The main event could easily take up this entire article, but this card is stacked and that means there are a lot of questions to ponder coming in. It will be interesting to hear the jawing that comes from Jon Jones and Rashad Evans on the UFC Primetime special before the event, and that is definitely something that I am looking forward to for sure. But, I could talk about Jones and Evans all day, and there are 11 other bouts on this card.
Some of the bouts that I am looking forward to are the bouts between Chad Griggs and Travis Browne, Mac Danzig and Efrain Escudero, John Makdessi and Anthony Njokuani and the return of Mark Hominick just to name a few. This is one of the most stacked cards in a long time, and the great part for the fans is that UFC 146 is an even more impressive card.
In the next few slides, I will reveal the seven questions I'm burning on leading into fight night in Atlanta.
Chad Griggs is riding high coming into his UFC debut. The gutsy, Arizona-born fighter with the thick chops and the big right hand punch has amassed six straight wins, three of which came under Strikeforce. Griggs was originally brought in by the Strikeforce brass to fight Bobby Lashley.
As an outsider, it appeared to me that Strikeforce was trying to build up Lashley by feeding him lesser competition. Griggs, on the other hand, proved to be just the opposite. As a matter of fact, Griggs forced Lashley to quit and then stopped Gian Villante and Valentijn Overeem before the heavyweight division in Strikeforce was dropped and he was signed by his new employer the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
After eight years in the cage, all 11 of his wins by stoppage due to strikes and a lot of hard work, Chad Griggs has finally made the big dance.
Across from him in the Octagon will be the undefeated UFC up-and-comer Travis "Hapa" Browne. Browne is coming off his least impressive showing in the UFC, where he and fellow warrior Rob Broughton were sapped by the altitude and put on a poor showing. Before that fight, Browne was riding high on the heels of a Superman-punch knockout of Stefan Struve at UFC 130 last May.
If Griggs is going to continue his win streak, he must solve the puzzle that is the reach of Browne. Browne is five inches taller than Chad Griggs and has a reach advantage over the "Grave Digger." My opinion is that Griggs is ready for this challenge, has had ample preparation time and knows how to fight larger men.
Both men hit very hard, but Griggs has stopped every opponent he has ever faced except for his one loss. Something tells me that Griggs will take his winning streak to seven fights, and he will do it in the bright lights of FX television.
Mark Hominick has had one heck of a year. Last April at UFC 129, Hominick famously fought valiantly in defeat against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, receiving a huge knot on his skull that grew to the size of a softball by the end of the bout.
Hominick stepped into the Octagon once more at UFC 140 on Dec. 10, and after coming out uncharacteristically wild and agressive, he whiffed on a left hook haymaker and was knocked out in just seven seconds by the "Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung.
The "Machine" has stated recently that the defeat was a wake-up call for his career, and he is now ready to climb back to the top. Most fighters rattle off this typical one-liners, so it is hard to tell the sincerity of these statements sometimes. However, it does seem that Hominick is focused on coming back. After all, he is stepping back into the cage only a few months after a crippling defeat.
Hominick will refocus, and he will be ready to prove he is a top fighter at 145 pounds at UFC 145.
Both men in this bout have a lot to fight for. Rothwell has a record of 1-2 in the UFC, and a loss for him could very well mean an exit from the organization. Likewise, Brendan Schaub is looking for redemption after having his winning streak halted by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira last August in UFC 134 in Brazil.
Both Schaub and Rothwell have very heavy hands, and both like to throw them with frequency; however I think the decisive factor in this bout will be speed. Schaub is a lot faster and more technical of a striker than "Big" Ben Rothwell, and in the end, his punches will find a home more often, and that will eventually end in a finish for Brendan Schaub.
Rory MacDonald can now be considered a veteran in the UFC. At only 22 years of age this is quite remarkable and incredibly rare indeed.
After making his UFC debut in style with submission win over Mike Guymon at UFC Fight Night 20 in January 2010, Rory was given the toughest test of his career at UFC 115 when he squared off with current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. MacDonald dominated the fight in the first two rounds and was then stopped by Condit late in the third round after it looked like the Canadian was on the way to a sure victory.
Rory has since rebounded from that loss with big wins over Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, and now looks for his third win in a row. So if Rory does defeat Che Mills in April, then how many wins is he away from a title shot?
This is a hard question to answer, but judging by the depth of the UFC welterweight division, I would presume that he needs two or three more wins to be in the proverbial mix for a title shot. It is very hard to know exactly how this will work, and the UFC brass knows that Rory is young and will not want to push him too soon. Either way it goes, he is always a pleasure to watch, and this fight will be one I cannot miss.
Of course you had to know the main event weighs heaviest on my mind. There are a large amount of questions about the epic grudge match between Rashad Evans and Jon Jones that I am pondering this month, but I have shortened that list to three for our purposes here.
The first question that I am burning on deals with the ground game and whether Rashad Evans can control the champion if he gets him there.
Both Evans and Jones have great wrestling backgrounds. Evans wrestled at Michigan State and Jones was a junior college champion. The simple truth here I think is that Rashad Evans can get Jon Jones to the ground, but it is unlikely that he can be very effective once there and, due to the length and freakish athleticism of Jones, he could find himself swept and submitted faster than you can say holy choke.
I do think that Rashad Evans will be able to land some strikes on Jon Jones. If Lyoto Machida was able to land on Jones then Rashad, who is the faster man, should be able to do the same. His speed will definitely be a factor in this fight, but it is very difficult to know exactly how effective Rashad can be.
Jones has very good standup as well, and his reach advantage is already legendary. Rashad Evans also has great standup that a person could easily argue is superior to the champion. Since Evans is the smaller fighter, he will be forced to rush in with strikes a lot, and this is where I fear he will get caught coming in and pay the price.
I have to answer "yes" to this question. Although I cannot be certain of course, I can go off what has happened to all of the men who have faced Jon Jones in the UFC, and none of the great fighters he has beaten has done more than stun him briefly, which Lyoto Machida did last December before he was choked unconscious by the champion.
The reach of Jon Jones is a riddle like the Bermuda Triangle. It is something we all know about and no one knows how in the hell to solve it. I am certain that someone will figure out how to get inside and bust Bones up at some point, but I doubt that Rashad is going to be able too. Jones has massacred men who he liked. What do you think he will do to someone he despises?