On Saturday night in the Philips Arena down in Atlanta, the UFC’s most marketable grudge match will finally take place. Former training partners Jon Jones and Rashad Evans haven’t exactly been the closest of friends over the years, and after multiple postponements and a landfill worth of trash talk, the two light heavyweights will be able to prove which is superior.
Champion Jones has been on an absolute tear ever since his debut in the UFC, and there appears to be no sign of him slowing down. However, Evans, a former champion at 205, is going to be Jones’ stiffest challenge to date. An illustrious wrestler who has become an upper echelon-level striker, Evans could be the lone man thus far to not only give the champion problems -- he could beat him.
Jones is a terrific wrestler in his own right, and his unorthodox striking -- coupled with his tree branch-like reach – makes hi m the slight favorite entering the contest. He’s determined to keep the title around his waist and prove that it is he, not his adversary, who is the king of the light heavies. The bout’s outcome realistically is a toss-up, but Sherdog.com has found quite a few experts on the subject. Read on to see how dozens of professional fighters and trainers picked Jones vs. Evans:
Ian McCall: I’m going to go with Jon Jones. I think Rashad is one of the only people who has a shot at beating him. Not only physically, but mentally, because he knows Jones better than anybody else. Rashad’s a smart guy; he’s got a psychology degree. I think he’s in Jones’ head more than Jones shows. A perfect example: watch Jones when he did the telecast for the UFC. He was so nervous. He looked horrible and was fidgeting around like a ten-year-old kid. That’s not to say he’s mentally weak or anything, but he’s got holes and he was nervous. I can see Rashad exploiting that.
Brad Pickett: It’s actually a close matchup, but I’m giving it to Jon Jones being that he’s a better all-around athlete than Rashad. And a little bit, I think he’s got the better mental edge [because] he seems to be more calm in the situation where Rashad seems to be a little angrier about the situation. I think Rashad is a little bit more emotionally attached [to the split from Jackson].
Travis Browne: Jon Jones [wins]. He’s just unpredictable, and he’s still the future of that division.
Ben Askren: Should be a very interesting fight. I am picking Evans by big brother effect. After spending ten years coaching college wrestling, I have seen the big brother effect so many times [little/younger brother or teammate is better but can't get past the mental block]; it makes it hard to bet against. There is no doubt when Jon Jones got to Albuquerque, Evans was better, therefore he will have the big brother effect.
Jeff Hougland: Evans by decision. I think his speed and movement will help him get inside on Jones’ long reach. He will mix up hard punches and takedowns.
Michael Guymon: Jones is finally fighting another athlete and on top of that, it’s an athlete that has trained with him for a long time. Rashad is gonna be able to keep up with Jones’ movement and wrestling. I call Rashad by KO in the third round.
Keith Berry: Jones vs. Evans is a cool fight because they seem to genuinely not like each other, which should be fun to watch. But Jones is an always-evolving champion [and] I see him getting the TKO around the third round.
Nam Phan: I really think Evans can do the impossible [and win].
John Gunderson: I'm looking at Rashad taking this fight. Rashad has heavy hands and great wrestling. If he pushes forward and puts pressure on Jon and mixes up strikes with takedowns, he can win. It won't be easy, but if Rashad ever wants to beat Jon Jones, I think he better do it now before Jones gets even better.
Travis Wiuff: A very motivated Jon Jones takes this fight by ground-and-pound stoppage in the second round.
Robert Emerson: I’m going to have to go with Jon Jones. He’s a bigger, better athlete than Rashad is. They’re both great fighters and great athletes, but Jones has that height and reach and everything. Rashad has the wrestling, but even if their skills are the same, I think Jones’ athleticism outweighs everything else.
Mark Bocek: Jones [via] decision.
Jacob Volkmann: I like Jones. Nice guy and very talented.
Kyle Kingsbury: Pulling for Rashad, but I have Jones winning.
Johny Hendricks: This one is going to be a hard one to pick. You have Rashad [who] is hard to keep in one spot and has good takedowns, and you have Jones [who has] good hands just like Rashad, and also Jones has good setups to his takedowns as well. I know I wouldn't bet on this one [laughs]. But I will go with Jones. It’s a tough choice, but [I’m] going with Jones.
Javier Vazquez: My heart says Rashad; my brain says Jones. Everyone is assuming that Rashad has some sort of an insight as to how Jon Jones functions, and for Rashad's sake, he'd better. Jones is smooth, refined and continues to get better. The way I look at this fight is like this: who has more firepower to end the fight? No question in my mind that is Jon Jones. If Rashad wins, it will be a long five round decision. Jones could end this fight in the blink of an eye. I see a finish for Jones in the fourth round via TKO. I hope that Rashad is able to pull it off, though.
Jason Dent: I'm picking Jon Jones to win by referee stoppage in round three. I would love to see an upset here, and my heart is with Rashad, but my mind says Jones. Jones is just too gifted in every aspect. He has the height and the reach advantage on just about everyone in the division and his confidence is at an all time high, which makes him very dangerous as well. Plus, he trains out of Jackson’s.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: Jones has some good momentum going right now, and a big advantage in the reach department and at kicking range. I think Rashad has better cardio, better boxing, better wrestling, and more experience. I see Rashad winning this fight by decision. I think he will be able to put Jones on his back and wear him down. I think Jones will get frustrated after he is on his back a few times, which will lead to fatigue. Rashad by unanimous decision after a close first two rounds. I think rounds three through five will be all Rashad. I don’t see this fight much different than the Rashad vs. Phil Davis fight.
Joe Warren: I’m going to take Rashad because he’s a good friend of mine. We’ve wrestled together for so many years, since college. So I’m going to go with Rashad Evans on experience and because he’s a good friend of mine. I’m not sure if that’s the best pick, but that’s my pick.
Joseph Benavidez: I’m going to have to go with Jones just for the fact that he’s a pure freak and what’s been doing lately is absolutely incredible; just the way he’s been handling people, just the way he’s been stopping people and stopping world champions. I’m going to have to go with him on that. On the other hand, if there is any other light heavyweight that can beat Jon Jones, I think it’s Rashad with his skill, his speed, wrestling, athleticism, and having trained with him. If anyone can beat him, it’s Rashad, but Jones is just getting freakishly good every fight and he improves every fight, so I’m going with him for the win.
Mark Hominick: I really think Jon Jones has too many tools and he’s got that momentum. And when he has that momentum, he has a lot of confidence. I think he’s hungry, too, and he’s ready, willing, and able.
Urijah Faber: I think with Jon Jones and Rashad Evans, it’s going to be a close fight. I mean, they know each other like the back of their hands. But I think Jones is going to be a little too much for him. He’s a lot more dynamic and he keeps improving, so I think he’s going to have a little bit of an edge.
Joe Duarte: Jones is running through the second toughest division in the UFC. I wouldn't be surprised if the man can gargle peanut butter! Evans has the speed to throw off Jones' rhythm, but I’ll have to go with Jones in a five round fight. I would like to see Evans pull this off, though.
Pros who picked Jones: 16
Pros who picked Evans: 7
Pros who couldn’t decide: 0
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