On April 21, the animosity, speculation and egos will be locked inside of an octagon, and the opportunity of mending an old friendship will likely be severed.
Jon "Bones" Jones has a plethora of accolades under his belt. His title belt.
On March 19, 2011, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua was staggering backward to escape a bombardment of diverse strikes from Jones. Serenely pursuing, Jones landed a sweeping left hook to the body that buckled Rua. As Jones attempted to connect with a knee in the clinch, referee Herb Dean was already mercifully stepping in to relieve Shogun.
Jon Jones—realizing he had just written history—sat in the middle of the ring looking at the pandemonium surrounding him, almost as if he was trying to take a mental picture to reminisce upon later. The 23-year-old New Yorker had just became the youngest MMA fighter to earn the title "champion" in the UFC.
Jones filled in for his injured sparring partner, and arguably onetime mentor, Rashad Evans. And the two's friendship remained unchanged, until Jones' interview with Ariel Helwani drove a wedge between it.
This is the point where details are partitioned, and one story becomes two.
One thing is certain: Evans vs. Jones is real. Very real.
The verbal jabs are not calculated propaganda, they're genuine. UFC 145's main event is as much about punctuating an ego-fueled story with an exclamation mark as it is the light heavyweight championship.
Jon Jones will write the ending.
If there's a measuring stick that reveals the distinction between Evans and Jones' skill sets, it's the common opponent they share and the outcome they don't.
The opponent? Lyoto Machida.
After defeating Forrest Griffin to acquire the light heavyweight championship, "Sugar" Rashad Evans faced a tall feat in his first title defense against Machida.
Machida surgically destroyed Evans with strikes, while elusively dodging those fired in return. Evans would lose possession of the title as quickly as he earned it, after getting KO'd by Lyoto.
However, the same fate did not await Jones.
Following a vapid first round, the defending champion settled into a groove. After dropping Machida, Jones locked in a wrenching guillotine choke that concluded in Machida's body going limp against the cage and eventually collapsing as the referee separated the two men.
Evans is talented wrestler. He was a Junior College National Champion at Niagara Community College.
At Iowa Central Community College, Jon Jones was also a JUCO National Champion.
Both used to spar against one another on a daily basis, so any surprises will be hard to come by.
Due to Jones' significant length advantage, Rashad will undoubtedly try to close the distance and attempt to force the fight to the ground. However, one fact may restrain the success of that strategy: Jon Jones has stuffed every take-down attempt in his UFC career.
In fact, Jon suffered his only loss at the hands of Matt Hamill—another wrestler—due to a disqualification for an illegal use of elbows. The bout was all but finished, with Jones tyrannizing a flustered Hamill, until the referee halted the action to reduce a point for the aforementioned elbow strikes.
When Hamill declared that he didn't wish to continue due to a dislocated shoulder, he was awarded the victory.
So, in essence, Jon Jones literally personified the cliché, "The only person that can defeat me is myself."
The verdict on the champion's ground game is still out.
Can Evans expose it? Is there anything to be exposed to begin with?
There is only one way find out.
If Rashad holds the key to this baffling riddle and plants "Bones" on his back, he will have earned it.
The two—along with several of Jackson's pupils—ascended to prominence, as Rashad's impressive battle-tested journey concluded with him conquering Forrest Griffin for the light heavyweight championship in December 2008.
Soon after the calendar year expired, Jon Jones inquired about joining forces with Jackson in 2009.
Initially, Rashad opposed the notion, knowing that Jones was a promising contender in his weight class. But due to his peers' insistence, Evans ultimately hopped aboard after meeting with Jones.
The trio had a magnetic chemistry before the falling out.
If there is one person that is more familiar with the intricacies of Evans' style than Jon Jones, it's Greg Jackson. Jackson has also officially announced that he will be in Jones' corner during UFC 145's headlining event.
It's likely Jackson will devise a tactically sound strategy that exploits every crevice in Rashad's defense.
To proclaim that Jon Jones is diverse is an understatement.
The 24-year-old embodies a melting-pot of MMA strikes, strategies, and submissions.
While Rashad isn't one-dimensional, all of his victorious stoppages have derived from strikes (predominately punches).
While Jon Jones' striking capabilities rank alongside those at the apex of mixed martial arts, he has showcased the ability to adapt to any given scenario.
The current light heavyweight title-holder has finished four of his UFC bouts via submission.
According to ESPN's Sport Science, the reigning champion has a 84.5" wingspan, can land strikes at a three-foot distance and is capable of covering 80 percent more area than the average male.
His spinning elbow is quicker than the blades of an Apache.
How Stephan Bonnar doesn't sleep with a helmet, I'll never know.
In his last bout against Lyoto Machida—who's known to spontaneously attack like an enraged Pomeranian—Jones secured his unique advantage by maintaining his lead hand out in front of him.
Rashad will not reap any rewards if he refrains from taking risks; Evans will be obligated to leave himself vulnerable in order to minimize the lopsided disparity in length.
Unless that mystery is solved, expect Jonny "Bones" to fracture Rashad's.