Champion retains light heavyweight title for third time
ATLANTA – Jon Jones saw his streak of finishes come to a close on Saturday. But the overall outcome remained the same.
Jones needed all five rounds to beat Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 145 at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Jones picked up one sweep of the judges’ scorecards and a pair of 49-46 tallies to retain his UFC light heavyweight title. It was Jones’ third straight successful title defense.
But this one had a little more behind it. As had been well documented, Jones and Evans were former training partners who saw their friendship come to an end once Jones said if he became champion, he’d be willing to fight Evans if that’s what the UFC wanted. It took more than a year for that fight to finally take place, and Jones perhaps looked less dominant than he ever has in his UFC career – but “less” is a relative term.
Evans found some success in the first round – enough to earn the frame on two of the judges’ scorecards. But throughout the fight, Jones was methodical in his attack, using kicks, knees and standing elbows that were thrown as if they were punches to keep Evans at bay.
Many thought Evans’ route to an upset – at as much as a 5-to-1 underdog – was in taking the fight to the ground. But he never got off any big shots at Jones, and was unsuccessful in four takedown attempts that he did find his way into. Jones outstruck Evans in every round – even though Evans won the first on two cards. And though some analysts wondered if Jones slowed his pace in the last two rounds, he actually threw and landed more strikes in the fourth and fifth rounds than rounds one through three according to FightMetric.
Still, Jones said he was perhaps underwhelmed with his own performance in the win.
“I felt great (to get the win),” Jones said. “Rashad is an awesome opponent. He’s fast, he punches hard. I just felt as if the fight elevated me to a different level. I was a little intimidated at some points to believe in my ability and speed and coordination. But it was a great fight. I respect Rashad a lot and I thank him for taking this fight.”
Both Jones and Evans said that although it may take some time and private conversations, they’re both amicable to setting about healing the broken relationship. In recent weeks, Evans has said he may be able to one day be friends with Jones – but that doing the same with former coach Greg Jackson, whose camp he split from last year at the start of his feud with Jones, is probably off the table. But after the fight, Jackson approached Evans in the cage and the two put an arm around the other and had a quick word.
With the win, Jones moves on to an eventual meeting with former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson, a fight that is likely to take place sometime later this year. UFC president Dana White confirmed the plan at the post-fight press conference.
In the co-main event, welterweight Rory MacDonald continued his ascension up the 170-pound ladder with a dominant win over Che Mills, getting a TKO stoppage midway through the second round. MacDonald was as much as a 6-to-1 favorite in the fight.
“The media wasn’t giving much respect to my opponent, so you look bad when you lose,” MacDonald said. “I made some mistakes, which is a blessing because you can learn from them. I just stayed on him. I knew he was hurt from the first ground and pound. He was very tough – hard to put away.”
There were three upsets on the main card. In a heavyweight bout, Ben Rothwell picked up a $65,000 Knockout of the Night bonus with his win over Brendan Schaub. Schaub was a more than 3-to-1 favorite. Rising bantamweight star Michael McDonald did his best Brian Bowles imitation against former 135-pound kingpin Miguel Torres, catching him with an inside uppercut, then finishing him with big shots on the ground. And Mark Hominick, who at this time last year was preparing for his featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo, lost his third straight fight with a split decision setback against newcomer Eddie Yagin. Hominick was a better than 6-to-1 favorite in the fight. Hominick and Yagin received $65,000 Fight of the Night bonus awards.