Below we offer up our preview and predictions for Saturday night’s UFC 145 event which takes place in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jon Jones Vs Rashad Evans
So, this much talked about fight is finally upon us, and it is a great stylistic match-up with Evans perhaps having the best set of skills and insider knowledge to truly test Jones so far.
On paper Jones looks to have the striking advantage though, especially when you consider his 5 inch height and 9.5 inch reach advantage. He’s very good at using that range to keep out of danger and that’s going to make life tough for Evans to find a home for his strikes, as has been the case for Jones previous opponents. The champion also has a more varied, unpredictable arsenal of strikes at his disposal, but if there’s one advantage Evans does have it’s that he packs more power in his punches, and he’s fast which could help him to leap in and land something meaningful.
One way or another he’ll need to be constantly trying to close the distance to negate Jones avantage there, but that’s not his natural style as he prefers to hang back and look for the classic counter as he did against Chuck Liddell.
I don’t think it’s in Evans gameplan to outstrike Jones however. All the indications pre-fight appear to point to the former champion believing he can exploit weaknesses in Jones ground game if he can plant him on his back. That’s easier said than done, particularly since Jones use of distance allows him more time to react to any potential takedown attempts, and he does have good wrestling and takedowns of his own, particularly from the clinch. Evans is explosive though and shooting for a double-leg could pay dividends if he can time it right.
Assuming he can take Jones down then things become very interesting, and somewhat unpredictable given that we’ve never seen the champion in this position before. What we know is that he’s a terrific offensive fighter, but his defensive capabilities are still shrouded in mystery. From the top Evans can deliver powerful ground and pound and could truly test both Jones chin and his heart. His BJJ skills are also touted by his team-mates, but it’s not something he flaunts in the Octagon and in fact doesn’t have a single submission win in his UFC career.
On the other hand, if Jones opts to use his own wrestling and can take Evans down – which would be difficult, but certainly not impossible given his unorthodox throws, then that could be an equally testing time for his opponent. Jones has some of the best ground and pound in the business, particularly with his long elbow strikes which can devastate opponents even from within the relative safety of their guard.
It’ll be intriguing to see whether Evans can use the knowledge he has from their old sparring sessions together to reveal holes in Jones game, but it’s worth remembering that they haven’t trained together for a long time now and the still-young champion’s game continues to evolve at a rapid rate. I do buy into the idea that putting Jones on his back is the best way to beat him, but I think that’s easier said than done and I can see Jones giving him a torrid time on the feet while he attempts to get the fight to the mat. In the end it’s just hard to ignore Jones dominance in the division so far, and I believe that will continue to be the case on Saturday night.
Jon Jones to win by TKO in Rd4.
Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
Bit of an odd choice for a co-main event given that Mills isn’t really a known quantity among many fans outside of the UK, though it is nice to see the talented MacDonald getting increased exposure.
MacDonald is a leading example of a new breed of fighters that’s starting to emerge who are extremely well-rounded in all facets of the game. He’s not a devastating striker yet, but he is very capable and backs that up with good wrestling and BJJ along with natural physical abilities such as strength and good cardio which makes him a tough nut for anyone to crack.
Mills on the other hand is primarily a striker and due to a weakness to submissions he’s going to be keen to keep this fight standing at all costs.
Really this looks to have been set up as a showcase fight for MacDonald and I expect him to brush Mills aside, using his wrestling advantage to take the fight to the floor and then rough him up before sinking in a submission, perhaps even before the end of the opening five minutes if he starts out with the kind of pace and purpose I’m anticipating from him.
Rory MacDonald to win by submission in Rd1.
Ben Rothwell vs. Brendan Schaub
Rothwell comes into this fight needing to get a good win under his belt after some less than stellar performances in the UFC, but he’ll have a hard time doing so against Schaub.
Striking wise Schaub is the more technical striker and has excellent movement, but is let down by a suspect chin that’s let him down a couple of times already. Rothwell is the opposite, being a durable fighter and possessing good power which he relies upon as he’s not the most skilled and mobile fighter in the division.
Instead Rothwell would be wise to attempt to use his wrestling to take this fight to the mat, but considering how he toiled trying to keep Gilbert Yvel’s back on the mat it’s hard to see him doing so with Schaub who has good takedown defense and is good at working his way out of trouble and back to his feet.
Assuming he doesn’t get clocked by that one big punch that switches off his lights – which is always a possibility – I favor Schaub here. He should be able to comfortably outbox Rothwell while using his footwork to keep a safe distance, and he’ll have a significant cardio advantage which should allow him to cruise in the later stages of the fight to a decision victory.
Brendan Schaub to win by decision.
Michael McDonald vs. Miguel Torres
This bantamweight battle of youth vs experience is, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing battles on the entire card.
At one time Torres looked to be an unstoppable force in the division during his time in the WEC, with his height, reach and fearless style making him hard to handle on the feet, while his submission skills and active guard made him a formidable opponent on the mat. A few losses under his belt have forced him to alter his style however, and certainly in the striking department he’s become a more conservative fighter, preferring to use his reach to his advantage by working behind his jab and take less risks.
McDonald on the other hand is another bright up and coming star in the sport at the age of 21 and is having success with his current style. Primarily a striker with good boxing enfused with an energetic drive he’s proved he’s got good power by notching up a number of wins by stoppage, including a KO in just 56 seconds against Alex Soto last time out in the UFC. As another member of MMA’s ‘new breed’ he’s also well rounded in other areas too and will be comfortable if the fight hits the mat, especially if he instigates it and ends up on top.
This is a tough fight to pick, particularly as it’s hard to get a handle on Torres lately. He is still a very talented fighter, but so far he’s struggled to put all the pieces together with his adapted fighting style and approach. His continued involvement with the Tri-Star gym can only have helped him though. Meanwhile this is a big step up in competition for McDonald and while it’ll be invaluable experience for him for a future title push, I think Torres experience, understanding of range and submission savvy will offer him more ways to win.
Miguel Torres to win by submission in rd2.
Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin
Hominick’s UFC career has got off to a bad start with back-to-back defeats, but that’s not a true reflection of his talents and he’ll have a chance to prove it against Yagan on Saturday night.
At his best Hominick is a fluid and versatile striker that puts together excellent combinations of punches and kicks that often gives fighters more offense than they can handle. He backs that up with a relatively decent ground game, though he is susceptible to submissions in the heat of the moment.
While he’s reasonably solid on his feet Yagin is likely to be outgunned here so his best bet will be to take Hominick down where he’s less of a threat and may be able to locate his favored choke-based submissions which have been the downfall of the Canadian in the past.
Hominick will be looking to make amends after a bad loss last time out and I expect him to come out and put on a striking clinic here and seal a TKO victory in the process.
Mark Hominick to win by TKO in Rd2.
Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio
Alessio returns to the UFC after agreeing to replace Matt Wiman in a tough fight against Mark Bocek in the lightweight division.
While not one of the elite in the division Bocek is a very capable fighter who’s nothing special on the feet, but comes into his own on the mat where he shows good control on top and is a constant threat with submissions.
Alessio is something of a jack-of-all-trades, with his submission game being his best asset, but in my opinion he’s just not at the same level as Bocek.
Alessio’s a decent enough stand-in to bring in at short notice, but really Bocek is the better fighter here and it’s just a question of whether he can find a finish or not inside of 15 minutes. I think he might, but he’ll have to work into the later rounds for it.
Mark Bocek to win by submission in Rd3.
Prelims: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Travis Browne vs. Chad Griggs
Matt Brown vs. Stephen Thompson
John Makdessi vs. Anthony Njokuani
Mac Danzig vs. Efrain Escudero
Chris Clements vs. Keith Wisniewski
Maximo Blanco vs. Marcus Brimage