(What? Is that ghost you’ve been staring at all these years on his lunch break?)
By Ryan Sarr
The time for talk is up. For over a year now, we’ve watched as Jon Jones and Rashad Evans’ relationship has deteriorated from training partners willing to fake injury to avoid fighting one another, to bitter enemies just waiting for the chance to beat the other into a living death. Is all the personal heat real? Can these two bury the hatchet after the fight? We’ll find out soon enough, but either way, this has all the makings of a can’t miss war that will not soon be forgotten. All signs point to a decisive victory for “Bones” in ATL tomorrow night, but as we all know, anything can happen in a fight. So join me as I break down all the main card fights taking place at UFC 145 and give you my street-certified predictions.
Jon Jones (15-1, 9-1 UFC) vs. Rashad Evans (17-1-1, 12-1-1 UFC)
At only 24 years old, Jones has already been in more title fights(3) than the 32 year-old Evans(2). So clearly, Jones should not be intimidated, for he is battle-tested and has proven himself worthy of carrying that UFC Light Heavyweight belt. And not only has Jones taken out three former UFC champions in his last three fights, he has done so in devastating fashion. In his last fight, Jones dropped Lyoto Machida (a.k.a the man who made Rashad do the cross-eyed stanky leg) face down on the mat after choking him unconscious. That type of win has to make Jones feel good going into his fight with Rashad.
While Jones comes into Saturday night riding a stratospheric surge of momentum, Rashad enters this fight following an unceremonious, workmanlike decision victory over Phil Davis at UFC on Fox in January. However, there are many positives to take away from that victory, the first of which being the decisive, dominant manner in which Rashad managed to defeat a very talented prospect in Davis. “Suga” overcame a significant reach disadvantage (like he will face with Jones) to close the gap and effectively control Davis with his superior wrestling and ground game. Second, Rashad finally had the chance to prove that he could go the full five rounds, and imposed his will on “Mr. Wonderful” from the start of round 1 to the end of the fifth. Most of the Potato Nation seems to agree that his fight with Jones will likely be a knock down, drag out war that tests the will, strength, and cardiac endurance of both men, so it’s good to know that Rashad will be able to keep up with Jones if the fight makes it into the championship rounds. Finally, Rashad demonstrated that once he gets his opponent down on the mat, he can do some serious damage. So even if Rashad may not be able to stand and trade with Jones, he at least knows that if he can get Jones down, his chances of grinding out a victory significantly increase.
This fight, in my opinion, comes down to one thing: wrestling. Can Rashad take Jones down and keep him there? Jones is 6’4” with an 84” reach, and if he can keep the much shorter Rashad at a distance, he should be able to pick him apart on the feet just like he did with Shogun and Rampage. Although Rashad has shown that he can bang with the best of ‘em in his highlight reel KO of Chuck Liddell, the unorthodox striking and athleticism of Jones is simply too much for Rashad to risk standing and trading in this fight. I think we’ll find out early how this fight is gonna go, ala Liddell-Ortiz. If Rashad can’t take Jones down, he’ll be relegated to throwing bombs in the hopes of catching “Bones” with a one-punch knockout. And we all know how well that worked out for Tito. The longer Rashad and Jones stand in front of each other, the bigger advantage Jones has; it’s that simple.
Prediction: No one seems to be giving Rashad a chance in this fight, but I see it the other way. I think Rashad is going to have more success in his ability to take Jones down than most people believe. I’m taking the upset in this fight, and am going to be a rich man when proven right. Rashad Evans will grind out a unanimous decision to once again become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Deal with it.
Rory MacDonald, the 22 year-old whom Joe Rogan once said could be more talented than Georges St-Pierre, will be looking to continue his rise up the welterweight ranks against British striker Che Mills. “Ares” was only 7 seconds away from being undefeated in the UFC (CARLOS!!!!), and has made both Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle look like amateurs in his last two fights. MacDonald has unbelievable wrestling skills and devastating ground-and-pound, which only spells trouble for the more one-dimensional striker in Mills. While Mills did score a very impressive knockout of Chris Cope in his only UFC fight, he is up against a whole new animal in MacDonald. I’m sure Rory has seen Mills’ fight many times, and won’t even give him the chance to stand and bang. Mills, like
all most British fighters, has not shown much know-how when it comes to wrestling, and he’s gonna have to do a whole lot of it in this fight. As they say, styles make fights, and this wrestler vs. striker match-up should, if nothing else, be an exciting fight to watch.
Prediction: Mills is in over his head in this fight. MacDonald is not going to give Mills a chance to knock him out on the feet, and will impose a grappling based attack until he scores a ground-and-pound TKO sometime in the second.
Brendan Schaub was cruising up the heavyweight ladder, claiming three out of his four UFC wins by way of (T)KO, until he got flat-lined by an aging Minotauro Nogueira in Rio last summer. The sheer athleticism and power of Schaub makes you think he simply underestimated Nogueira and got caught, but maybe Schaub isn’t as good as we all thought. We’ll find out if he can get back on track this weekend against Ben Rothwell, who has looked unimpressive in each of his three UFC fights. Rothwell doesn’t really have any outstanding skills aside from his penchant for gassing in the middle of fights, so this scrap seems tailor-made for Schaub to rebound and continue his quest for the heavyweight title. Rothwell’s only chance is to catch Schaub early and test his suspect chin. Those chances are slim, however, as Schaub has proven he is the better striker in this matchup. If Schaub is cautious and methodical, he should easily dispatch Rothwell before the final bell.
Prediction: These two will enjoy a feeling-out process in the first round, and Schaub will finish the fight in the second via TKO. And with the loss,”Big Ben” version 2.0 will drop to 0-2.
Fresh off his reprehensible rape-van remarks, Miguel Torres has his job back, and the UFC didn’t cut him any slack for his comeback fight. Michael McDonald, like Rory MacDonald, is a young, incredibly athletic, ever-rising star in the UFC. Torres, on the other hand, was once considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. How things change. Torres just hasn’t been the same since he was viciously dethroned in the WEC by Brian Bowles a few years back. To win this fight, Torres is simply going to have to use his experience advantage to try and outwork McDonald, for “Mayday” has shown no real weak spots in his three UFC fights. It will be interesting to see how Torres has recovered from his Twitter fiasco, and if he comes into this fight prepared and in shape. Even though Torres is only 31 years old, he has almost 50 professional fights, which means Torres’ body could be starting to break down. Outworking a cardio machine like McDonald is no easy task, plus, he is nine years younger and incredibly aggressive once the cage door closes. Look for this fight to be a fast-paced, back and forth affair.
Prediction: Michael McDonald’s star keeps rising Saturday night as he outworks and outpoints Miguel Torres en route a Unanimous Decision victory. Torres, however, will save his biggest “surprise” for McDonald in the parking garage afterward, if you know what I’m saying.
Mark Hominick (20-10, 3-2 UFC) vs. Eddie Yagin (15-5-1, 0-1 UFC)
Just one year ago, Mark Hominick came pretty damn close to beating Jose Aldo to become the UFC Featherweight Champion. Hominick seemed primed for a rematch with Aldo if he could put one or two wins together, but the man known as “The Korean Zombie” threw a wrench into those plans, KO’ing the Canadian in just 7 seconds last December. Nonetheless, this fight with Eddie Yagin is the perfect opportunity for Hominick to get back on track. Yagin was soundly defeated by Junior Assuncao in his only UFC fight, and doesn’t seem like he will pose much of a threat to Hominick on Saturday. Hominick is a great striker with even better cardio, and don’t expect him to allow Yagin any opportunity for a quick knockout either. “Hematoma” Hominick is going to want to be careful in this fight and ensure he comes away victorious. Look for this one to resemble BJ Penn-Frankie Edgar, with Hominick playing the role of Edgar by outworking and outstriking Yagin for all three rounds.
Prediction: Hominick gets back on track, and batters Yagin en route to an easy decision victory. Nuff’ said.
The first fight on the main card is an intriguing matchup between two veterans in lightweight gatekeeper Mark Bocek and Xtreme Couture fighter John Alessio. Alessio hasn’t fought in the UFC in six years, but is on a three fight win streak since getting beat down by Siyar Bahadurzada back in March of 2011. The Canadian Bocek, who has six wins by rear-naked choke, just can’t seem to take that next step and beat a true contender in the lightweight division. At only 30 years old with 14 career fights, Bocek still has time on his side, and has shown loads of potential in his victories. The Tristar Gym product has excellent jiu-jitsu skills and rarely shies away from them. This doesn’t bode well for Alessio, who hasn’t faced UFC-caliber competition in a couple of years, and wasn’t successful when he did. Alessio is particularly vulnerable to submissions, as he has been submitted seven times in his career, so look for Bocek to capitalize on this Saturday night.
Prediction: Bocek will have no problem with Alessio, and will win with a second round rear-naked choke.
What do you think, Potato Nation? Am I on to something here? Or am I just blowing smoke up your collective asses? I guess we’ll all find out tomorrow night.