The main event of UFC 145 was billed as the ultimate grudge match, the kind of fight where bad blood ensures that someone gets knocked out. It didn’t turn out that way, but the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between former training partners Jon Jones and Rashad Evans still produced a clear-cut winner in front of a packed crowd at Atlanta’s Philips Arena.
Using his length, elbows and athleticism to full advantage, Jones (16-1, 10-1 in the UFC) successfully defended his title against a willing but ultimately outgunned Evans (17-2-1, 12-2-1 UFC). The former champ became the first person ever to last the full five rounds with Jones, but he probably won’t take much consolation from that fact after losing a wide unanimous decision.
Both men started the fight in the three-point stance that Evans claims Jones stole from him. The champ’s significant reach advantage came into play right away as he was able to control Round 1 with a variety of kicks from a comfortable range. A partially blocked head kick from Evans did get Jones’ attention just before the horn.
That didn’t swing momentum in favor of the challenger, as Jones connected with a series of typically devastating elbows to control Round 2. He hurt Evans with an elbow right after taking a body kick, then followed with another clean elbow shot around the 1:40 mark.
Evans responded with his best round in the third, scoring with an overhand right in the opening seconds. His offense slowed as the frame went on, though, and his halfhearted takedown attempts were easily snuffed out by Jones.
The championship rounds were almost all Jones, as he looked fresher and was able to control the action from the distance he preferred with his choice of punches, kicks or elbows. Evans’ attempts to land one big right hand went for naught, and even Jones’ unusual decision to pull guard in the final 30 seconds ended up putting him in little danger.
Two judges gave Evans one round, while the third made it a clean 50-45 sweep for Jones. The youngest champion in UFC history has now made three straight defenses of the belt he won from Maurico “Shogun” Rua 13 months ago, each of them against former titleholders.
After the decision was read, Jones told Joe Rogan it was his most satisfying win as a pro because of who he beat. He gave Evans credit for not allowing him to finish the fight while also stating that he didn’t feel his striking was at its cleanest. Evans was perhaps slightly less gracious in defeat by suggesting he didn’t feel Jones had progressed that much since they had been teammates in Greg Jackson’s camp. The 32-year old finished his interview by vowing to fight his way back to the top of the division again.
Elsewhere on the main card, the action ended in more decisive fashion. That was certainly the case in the co-feature, where rising star Rory MacDonald lived up to his advanced billing by finishing Che Mills in the second round of their welterweight bout.
An aggressive start from Mills (14-5, 1 NC, 1-1 UFC) paid off when he connected with a right hand, but MacDonald (13-1, 4-1 UFC) quickly took him down. That was bad news for Mills, whose face was sliced open in several places from punches and elbows landed by MacDonald from several dominant positions.
MacDonald scored an easy takedown seconds into Round 2 and had little trouble working his way to take Mills’ back. A flurry of blows rained down from there, and referee Mario Yamasaki had no choice but to step in and stop the fight at the 2:20 mark.
Asked by Rogan what he still needs before he can think about challenging for a title, MacDonald said he could still use the experience that comes from fighting regularly. The 22-year old added that he’d like to get in the octagon three times before 2012 is finished.
Heavyweights Brendan Schaub and Ben Rothwell both came into their fight with reputations for having heavy hands, and both men landed some bombs in their brief but violent encounter. Ultimately, it was Rothwell who had his hand raised after surviving a scare to win by KO at 1:10 of the first round.
Neither man looked tentative about exchanging, and Schaub (8-3, 4-3 UFC) struck first with a spinning elbow that staggered his opponent. But as Schaub closed in to try to close the show, Rothwell (32-8, 2-2 UFC) threw a series of left hooks, one of which put Schaub down and out.
It was a much-needed win for Rothwell, whose last few years have seen him spend extended periods of time on the shelf with injuries. The former IFL champ gave a nice and obviously heartfelt thank you to the UFC fans during his post-fight interview by Rogan.
Michael McDonald proved that he may be a title contender sooner rather than later with a quick victory over former champion Miguel Angel Torres. The second-youngest UFC competitor needed just 3:18 to earn an impressive TKO win.
The difference in hand speed was apparent right from the opening bell with McDonald (15-1, 4-0 UFC) flashing quick combinations. One of those combos began with a right uppercut that landed flush and ended with Torres (40-5, 2-2 UFC) looking up at the lights.
Just 21 years old, McDonald is likely to have his best days still in front of him, a thought that should give other bantamweights some sleepless nights. The story is just the opposite for Torres, who has now dropped four of his last seven fights and looks little like the fighter once considered one of the pound-for-pound best.
Mark Hominick was favored by most pundits as he tried to put a shockingly quick loss to Chan Sung Jung behind him. But he got into trouble again early against Eddie Yagin, and his late rally wasn’t enough to prevent a split decision loss.
Yagin (16-5-1, 1-1 UFC) wasn’t getting cheated as he threw a number of wild power shots and strong kicks in Round 1. He connected with a strong right uppercut that put Hominick (20-11, 3-3 UFC) on his back, but he couldn’t seal the deal after following the Canadian down to the mat.
Hominick found himself on his back again about two minutes into Round 2 thanks to another Yagin right hand. Rising from the canvas again, he began to find his groove late in the frame, picking his spots with punches from a distance throughout the final round.
The end almost came dramatically when Hominick tagged an increasingly bloody Yagin with just a minute to go. It proved to be too little, too late, as two of the three judges preferred Yagin’s work by a single point.
A lightweight battle between two Canadians opened the pay-per-view portion of the card. John Alessio gave a game effort in his first fight inside the octagon since 2006, but he was no match for the takedowns and ground control of countryman Mark Bocek, who took a solid unanimous decision.
Bocek (11-4, 7-4 UFC) took down Alessio (34-15, 0-4 UFC) early and spent most of the first round working him over on the ground. Alessio had short bursts of success with combination punching in Rounds 2 and 3, but he eventually found himself on his back or with Bocek clamped on it.
Alessio made it the full 15 minutes but rarely looked threatening while doing so. The judges agreed, giving Bocek all but one round on one card.