UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans is finally happening, so I’m returning from a long layoff. Hopefully, my predictions will be on-point enough to fend off the rested-or-rusty argument that so often accompanies off- time in sports.
Enough chit-chat, let’s get all nitty gritty. Same scoring as always (3,2,1; Winner, Method, Round, respectively).
On to the fights.
I don’t regularly involve myself with the preliminary card because I don’t have a whole lot of access to some of the guys making their UFC debuts. Predicting prelims with yet-to-be-known fighters is like ordering at a Greek restaurant for the first time, which typically makes the predictor – me – look somewhere between foolish and ignorant. I prefer to stay away.
Today, though, I’ll make an exception because I’ve been away two months-plus. You deserve some extra words anyway.
Mac Danzig def. Efrain Escudero, Submission (RNC), Round 2
A toss-up of two Ultimate Fighter champions who grew into UFC D-listers, Escudero isn’t well-rounded enough to take out the vengeful vegan. Also, I could never put my money on a dude nicknamed “Hecho en Mexico” over a ginger named Danzig. Never ever.
John Makdessi def. Anthony Njokuani, KO (punch), Round 1
When two swing-for-the-fencers get matched up, one of two paths are trod: immediate KO (yay, blood!) or eye-gougingly dull circle fests. Most title contender bang-bang match-ups become yawners. Fortunately, both these guys are far outside the 155-lb. top 10 and have little to lose. And both are coming off losses. They’ll get after it early, and Makdessi’s huge head – and strong chin – will be the difference.
Stephen Thompson def. Matt Brown, Submission (RNC), Round 2
Both fellas have boring real names, and recognizable nicknames. “Wonderboy” will land a thunder-clack anvil punch, leaving “The Immortal” at death’s door, andfrom there, will take the glassy eyed Ohioan’s back and choke him out. Immortal? Tell that to your 11 – soon to be 12 – losses.
Travis Browne def. Chad Griggs, KO (punch), Round 1
In a match-up of would-be/probably-were nightclub bouncers, I take the Hawaiian tribal tatt over the lamb chop sideburns. God help us if this gets to round three.
To the main card!
Mark Bocek def. John Alessio, Decision (Split), Round 3
Two 155-lb. grapplers to lead off a PPV? I hope they get some good rolls and transitions in, because the casual fan will be bloodthirsty coming off the Browne-Griggs tilt. I go Bocek because, unlike his opponent, he’s never lost to Jonathan Goulet.
Mark Hominick def. Eddie Yagin, Decision (Unanimous), Round 3
Burn me once, Hominick, shame on you. Burn me twice, I’m never effing picking you again. Even if Goulet drops a weight class to fight you and your hematoma.
Michael McDonald def. Miguel Torres, Decision (Unanimous), Round 3
This was a toughie. Torres,31, has fought anyone and everyone. McDonald, 21, has been fighting as pro since he was 16. Both have been KO’d once. Both have submitted, KO’d and won going the distance. The difference is that McDonald is growing and improving, while I think Torres is slipping into the Rich Franklin, gate-keeper phase of his career. He’ll face McDonald and other young up-and-comers —and defeat most of them—but those wins won’t get him back into title contention.
McDonald lands crisper strikes more consistently, opens up Torres’s scar-tissue-laden forehead and wins over the Atlanta fans and judges.
Eventually, Torres, Diego Sanchez, Jon Fitch, Nate Marquardt, Chris Leben and Cheick Kongo will retire to No Man’s Land, with only a single Toby Keith song as their collective playlist.
Brendan Schaub def. Ben Rothwell, KO (punch), Round 1
This will be a … wait for it … a Schaub-erknocker.
Despite my lover for Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt, it’s no secret what’s happened when the chubby fellers have taken on the typical brick-shithouse heavyweights. Nelson has been pummeled by every top-tier fighter he’s faced. Hunt is no anomaly: He’s a streaky brawler along the lines of Houston Alexander or Drew McFedries. He has connected in two of his last three fights, but before that he lost six straight.
Rothwell, himself a plumper, will ingest every cubic inch of Schaub’s vengeful paw, setting up a bout between Travis Browne and the … wait for it … Schaub-erknocker.
Rory MacDonald def. Che Mills, Submission (armbar), Round 1
Rory MacDonald is the scrawny pale kid in the TapOut shirt who catches shit from surly rednecks watching UFC at the Ale House to validate their own toughness. Conveniently, he’s also the scrawny pale kid who strips them of their drunken confidence by introducing their remaining teeth to drywall, tile and an oaken bar top.
Mills has a solid background and has notched consecutive KOs, but MacDonald beat himself for his only loss. He’s a beast-in-disguise who can—and will—win anyway necessary.
Rory takes an arm home, and, this summer, brings it to the Octagon for his fight with Diego Sanchez.
Jon Jones def. Rashad Evans, Unanimous Decision, Round 5
Ahh, the big one. The soap opera. The feud. The media fodder. I’ve waited so long for Jones to jar a few of Evans’ teeth loose.
It’s too bad it has taken so long because the “ESPN Effect” has taken hold. ESPN no longer provides the smartest, most informative overall sports coverage; they just provide the most coverage (read: every conceivable opinion).
Since the buildup for this fight has lasted about a year, every ESPN talking/shouting head has shat his or her opinion on this fight.
In an effort to repeat the same opinion (Jones will win!) in an original way, ESPN.com’s MMA writers have begun their predictions by saying what Suga ‘Shad must do to avoid a loss, only to inevitably pick Jones. Por ejemplo:
Franklin McNeil(2:14): (paraphrasing) Evans must close the distance, or Jones will batter him with his length. Evans will fail and thus, lose.
Josh Gross (2:57): To be effective, Evans must keep his offense simple and land quality strikes early (like Machida was able to against Jones). Gross also says people shouldn’t be so surprised if Evans pulls it off. He says that Evans has the wrestling to neutralize Jones, the footwork to frustrate him and the hand speed to hurt him. Yet his money is on Jones.
Brett Okamoto (3:57): Says Evans can win because he trained with Jones and has an insider’s advantage. Okamoto also says that, because Jones has mentioned moving to heavyweight later in his career, that he may be overlooking Evans (suuuuurrrre). Okamoto also mentions that we’ve never seen Jon Jones fight off his back. He astutely backs this up by saying, “he probably can.” Sure enough, Okamoto picks Jones as well.
I’ll keep this sweet since I can’t keep it short.
Rashad comes out looking good, Jones looks calm but Mike Goldberg calls him tentative or hesitant. Jones feels Rashad out for a round, but looks like he may be at risk at points during the first. Round 2 commences, and Jones has his range and timing down. He dominates the rest of the fight, opening Rashad’s forehead with a ghastly elbow.
‘Shad toughs it out, loses a dominant five-rounder, and looks like Jon Fitch after his title bout loss.
After the decision, they hug, say stuff us fans don’t care to believe, and I sleep peacefully knowing that surly rednecks are pissed that the “arrogant kid” is still light heavyweight champ.
‘Til next time.