Jon Jones will return to the Octagon at UFC 145 in Atlanta. (Esther Lin, MMA Fighting)
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had a comfortable seat as a FOX Sports analyst for Saturday night's main event in Chicago, but he wasn't particularly impressed with what he saw from either Rashad Evans or Phil Davis at the UFC on FOX 2 event, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
Though Evans won the decision and the right to challenge for the belt, Jones said he "didn't really see much progression" from the former champion, and suggested that Evans hasn't benefited much from a change in training camps.
"I think his top control looked a little tighter," Jones said. "I think his guard passes looked pretty decent. With that being said, Phil, man, I don't know what got into him. He did not look like a lion. I think with fighters, no matter how tough you are, there's just lions and there's wolves and there's sheep. He just kind of looked like a sheep out there. He didn't come with much."
Though Jones admitted that his new role at the analysts' table caused him a little apprehension, he said the nerves might have likewise gotten to Davis, who was blanked on the scorecards by the more experienced Evans.
"I think he got a little intimidated by Rashad," said Jones. "And the pressure of being on FOX, how many millions of people were watching the fight, I just don't think he handled the situation well. That's why, when I was broadcasting, I said this is where we'll see where Phil's at, if he's going to be a top-level guy or a mid-tier fighter. Judging by the performance [Saturday] night, I don't know if I can consider himself a wolf."
Evans' victory cleared the way for him to face Jones for the UFC 205-pound title, most likely in Atlanta on April 21. While Jones said he plans to "do what I always do and tear him up," he suggested that Evans' lack of improvement in recent fights would cost him in the cage.
"I think that's going to be the biggest difference in the fight, is my youth, my ambition, my drive, my creativity. Rashad's been fighting for, I don't know, maybe eight years. Many of the years, he trained with the coaches that are coaching me to beat him. I definitely didn't see any progressions. I feel like he's coming down the other side of the hill. Even his body looked softer."
While Jones and Evans briefly trained side-by-side at Greg Jackson's gym in New Mexico, Jackson has said he wants no part of a fight between the former teammates. For that reason alone, Jones said, Jackson likely won't be in his corner when he defends his title against Evans.
"Rashad and Greg had some genuine moments and I wouldn't put him in that position. ...I could never imagine [Jackson] coaching against me, and I wouldn't put that pressure on him to coach against Rashad."
Thanks in part to Jones' own acrimonious history with Evans, the champ described the bout as one that he's much more interested in and motivated for than he was for his last title defense against former champ Lyoto Machida. And while he knows the trash-talk will be intense in the weeks leading up to the fight, Jones isn't going to shy away from it, he said.
"My plan is to let it get the best of me, and to train and bring out the best in me," he said. "...This is just a fight that I'm not going to lose. It's not happening."
Once it's all over, however, Jones said he hopes the two of them can put their differences aside and once again be cordial to one another, even if they may never be friends.
"I'd love to have a respectful relationship with him, because actually, deep down, I kind of just liked hanging with the guy," said Jones. "He was cool. We had good times. We did a lot of cool stuff together and it sucked that competition came between our friendship. After this fight, I just hope that the respect can be restored. Friendship is not necessary, but the respect should be restored."
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