– Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans Preview & Predictions (Column I wrote for gerweck.net)
Many elite fighters have entered Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, NM. None of them are more reputable than Rashad Evans, however. That is, until Jon Jones became the pinnacle of the light heavyweight division. Jones’ rise to prosperity and eventual clash with Evans surprised no one. The former champion however paints a different picture of a pact not to fight forged by solidarity and friendship. The idea of them fighting each other was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to bring up. Sometimes a good friend can prove to be your fiercest rival.
The saga that will have all eyes on the Phillips Arena on Saturday night begins with Rashad Evans’ title loss to Lyoto Machida. Evans injured his knee and withdrew from a title fight against Shogun, who beat Machida. Jones accepted a title shot offered to him on the spot in front of a worldwide audience and won. Evans was outraged that Jones said he would fight him if Dana White asked him to and left Greg Jackson’s camp and formed the Blackzillians fight team in Florida. After months of saying he would never do it, Greg Jackson confirmed he will corner Jones out of duty to his team that Evans is no longer a part of.
“Don’t talk about the history, when you have no roots in the history! I helped make Gregg Jackson! I helped make him the reason why he (Jones) even wanted to come and there and train. So, don’t talk to me about the history of the team, bro! Don’t talk to me about the history of the program because, motherf*****, I made that program” (Rashad Evans – 4/10/12)
If you trace the line between truth and treachery you may need to look no further than Greg Jackson himself. While he has publicly taken responsibility for the bad blood between the two fighters, you have to question the sincerity, considering he has a history of doing this before. Diego Sanchez was one of Jackson’s prized pupils on the track towards a welterweight title shot. In 2008, Greg Jackson brings in Georges St. Pierre and Sanchez becomes an afterthought in his own home and leaves. He is back with the Jackson camp now but it sent a subtle message that Jackson believes Sanchez can’t beat St. Pierre and the same thing may apply to Evans not being able to topple Jones.
“There is more to Jackson’s than the four or five or six UFC fighters that’s on the program. It’s the kids who aren’t in the UFC. It’s the kids who doesn’t have anything to offer or doesn’t have money in the bank. Who doesn’t have popularity or a following. (Jon Jones – 4/10/12)
Every so often comes a fighter that the media, critics and fans deem unbeatable and place in the same echelon as GSP and Anderson Silva. Nine times out of ten, the fighter suffers a loss before the band wagon can get any serious momentum and their god like status is downgraded to that of a mere mortal. Jon Jones is that fighter right now as he hasn’t suffered a true defeat and has been dominant in all of his fights. He lost the first round to Lyoto Machida in December but choked him unconscious in the second round with a standing guillotine. He proved he can take a punch but he has never had to fight through the adversity of being rocked by a punch, jarred by a slam or scramble out of a submission while losing air or escape before tendons and ligaments are torn.
Rashad Evans has the best chance of any fighter on the planet to beat Jon Jones. Personal history aside, his athleticism is second to none, his wrestling is some of the best in the game and above all else, he has infinite patients when implementing a game plan in the cage. He will stall out a couple of rounds if need be in order to score a takedown and land a combination. He will not falter under the pressure of the referee threatening to restart the fight or boo birds from the fans in attendance.
History shows that Rashad Evans does not do well with dynamic strikers with pin-point accuracy and Jones’ use of elbow strikes is unlike any in the game. Engaging in a stand up battle from the outside will be a futile effort for Evans and trying to find any type of range will be a severe waste of time as he only has 25 minutes. He needs to use punches and kicks to set up a takedown. If, he can secure the takedown, he needs stick to Jones like white on rice and operate with a small margin for error. The problem is Rashad is not very active in top position and Jones will find an escape route to get back to his feet and bombard him with a cornucopia of strikes from every angle and limb to finish his former training partner.
Prediction: Jon Jones 4th Round TKO