Tomorrow night at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will meet to dispute the UFC light heavyweight championship in one of the promotion’s biggest fights ever.
You know the storyline by now. The time for talking is over and the last hours of waiting to see these two elite athletes finally do battle are ticking away. So, join us, the FightLine staff, for a little last-minute prognostication to help pass the time.
Also, don’t forget to check out FightLine’s live coverage of UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans tomorrow, which will begin with the preliminary card around 7p.m. ET/4p.m. PT.
Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
Even without their well-documented and contentious history, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans make for one hell of a fight.
Jones uses his ridiculous reach well, keeping his opponents on the outside and taking them apart with crisp, unorthodox striking. When the gap is closed, Jones is just as lethal. His length and leverage allow him to hit takedowns from awkward positions; his ground and pound is lethal and his positioning/jiu-jitsu skills are on point as well. Simply put, Jones is as complete a fighter we have in this sport.
Though Evans’ rise has not been as prodigious as Jones’, the former light heavyweight champ can still count himself among the very best 205lbs fighters in the world. Fueled by explosive power, Evans’ true key to success is his uncanny ability to transition seamlessly from striking to grappling and back again. Seasoned and savvy, Evans is rarely on the defensive, as he possesses the overall skill to adjust to any style and dismantle his opponent.
Then, of course, is the x-factor of the time that Jones and Evans spent in the gym. Who got the better of whom? How much have both men changed since then? Does either man hold a mental edge over because of it? These questions matter, but won’t be answered until Saturday night.
Mark: Rashad Evans has everything going for him to be the spoiler of Jones’ high hopes. On paper, the former champ has the skillset and naturally ability to give Jones fits – and who knows what he’s seen of Jones behind the scenes and in training that could give him an advantage? Still, though I see him making it harder for Jones than anyone else has, I think that the champ has what it takes to adapt and overcome whatever Evans can throw at him to secure the win. Jones via fourth round TKO
Dana: It’s taken so long to get these two inside the Octagon that yes, some of the luster has come off the shine. Nevertheless, these are the two best light heavyweights in the world right now, so we can expect fireworks aplenty. Jon Jones has the height advantage and speed, while Rashad Evans boasts more of the one-punch power. I also believe that Evans’ wrestling is the better of the two, but I’m not sure if he can figure out how to use it against Jones. This one has the makings of either a quick KO by Evans or a decision victory by Jones. Jones via unanimous decision
Jack: Whether it’s really that personal for both fighters remains unseen, but Evans definitely poses a threat to Jones’ belt. Oddsmakers have pegged Jones as a 5:1 favorite which is criminal if you ask me. Evans is a seasoned veteran that can transition from striking to the ground better than anyone in the light heavyweight division. The key for him will be getting the takedown and putting Jones on his back. Yes, Jones pulled guard on Rampage and yes, he claims to be honing his jiu jitsu, but a powerful wrestler like Evans will be looking to drop bombs from the top position and I don’t think “Bones” has the answer if it goes to the ground. But that’s a big if. The more likely outcome will be a striking clinic from Jones who will use his reach and unorthodox striking to mesmerize Evans. Look for him to throw a mix of front kicks and jabs in combination with elbows and knees from the clinch. After he feels out his opponent for one or two rounds, it’s only a matter of time before he takes out “Suga”. Jones via third round TKO