The following is another article from of our weekend series of articles looking back at UFC 145 five years ago this month with the headline match Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans for the Light-Heavyweight Championship. This is the full preview of the fight card by Jamie Penick.
The long-awaited Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will finally take place on Saturday night, headlining UFC 145 from Atlanta, Ga. It’s the UFC’s first pay-per-view event since February’s UFC 144 in Japan, and though it’s essentially a one-fight card with the massive main event, there are quite a few enjoyable matchups on the card. Here’s what’s on tap for Saturday night on pay-per-view:
Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans (UFC Light Heavyweight Championship)
There’s already been so much discussion about this matchup over the past year. We know the accolades of each man. Evans has suffered just one loss in his career, a knockout against Lyoto Machida after capturing the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. Jones’ sole loss is a disqualification after he got a little overzealous with his elbows to an essentially incapacitated Matt Hamill. Between Evans and Jones, they’ve defeated essentially every major name at light heavyweight, and now the former friends will square off against one another.
Evans, while he has knockout power in his hands, is at a very real disadvantage on the feet in this fight. Jones’ UFC-leading 84.5″ reach and five inch height advantage over Evans will make it immensely difficult for Evans to connect on anything significant. That means he’ll try to get this fight to the ground in any way he can.
That’s easier said than done, even for a takedown specialist like Evans. Jones has yet to be taken down in his MMA career, but he’ll be facing a fighter intent on putting him on his back, and one who has done so in training when they were teammates. If Evans can’t land a straight takedown with the speed he possesses, he’ll be looking at a clinch game against Jones, but that opens up another difficult spot for him.
Jones is incredibly adept at getting his own takedowns, and his work in the clinch with trips and leverage is fantastic. He can also be quite devastating with short strikes in close, utilizing elbows and short strikes to deliver blows and set up other offense.
The key thing to think about when focusing on this fight is the potentially realistic paths to victory for each fighter. For Evans, it’s surprise everyone with an early knockout blow, or utilize his wrestling and the position game through 25 minutes to win at least three of the rounds for a decision. Jones, on the other hand, has a multitude of weapons at his disposal. He’s capable of turning the wrestling game around and putting Evans on his back, and we’ve seen what he’s capable of with his ground and pound and submission games on the ground. He’s also capable of knocking Evans out on the feet, and with the way he uses his range and continues to improve his striking attack, there’s no telling what we’ll see out of him.
Jones is the best 205 lb. fighter on the planet. Period. Evans, while he is a former Champion, has trained with Jones in the past, and is likely capable of beating any other fighter in the light heavyweight division, is not going to be the one to dethrone the young Champ. More than likely, he’s going to be stopped for the second time in his career.
PREDICTION: Jones via TKO in the third round
Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills (Welterweight)
22-year-old Canadian Rory MacDonald is one of the bright young prospects in any of the UFC’s weight divisions. His 3-1 mark in the Octagon was nearly 4-0, but a late surge by now-Interim UFC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit bested him in 2010. That remains the only loss in his 13-fight career.
England’s Mills has a very respectable record in his own right at 14-4 with one no contest, and made a very good debut in the UFC in destructive fashion, blasting Chris Cope with a vicious series of knees at UFC 148 last November and dispatching him in 40 seconds.
However, while Mills certainly has the power and violence to be a threat to most at welterweight, he’s faced nowhere near the competition that MacDonald has, despite being seven years older. Though only 22, MacDonald has been in the sport for five years already, and in his last two fights tossed around Nate Diaz like a ragdoll and then took out Mike Pyle in the first round.
MacDonald’s got a very well-rounded attack. His striking continues to improve and impress, and his grappling game is excellent. That is where Mills runs into trouble here. While he’s got a very good striking game, three of his four losses have come by submission, and this is perhaps the best grappler he’s faced in his career.
Again, Mills has power, but that’s not necessarily going to be an attribute he’ll get to use in this fight. There are more ways for the kid to win, and he’s likely to pick up his third straight here.
PREDICTION: MacDonald via submission in the second round
Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell (Heavyweight)
Schaub was making a rapid rise up the UFC’s heavyweight ranks over the last couple of years, but he ran into a resurgent Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira last August, suffering his second career knockout loss.
Rothwell is hoping to rebound from his second loss in three UFC fights, most recently losing by decision to Mark Hunt in a brutally sloppy fight. Rothwell’s got an uncanny ability to absorb punishment and keep continuing, but he hasn’t shown himself to be much more than that in the Octagon.
Schaub’s power has gotten him stoppage wins over three fighters in the Octagon, and he was doing well against Nogueira before getting cracked and finished in their bout last August. Rothwell’s grappling could be a factor in this fight, but I trust Schaub’s cardio a lot more than Rothwell’s, and his power as well.
PREDICTION: Schaub via TKO in the second round.
Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald (Bantamweight)
This may just be the best fight on the card. While the main event has the history, the spectacle, the names, and the importance, this is the most evenly matched fight, and on paper should be a fantastically exciting fight as well.
Torres, after racking up a 37-1 mark and being established as the top bantamweight in the sport, has gone just 3-3 in his last six fights, and has adjusted his fighting style in that time. McDonald, meanwhile, has posted a 14-1 record already at just 21-years-old. That mark includes a 3-0 mark inside the Octagon already, and a current seven fight winning streak.
McDonald also enters the fight with plenty of confidence after his 2011 run. He put together two impressive performances in decision wins, and then pulled off a spectacular KO over Alex Soto in just a minute last November.
In another wrinkle to the matchup, Torres isn’t going to have the type of height and reach advantage he typically does at 135 lbs., as McDonald is only an inch shorter than him. Add in his much more cautious approach to the fight game since his losses to Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez in the WEC, and it’s not clear what we’ll see from him in this fight.
I think McDonald will try to goad Torres into fighting a more aggressive, back and forth style of fight. If he can manage that, the fight may very well be in his favor, though Torres is no stranger to aggressive fights like that himself. It’s a tough one to call, because Torres at his best can still beat most in the division, and McDonald is the best up and coming fighter in the division. It’s a slight upset, but I’m going with the kid to continue his climb in the division.
PREDICTION: McDonald via TKO in the second round
Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin (Featherweight)
Hominick has fallen down the ladder in precipitous fashion heading into 2012. After a very good title fight against Jose Aldo, Hominick was shockingly knocked out by “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in seven seconds in December.
Yagin entered the UFC with some accolades in September after a win over former Bellator Champ Joe Soto last August, but he dropped a decision to Junior Assuncao at UFC 135.
Hominick’s a much better fighter than the Jung fight showed, and he overshot on the first punch he threw and got caught. It happens, but he’s still a very, very good featherweight. His striking game is definitely one of his best attributes, but he’s got a solid submission game as well.
This is Hominick’s fight to lose, and it would be shocking if he dropped his third straight here in Atlanta.
PREDICTION: Hominick via TKO in the second round
Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio (Lightweight)
Alessio is getting a call back to the UFC on short notice, appearing in the Octagon for the first time since May of 2006. He’s a longtime veteran of the sport, and he’s gone 10-1 over the last three years into this return.
Bocek is coming off a semi-lackluster decision win over Nik Lentz, and he holds a 6-4 record in the Octagon overall, but three of his four losses were to top opponents in current champ Ben Henderson, the last champ Frankie Edgar, and perpetual challenger Jim Miller. Suffice it to say, he’s essentially lost to the best of the world.
John Alessio, while a veteran talent and a more than solid fighter, is not one of the best in the world. He’s also coming in off of short notice, and with that playing against him as well, this is just not a matchup in which I see him being successful. Bocek should win this comfortably.
PREDICTION: Bocek via submission in the first round
======PRELIMINARY CARD QUICK PICKS======
* Travis Browne over Chad Griggs via TKO in the second round
* Stephen Thompson over Matt Brown via submission in the second round
* John Makdessi over Anthony Njokuani via TKO in the third round
* Mac Danzig over Efrain Escudero via decision
* Chris Clements over Keith Wisniewski via TKO in the second round
* Maximo Blanco over Marcus Brimage via TKO in the first round
======CONFIDENCE AND BETTING CONTEST PICKS======
12 – Jones – TKO RD 3
11 – R. MacDonald – SUB RD 2
10 – Hominick – TKO RD 2
9 – Bocek – SUB RD 1
8 – Danzig – DEC
7 – Schaub – TKO RD 2
6 – Blanco – TKO RD 1
5 – Browne – TKO RD 2
4 – M. McDonald – TKO RD 2
3 – Makdessi – TKO RD 3
2 – Clements – TKO RD 2
1 – Thompson – SUB RD 2
$400 on Danzig
$200 on McDonald
$200 on Makdessi
$200 on Danzig, Schaub, McDonald