UFC 145: Jon 'Bones' Jones v. 'Suga' Rashad Evans
On April 21st in the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones (15-1) risks his treasured UFC belt against arch nemesis ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans (17-1). This fight began the day Greg Jackson took Bones into his Albuquerque, New Mexico, camp, a move that alienated Evans and eventually sent him packing to Florida.
The champ’s 2011 is arguably the best year any fighter has had in MMA: nabbing a thief the night of he finished Shogun Rua and won the belt; dominating and finishing Rampage Jackson; Choking out Lyoto Machida and nonchalantly dropping the formidable Brazilian to the mat.
The sport’s pound for pound champ, Anderson Silva, says Bones is currently unbeatable in the weight class, at least by Barazilians, a thought that may or may not be true. But the sentiment and its source are well noted. Bones’s only ‘defeat’ was actually a disqualification for illegal elbows to Matt Hamill, a fighter Bones had dominated, mounted, and was busily beating into oblivion---in reality, no one has beaten the champ, or even put him in danger.
Bones has a physique and style difficult to match. Bones stands 6’4” and has an 84.5” reach--- the longest in the UFC including heavyweights. His height and length of limb, combined with his perfect balance when applying punches, kicks and throws, all rooted in a solid base of stellar footwork, make beating him a formidable task. On paper and for real, the 5'11" Rashad Evans has only a puncher’s chance.
Evans is no slouch, though. He is a former UFC LHW champ. His lone loss was a KO at the hands of another former champ, Lyoto Machida. Machida’s mastery of distance and timing was Rashad’s undoing. In that fight, it was Machida clipping and downing Evans, and it was Evans on his back when the fight went to the ground.
On the flip side, by round two of Machida’s fight with Bones last year, it was Machida who eventually couldn’t keep up, Machida who was taken down, and Machda who took a huge elbow to the skullcap that was the beginning of his end.
Rahsad will need to rely on his speed and athleticism to get him inside, either to land a hook or to score takedowns. The former is possible, the latter unlikely. Although Rashad is one of the best applied wrestlers in the UFC, Bones is possibly the best. Some fans will argue for GSP, but despite the Canadian’s control and dominance, it hasn’t afforded him many finishes. When Bones gets opponents down, his length gives him the reach and leverage to apply brutal knuckle and elbow sandwiches, and submissions few other fighters could apply.
Underlying this fight is the bad blood resulting from Bones’s entrance into the Jackson camp, and Evans’s subsequently leaving it---he said, she said. In a nutshell, the problem is rooted in the camp’s protocol for fighters training together and then perhaps facing each other in the Octagon.
UFC president Dana White has been clear on this. To him, this is a sport, an entertainment business. Considering the relatively few camps, it’s possible top level fighters sharing a training camp may meet in the cage, and they should be putting their records and careers ahead of buddies.
In his stint as a coach against Rampage Jackson on The Ultimate Fighter, and in his on-stage verbal confrontations with Bones, Evans comes off bitter. Perhaps rightly so. We fans only know what’s told us, not the totality behind the scenes. A fighter’s worst enemy can be his mind, his lack of mental preparation and focus. On this topic, Rashad needs to let go. What’s done is done.
Evans will get a shock if he thinks he’ll take down Bones at will. Bones’s unorthodox moves are rooted in high level Greco-Roman wrestling, and this will stymie the former belt holder. Suga may get the champ down, but the shorter challenger inflicting damage is unlikely. When Bones gets Evans down, however, it will not be sweet for 'Suga'.
Bones via bones, by the end of round three.
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