Jon Jones put on another classy display tonight at UFC 145, going the full five rounds for the first time in his career against Rashad Evans to retain his light-heavyweight title.
The first round was almost all Jon Jones until the closing moments. Clearly not intimidated by finally being up against his former training partner Jones was offering up a variety of strikes, throwing up a few head kicks and connecting with a couple of left hooks.
He was also mixing things up with more unorthadox output including a leaping side kick to the knee amongst other oddities that kept Evans guessing.
So far so good for the champion, put in the closing minute Evans, who up until this point had appeared hesitant, suddenly let fire with a head kick and it connected.
It obviously hurt Jones as he hit reverse gear for the first time in the fight as Evans pressed forward, but luckily for him there wasn’t long to go until the bell and he managed to ride it out until then.
Jones seemed fresh enough heading into the second despite the late scare in the first and he went back to being the aggressor in the stand-up battle.
The remarkable reach that Jones has really began shine now as Jones began to lead with his elbow and was finding a home for it.
A rush of adrenalin sent Jones surging forward with a flurry of strikes but Evans avoided them and as he moved out of harm’s way he showed that he wasn’t phased by animatedly brushing off his shoulders.
Those elbow strikes continued to land though and one particularly hard one leaves Evans on wobbly legs. He recovers but he does take a few more elbows to the face and then Jones launches with a leaping knee which again appears to trouble Evans.
A final big left hand lands for Jones just as the bell sounds and leaves him in a good position heading into the third.
Evans starts the third off well by landing a clean shot that forces Jones to re-group. That would be his most significant strike of the round though as Jones took control of the stand-up exchanges again.
Another flying knee leaves Evans staggering away, though it’s hard to see how cleanly it landed. Evans tries a takedown at one point but Jones shuts him down immediately. Jones is continuing to throw unusual strikes and lands another elbow strike and a nice switch kick to the body in the rest of the round and he’s looking quite comfortable at this stage.
Jones continues to be the dominant force in the fight in the fourth round with Evans appearing to be running out of ideas and more wary now after being rocked a few times.
The most notable moment in the round came when Jones seized an opportunity to grab Evans in a front headlock in the middle of the cage. It was reminiscent of the position he finished Lyoto Machida from, but instead he opted to let go and land a hard knee strikes to the body followed by a punch.
Towards the end Jones again shows his creativity by landing jumping shoulder strikes while in the clinch, but Evans appears unphased. He shoots for a takedown in the final 10 seconds to seal the round, but Evans stuffs it.
We’re into the final round and Evans needs to do something big now to change the course of this fight, but Jones seems like the fresher more confident fighter and dances around his opponent in the first minute.
later Jones would try another flying knee but this time it misses. There’s more of those shoulder strikes as well mixed in as they clinch, and at one point Jones seems to just shove Evans to the floor and he manages to land a shot or two before he gets back to his feet.
Really it’s all Jones now and he shows how confident he is by making a completely unexpected decision to pull guard in the final 20 seconds of the fight. Evans tries to capitalize with ground and pound but he can’t make it work in the time remaining.
And so it’s on to the judges scorecards and they are all convinced that Jones is a worthy winner, handing him the unanimous decision victory (49-46 x2, 50-45).
Overall it’s another impressive display from Jones who continues to make great fighters and former champions like Evans look ordinary.
Unfortunately there wasn’t a specatular finish to this one and you almost felt at times that Jones was just toying with his opponent much as Anderson Silva has done at times, but it did give him a chance to go the full five rounds for the first time in his career.
As for Evans, on reflection he may be disappointed that he didn’t do more to take the fight to Jones, but despite all the talk of their sparring sessions from years earlier what was clear on the night is that he doesn’t have the answer to solving the puzzle of the dominant light-heavyweight champion any more than anyone else does at this moment in time.