Breaking down three key fights on Saturday’s card
Welcome to another brand-spankin’ new feature here at HeavyMMA: THE STAKES.
For each big event, we’ll take a look at a few fights on the card and what’s on the line for the fighters. Someone in danger of getting cut? We’ll take a look. Someone have a chance at a title shot with a win? We’ll talk about it.
It’ll be just one more way for us to help you break down Fight Night before the first bell rings for UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans.
Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
The Stakes: Plenty, of course. For starters, the light heavyweight title is on the line. So is that nasty little grudge match between the two former friends and training partners. And a win by Jones in dominant fashion could even move him up a spot in the pound-for-pound rankings to either No. 2 or No. 3, depending on whom you ask.
Duane Finley’s Analysis: It has been over a year since the bitter dissolution of the friendship between Jones and Evans, and with the fight just a day away the time for talk is over. Jones is coming off what some are calling the best single year in MMA history and the youngest champion in UFC history has zero intentions of slowing down in Atlanta. In 2011 he did the unthinkable by not only defeating the likes of Ryan Bader, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida, but he did so in devastating fashion as he claimed stoppage victories in each outing. The matchup with Evans presents some interesting problems for the young champion, but thus far Jones has answered every challenge presented to him definitively. The spotlight may be shining brightly on Jones, but Evans has been enjoying his own success inside the Octagon. After returning from the injury which forced him out of his initial title shot against Rua, the former light heavyweight champion defeated Tito Ortiz and highly touted prospect Phil Davis to close out the year. The feud between Evans and Jones has been highly visible and well documented, but the stylistic differences in the matchup are ultimately what makes this bout appealing. Jones’ tremendous reach and unorthodox attack against Evans’ power and speed should produce fireworks. When you factor in both fighters’ ability to pounce when they have their opposition in trouble, the chances of this fight not delivering seems slim to none. Jones has been deemed the future of the sport, and while he’s only been at the top of the heap for a short time, he has no plans of letting go of his championship belt. On the flip side of the coin, Evans has been in hot pursuit of the light heavyweight strap since suffering the sole loss of his career to Machida, and with the opportunity to regain the gold within reach, Evans will be looking to seize the moment and make it his. In fact, should Evans fall short on his quest to defeat Jon Jones, the list of opponents who would be capable of beating Jones nearly vanishes.
Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald
The Stakes: Though Dominick Cruz is scheduled to defend his bantamweight title against Urijah Faber in July, there’s no definitive next in line after that. The winner of this fight could move into that spot, though there’s competition from the winner of July’s Renan Barao-Ivan Menjivar fight.
Duane Finley’s Analysis: In the rapid-fire world of the UFC bantamweight division, the action often takes place at a breakneck pace. Since the weight class was added to the UFC roster, it has been ruled by Cruz. While “The Dominator” has another collision with Faber scheduled for later this summer, there isn’t a clear-cut contender beyond “The California Kid,” which raises the stakes on the matchup between Torres and McDonald. Torres is the “been there, seen it all” veteran who crafted a legacy on the strength of unhinged aggression and indomitable spirit. The former WEC champion was one of the first lighter weight fighters to scrap his way into pound-for-pound recognition, and there was a time when Torres was one of the most feared fighters in the blue cage of the WEC. The past two years have come with difficulty for Torres. After losing his title to Brian Bowles, the Indiana native struggled through somewhat of an identity crisis as he attempted to adjust his style. After seeking out the help of Tristar guru Firas Zahabi, Torres has settled into a more calculated approach. The alterations have taken the fans a bit of time to adjust to, but nevertheless are paying dividends as Torres continues to notch victories. If he is successful against McDonald, Torres would most likely find himself on the doorstep of title contention. The style of fighting that made Torres famous is exactly what McDonald brings to the table. The 21-year-old Californian has a well-rounded skill set, but it is his controlled aggression and fight knowledge that sets him apart from his peers. McDonald is 3-0 since making his debut in the UFC and his most recent outing resulted in a brutal first-round KO of Alex Soto at UFC 139. In Torres, “Mayday” will face the biggest test of his career. Not only is Torres a former champion but is the definition of what a truly well-rounded fighter should look like. Should McDonald pass this test, there is nothing standing between him and a shot at the UFC bantamweight title.
Mac Danzig vs. Efrain Escudero
The Stakes: UFC jobs could be on the line for the two past winners of “The Ultimate Fighter” with a loss.
Matt Erickson’s Analysis: With a 4-5 record in the UFC and losses in two of his last three and five of his last seven, TUF 6 champ Danzig has been walking a fine line for a while now. But it’s the quality of his losses that likely have kept him safe so far. When you drop three straight, but they come against Clay Guida, Josh Neer and Jim Miller, you get a little slack. His loss at UFC 115 to Matt Wiman was a referee error, and when he finally got his rematch he came out on the short end of the decision – but it was a Fight of the Night winner. Escudero made news in 2010 when he missed weight for a fight against Charles Oliveira, lost, then became the first TUF winner to get cut by the promotion. But he did well enough outside the UFC to get a call back in December for a short-notice fight against Jacob Volkmann. He lost by unanimous decision, but taking the fight on three weeks notice helped his cause. Danzig is a 2-to-1 favorite on Saturday’s preliminary card and looked like he was in a good head space at Friday’s weigh-ins – and very likely may believe he’s fighting for his job. Danzig is more than capable on his feet, which he reminded us of when he knocked out Joe Stevenson at UFC 124. And he can hold his own on the ground with Escudero, as well. He should be able to do enough to stave off the pink slip once again.