So after about a year of shit-talking, speculation, and seemingly endless re-scheduling, tonight we finally get to see Rashad go mano-a-mano with his nemesis Jon Jones. Here are three reasons to care:
a) It’s a fight between two incredibly skilled athletes with near perfect résumés up to this point, with the winner being able to make a strong case for being the best light heavyweight ever.
b) It’s an interesting style matchup for Jones, probably the last in the division. Rashad’s utter domination of a superior college wrestler in Phil Davis showed that he has transformed into a genuine top control beast.
c) There’s all that well-documented beef with Jones ‘replacing’ Rashad at Greg Jackson’s camp, adding a massive amount of personal vitriol into a fight that was already a barn-stormer on paper.
So how’s the fight going to play out? Will Rashad have an edge on Jones due to the fact that they used to train together? Will he be able to negotiate Jones’ 9.5″ reach advantage and put him on his back?
I don’t see it. I think of Jones the same way I think of Usain Bolt; a genetic freak whose unique frame and prodigious talent allow him to do things in sport that their contemporaries simply have no hope of emulating. Jones has made a career out of re-defining what is possible in the cage; witness his frankly ridiculous submission of Lyoto Machida back in December, or his utter destruction of “Shogun” Rua 9 months earlier.
Evans is an elite opponent with strengths of his own, make no mistake. Jones will never have faced anyone with hands this quick, and the Davis fight was essentially a grappling showcase for “Suga”, but I believe Jones is a different beast.
Rashad has to get inside to work his boxing because he’ll get kicked to death on the outside, but when he closes the distance I see him being sent flying and hammered on the floor with elbows. Jones is just too big, too talented, too unpredictable.
There’s a bunch of other exciting fights on the card, with Maximo Blanco debuting against a probably outgunned Marcus Brimage, Njokuani and Makdessi engaging in what promises to be an electric kickboxing exhibition, and “Mayday” McDonald facing a Miguel Torres that for some reason everyone seems to be sleeping on. Whatever. Here are my (bolded) picks.