- UFC 145
Mesmeric Jones recovers from first-round wobble
Jon Jones said he always got the better of Rashad Evans when the pair used to train together, and in the UFC 145 main event he provided tangible evidence for his claim with another unmissable defence of his light-heavyweight title on Saturday night.
Evans put Jones in places the champion had not been seen before, clearly rocking him in the first round. For the best part of three rounds Jones' title was on something of a knife-edge - only one booming right hand or head kick away from being snatched - but he became the authority inside the Octagon with every passing second, turning the tide with some vicious elbows en route to a 49-46 49-46 50-45 decision.
"That's definitely my most satisfying victory. I thought my striking was a little more elementary, I didn't feel clean on my feet and I made mistakes, but this is very important to me," Jones said.
"It felt completely different fighting him. I threw elbows, which you don't really do in training, and I felt a lot stronger when wrestling against him. I was surprised I didn't finish the fight, but credit to Rashad."
Betrayed by Jones, who initiated Saturday's main event by admitting he would fight then-training partner Evans, the challenger thought twice before begrudgingly touching gloves ahead of the opening bell. Jones came out aggressive, landing unorthodox legs kicks, head kicks and uppercuts to the body, but Evans staggered the champion with a booming head kick - the type that once famously knocked out Sean Salmon.
Still dazed at the turnaround, Jones was told to focus on finding his water bottle - which was on his knee - by coach Greg Jackson, and Evans came out cocky in the second, performing a little strut to taunt his rival. Jones' focus quickly did return though and a string of unorthodox standing elbows almost knocked Evans off his feet, before a huge flying knee completed the champion's best round.
Evans was becoming less active with every round that passed, clearly hurting from some big shots by the champion, who rocked him again with a flying knee/elbow combination. The beauty of the battle, though, was that Evans continued to catch Jones with the odd crunching right hand - reminding all in attendance of the wafer thin margins in the fight.
By the fourth the challenger had a severe welt on his forehead and he began shooting for takedowns, easily stuffed by Jones who staggered his man again with a counter right. As they emerged for the last Jones broke into a version of the Ali shuffle, picking Evans off by now in what was the champion's first five-round battle. Having landed twice as many significant strikes Jones ended the fight by pulling guard, but it was the only time Rashad had been on top since the opening round.
"He's pretty crafty, props to him, he kept hitting me," Evans said. "He came out with those tricky elbows and it was difficult to get out of it. There was a couple of times he hit me with a combination and said something, that got me mad, but generally I was pretty composed. I'll build my way to the top again."
Rory MacDonald's rise through the welterweight division continued with a comfortable victory over England's Che Mills in the night's co-main event. Mills brought the threat of a knockout but always gave up a huge advantage to his rival on the ground, and so it proved as MacDonald dished out a beating for a second-round TKO stoppage.
Mills came out aggressively against his highly-rated foe, throwing a big right close to the cage before hurting MacDonald with a hefty uppercut. However, it was at that point that MacDonald took the fight to the mat, where he unleashed some vicious ground-and-pound to cut Mills early in the fight. Moving to side control the Canadian eventually switched to mount, but the bell came to Mills' rescue as MacDonald searched for the rear naked choke.
It was only delaying the inevitable though as MacDonald instantly completely a single-leg in round two to drop more bombs on the devastated face of Mills, taking the Brit's back to pound out the stoppage at 2.20 of the second stanza.
"I could tell I was landing big shots, I had to stay on him," MacDonald commented. "I want to be champion one day but I'm very young. I lack experience, I want to compete at least three times a year."
Statement of the night came from Michael McDonald, who knocked out former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres to confirm he is a serious title contender for Dominick Cruz's belt. Torres had only ever previously been knocked out once in a stellar 40-4 career, but McDonald landed two huge uppercuts to turn out the lights after 3.18 of the first round, potentially setting up a fight with England's Brad Pickett.
"I was worried about him getting that jab off, I wanted to get inside and use my power, which I did in the end," the youngster said. "I don't even remember the knockout, all I was thinking was "I want Knockout of the Night".
In the heavyweight division, Brendan Schaub had the tables turned in dramatic fashion as Ben Rothwell produced echoes of Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry with an unbelievable tide-turning left-hook at 1.10 of the first round. Rothwell had been rocked by a spinning elbow by Schaub, who recklessly went swinging for the kill, landing several shots close to the cage, only for Rothwell to land with a desperation left hook that instantly dropped his foe.
The Fight of the Night honours went to featherweights Mark Hominick and Eddie Yagin, who put on one of the bloodiest striking wars of the year. Hominick was dropped in each of the first two rounds, suffering heavy swelling over both eyes, and he dropped a 29-28 28-29 29-28 decision despite landing significantly more shots as the fight progressed.
UFC 145 results:
Jon Jones beat Rashad Evans via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45)
Rory MacDonald beat Che Mills via TKO at 2:20 of round 2
Ben Rothwell beat Brendan Schaub via KO at 1:10 of round 1
Michael McDonald beat Miguel Torres via KO at 3:18 of round 1
Eddie Yagin beat Mark Hominick via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Mark Bocek beat John Alessio via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
Travis Browne beat Chad Griggs via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 2:29 of round 1
Matt Brown beat Stephen Thompson via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-27, 30-27)
Anthony Njokuani beat John Makdessi via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Mac Danzig beat Efrain Escudero via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Chris Clements beat Keith Wisniewski via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Marcus Brimage beat Maximo Blanco via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)