This is the one we've all been waiting for and this time the phrase is not a marketing gimmick. The mixed martial arts world will witness one of the greatest rivalries in the sport's history move into action this weekend as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defends his title against former champion, friend and training partner Rashad Evans. By most accounts, Jones is the favorite to win, but many believe Evans has just the right tools and knowledge to recapture lost glory. Is it true Evans has 'Jones' number'? Does Jones have too many advantages to really have his belt taken?
I'll attempt to answer these questions with these predictions about UFC 145.
What: UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
When: Saturday, the Facebook preliminary starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, the four-fight FX card starts at 8 and the seven-fight pay-per-view card starts at 10.
Predictions on the six pay-per-view fights below.
As I discussed previously, there's really no way to look at this match-up and not conclude Jones has significant advantages. Then again, it's also hard to conclude Evans is incapable of meeting the task at hand. If Evans is to win, it will be because he was able to successfully wrestle Jones to the floor, hold position and score damage on top. If Jones is to win, it'll be because he was able to strike at range, defend the takedown or execute the takedown himself. Evans has never been submitted, but Jones' adaptive submission prowess cannot be overlooked.
I'm fairly confident in the Jones pick. Evans has his work cut out for him. But don't forget what happened the last time Rashad Evans went to Atlanta for a fight and everyone counted him out. He was +200 underdog against Chuck Liddell and he's up to +400 this time out, but this is MMA. Stranger things have happened.
Let's be frank: it's hard to see a way where Mills wins on Saturday. Not impossible, of course, but hard. He does have respectable striking, good hand speed and underrated experience, but skills win fights and MacDonald can't be touched in that regard. Short of an errant punch he doesn't see or a freak accident, this is McDonald's fight to lose. In fact, picking MacDonald is probably the only rational choice. I can see him striking with Mills, but if he decides to use ground and pound instead, Mills doesn't have the skill set to keep up.
This fight is an interesting one for both competitors, but for slightly different reasons. Both fighters are coming off of losses, but both are trying to achieve different objectives. For Rothwell, it's about proving he can still compete at this level. His last fight against Mark Hunt was not particularly impressive, to say the least. Rothwell is extraordinarily tough and very difficult to put away, but the question is whether he's got the skills offensively to be a competitor at this level of the fight game.
Schaub, by contrast, is trying to get his contendership back on track. He lost in devastating fashion to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134 and needs to prove the loss didn't mentally scar him. In addition, by beating a fighter on the bubble like Roth, he can begin to climb his way back up the heavyweight ladder. Schaub's boxing should do the trick as I just don't see Rothwell doing enough to really give Schaub too much trouble.
This is the toughest bout on the card to call if you have no stake in either fighter. Torres is extremely accomplished, possesses an excellent guard - one that has added potent sweeps to the arsenal - and respectable outside boxing. McDonald is a tough, strong athlete with excellent power, good wrestling and a well-rounded skill set altogether. Who prevails here? Could McDonald take Torres down and do enough in the judges eyes to work a points-based decision like Demetrious Johnson? Or is McDonald going to show he still has flaws in his game and lose scrambles to the more experienced Torres? There's a strong case to be made for either fighter. For me, until I see McDonald beat someone at this level of the game, I'm going to have to side with experience. But I'm not doing it confidently. This fight will say a lot about both competitors when it's over.
Hominick is a -700 favorite over Yagin. Those are the sorts of odds Manny Pacquiao takes into fights, if you're looking to see what a blowout this should be. Perhaps I'm discounting Yagin unfairly and he'll prove to be the Juan Manuel Marquez to Hominck's Pacquiao, but I doubt it. Yagin has a nice guillotine, but probably not nice enough to stop the relatively submission savvy Canadian. And on the feet it isn't much of a contest. Yes, Hominick got starched by a much less effective striker in Chan Sung Jung, but I doubt lightning will strike twice in a bottle.
This fight is strange because it pits two of the most technical fighters around with contrasting styles against one another, but I wonder what the enjoyment factor might be. Alessio has terribly underrated takedown defense and is very strong defensively (for the most part). Bocek, though, is the type of fighter to press an opponent into the cage and work tirelessly for the takedown until he gets it. In other words, I see Alessio on the defensive for much of this bout and not able to do much of his own. Bocek could submit him - he is the better submission grappler by far - but it's probably going to take a while if he does. This one could very easily go the distance.