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Monday, 04/16/2012, 12:03 pm

Rashad Evans is the underdog against Jones | But is he underrated?


By Lorenzo Luciano:

Let us put aside for this fight analysis, all of the former teammate issues that have been headlining the upcoming fight between current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and number one contender Rashad Evans. Jon Jones is without a doubt one of the hottest and most talented fighters to come into the sport of MMA and to fight in the UFC since Anderson Silva started fighting for the organization in June of 2006.

On April 21st, 2012 Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will meet to fight for the light heavyweight championship in Atlanta, Georgia at the Philips Arena. Once the octagon door closes, it will come down to which man can execute a game plan that will exploit his opponent’s weaknesses with greater efficiency than his opponent can against him, that along with physical talent and prowess will determine who will walk out of the octagon with the light heavyweight championship belt.

The battle between the two former teammates is rated at the time of this writing, at 4 to 1 odds for Jones. Interpreted as, if Jones fought Evans 10 times, Jones would win 8 of those fights and Evans 2. For a fighter who has lost only once in his professional MMA career, are these odds warranted for Evans? Most would agree to Evans being the underdog, but is Evans being underrated?

Rashad Evans, the 32 year old former light heavyweight champion has a long history in the UFC with 17-1-1 record. His only loss was suffered at the hands of Lyoto Machida that came in the form of a devastating knockout at UFC 98 on May 23rd, 2009. Evans lost the belt that evening and has not regained or fought for a championship title since.
The young 24 year old Jon Jones has been fighting since 2008 and has a record of 15 and 1, the only loss being a disqualification for illegal “12-to-6″ elbow strikes. Physically, Jones has the longest reach in the UFC at 84.5 inches and with a height of 6 feet 4 inches he is a physical force to be reckoned with, compared to Evans who has a reach of 75 inches and a height of 5 feet 11 inches.  Jones has a reach advantage of 9.5 inches and a height advantage of 5 inches; we’ll chalk this one up for Jones.

Evans fights out of Boca Raton, Florida with the Blackzilians, has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestled for the NCAA Division 1 in college.  Evans is generally ranked as the number two light heavyweight fighter in the world.

Jones trains with Greg Jackson out of Albuquerque, New Mexico and was an exceptional wrestler in high school and community college, before dropping out and dedicating himself to mixed martial arts. Both Evans and Jones have strong wrestling and Evans definitely has the wrestling pedigree but will he be able to take Jones down? Size alone makes a big difference but on the other hand, Evans is one of the best wrestlers at this weight class.  On the ground, Evans does have a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu but that hardly helped Maurício Rua at UFC 128 or Lyoto Machida at UFC 140 against Jones.

So what is it about Evans that makes this fight more of a challenge for Jones than what the odds makers give Evans credit for? Well for one Rashad did train with “Greg Jackson MMA” for a long time, so this gives him an edge in knowing how they work, how they think and how they devise their game plans. Which is not to say that Rashad will know what Jones will do, but in general when you know how someone or some organization thinks, you can generally predict what they will most probably do in a given situation with set circumstances. Jones and the Greg Jackson team do not know and have not trained with the Blackzilians, therefore they do not have this advantage.  Evans will most likely put this to good use against the strong light heavyweight champion. Evans has stand up, wrestling and a ground game, if he is able to take Jones down, it will completely change how the fight will unfold.

Last but not least, Evans has experience on his side, if he can take the young Jones down at least once and connect with a punch or two during the stand up, it would knock some of the confidence out of the young champion and prove to be a deciding factor in the outcome of the fight.

Given his outstanding and dominating performance against some of the best light heavyweights in the division, Jones should rightly be the favorite against Evans. However at 4 to 1 odds, one has to question whether we are underrating the very skilled and experienced Evans.

Only time will tell and on April 21st, the main event should prove to be a spectacular championship fight.

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