of this is real, as there is some real built in drama for this bout. Former friends and training partners taking on one another, one man still training with the camp that the other left. Who knows what kind of secrets have been shared, or what video tapes have been dug up from previous training sessions. I’m sure that all of that has been weighing heavy on both men’s minds. Fighting is part mental, so it’s unwise to completely ignore this part of it, although I will only attribute a small amount of time to the issue. Jones seems calm and composed, but this is his first true grudge match, so it’ll be interesting to see if the trash talk leading up to the fight affects him inside the cage. Rashad on the other hand, turns nearly every fight that he’s in into a grudge match. He’s had well documented personal grudge matches with Rampage Jackson and more recently Phil Davis, so we know that Evans won’t be affected by the trash talk.
Moving on from there, let’s take a look at each man’s game plans for this bout. For the challenger, his path to victory is surely going to lie on the ground. He’s probably a better technical boxer than Jones, but he’s going to be at a significant reach disadvantage and Jones is an expert at keeping his opponents at range. Like we saw when Jones fought Ryan Bader, he has great takedown defense, but part of that was attributed to the fact that Bader couldn’t close the distance and was forced to shoot for double legs from across the cage, giving Jones plenty of time to react. Evans is going to need to throw a couple of punches and a few feints to keep Jones guessing, before he closes in and shoots for a takedown. If Evans can get Jones moving backwards instead of laterally, he will have a much easier time earning a takedown. From there, we’ve never really seen what Jones can do off of his back, but like most wrestlers I would assume he’s not comfortable being there. Rashad has said that when they used to train together he could take Jones down at will, so he’ll need to prove it in the fight on Saturday. If he can earn a few takedowns and control Jones on the ground, he’s likely going to have the champion second guessing his striking and it will open up more spots in the striking game for Rashad to attack with his big over hand punches. One other thing that Rashad should be looking at, is how successful Lyoto Machida was in round one of his bout with Jones by using leg kicks. Jones has very skinny legs for a big man, and there isn’t much muscle there to absorb the blow of a few leg kicks, if Rashad can change up his stance and throw some leg kicks to Jones’ lead leg, he could do some damage and slow the champion down.
[adinserter block=”1″]For Jones the key is going to be to keep Evans at range. Jones is an unorthodox striker with big power, but his real strength comes from his massive 84.5-inch reach. To put that into perspective fight science did a study on reach, and Jones has the reach of a man over seven feet tall! He fights well at length and is getting better and better at fighting tall. He uses a wide array of kicks to keep his opponents outside, but he’ll likely want to keep it simple for this bout, as he won’t want to give Rashad any unnecessary chances to catch a kick and earn a takedown. Jones will also have the advantage if he can close the distance against Rashad. When Rashad gets clipped, his game completely derails. In his bout against Machida he was hurt and immediately began backing up, instead of moving side to side like he was supposed to. It got him trapped against the cage and knocked completely out cold, if Jones can begin to cut off the cage against Evans he may find success at backing him into a corner.
All in all, this is Jones’ fight to lose. He has the tools to win this bout and the onus will surely be on Rashad to push the action and force the fight on Jones. Any time spent dancing around or fighting at range benefits the champion greatly as he has the better reach and is the better fighter when fighting from outside. This fight is closer than the bookmakers are saying, but not by much. I think Jones feels out Evans for a round or two, before really beginning to pour it on him and look for a finish in the third. My guess is he clips Evans with a punch and begins to stalk him down, forcing him against the cage and putting a brutal assault on him (a la Pat Curran vs. Joe Warren) and earns a stoppage. Jon Jones via TKO in Round Three