We are now less than two weeks away from the scheduled rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson. Fortunately fight fans will not be asked to wait that long for an even more electrifying bout.
Saturday night in Atlanta, UFC 145 serves up the most highly anticipated light heavyweight fight since Chuck Liddell squared off against Tito Ortiz. The drama surrounding their first encounter at UFC 47 has been unparalleled to date, but that all changes when Jon "Bones" Jones (9-1-0) defends his 205 lb strap against former training partner and title holder, "Suga" Rashad Evans (15-1-1).
What made the bout between Liddell and Ortiz so compelling to fans was the fact they were very close friends who at one time were both managed by current UFC President Dana White, prior to the company being sold to Zuffa. Even more engrossing were the rumors that circumvented around an agreement that was said to have been made by both Liddell and Ortiz to never fight each other.
The story suggests Evans was resolute in his counsel to coach Greg Jackson about not allowing a talented prospect to join their team at his Albuquerque, New Mexico gym. The reasoning behind Evans’ request was based on the possibility that he would one day have to face this emerging young fighter since they both contend in the same weight class. According to Evans, who at the time was the crowned head of Jackson’s now famed MMA gym, he was assured that his underlining apprehensions would never come to fruition.
So Jones was allocated a spot on Jackson’s team and Evans impelled to become his mentor and help him navigate through the upper echelon of the sport, which is the UFC. Their relationship between teacher and pupil evolved into a friendship and both went as far as referring to one and other as family.
All came to an abrupt end when Evans got injured prior to his title shot against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Matchmaker Joe Silva offered the fight to Jones, who was procuring a lot of hype with his success inside the octagon.
That is the backdrop of this highly anticipated mega-fight between Evans and Jones. Now to the bout itself.
According to odds makers, the champion Jones is not in any immediate danger of losing his title. Currently, Jones is a -500 favorite and the take-back on the challenger Evans is a tempting +400. The math reflects Jones has an 83% probability to defeat the former champ. The price on Evans suggests his chances of pulling the upset are a paltry 20%.
A win by Evans would rank with the most monumental upsets in the fight game taking into account today’s betting market is much more efficient and not as generous as it once was towards underdogs. The stock on Jones is definitely at its height.
It’s been almost 2 years since any opponent has lasted to the final bell against Jones. Since then, except for a DQ due to an illegal elbow against Matt Hamill in a bout Jones was dominating when discontinued, he has finished every fight via submission or stoppage.
At 24 and on top of most pound for pound lists, the Jones resume includes victories against Quinton Jackson, Mauricio Rua, and Lyoto Machida – all among the best in the sport regardless of weight class. Jones stands 6-foot-4 and possesses an 84½ inch reach, which he utilizes fully to his advantage by knowing how to fight tall. Head has a high fight IQ and dictates where the fight takes place. His opponents look flustered when kept at a distance. Jones is also tough to prepare for due to an unorthodox offense that includes plenty of spinning back-fists and elbows, along with kicks from every angle.
The challenger Evans is one of the most accomplished wrestlers in MMA and has developed an extremely efficient boxing repertoire to add to his ground and pound approach. Though only 5-11 in stature, Evans has been blessed with more power than many heavyweights.
There is very little doubt that the betting value is on Evans. The data provided by FightMetric suggests that Jones has never been taken down in any of his UFC fights. That streak will surely come to an end against a wrestler of Evans’ caliber. Evans has a lot more experience and will not allow Jones to dictate where the fight takes place.
We have yet to see how Jones will react to any type of adversity and he’s going to face some against Evans. Conditioning has never been a problem for Evans and he is always prepared to go a full five rounds. Evans has sparred with Jones and seen how he truly is at his most vulnerable times.
This won’t be an easy fight to pick or one that Evans will win running away. The price is not a true reflection of the actual probability of each fighter winning. It’s no secret that I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of Jones and believe that he is well deserving of the gold around his waist. We can’t forget that Evans is a legitimate No. 1 contender.
There is value in backing Evans. Ironically, it was in Atlanta back in September of 2008 that Liddell was a favorite to beat Evans and instead got knocked out in the second round. It’s that type of punching power which always gives Evans a chance to end a fight and makes him a very live dog in this one.
Let’s see if Evans can repeat history in Atlanta and become the first man to defeat Jones. At +400 or better, he’s well deserving of some of my money.
Bonus Bet: Torres -110 over McDonald
Value Bet : Rothwell +200 over Schaub
RECORD = 46-25 (65%) at Pregame.com
(Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN and holds the record for "Most Units Won" in a single year at the Sports Monitor. Follow VR on [email protected]).