One of the biggest light heavyweight title bouts in the UFC’s history is about to take place.
When Jon Jones defends the title against Rashad Evans, the fight will likely receive the most attention for the 205 lb. weight class since Chuck Liddell took on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson back in May 2007.
The upcoming fight – set for Saturday, April 21 – has the recently retired former champion very interested.
“Rashad is a different style of fighter than Jones has been fighting,” Liddell told Bleacher Report’s Gary Herman when asked about the UFC 145 main event. “He’s a lot better at takedowns, and he’s a lot better at takedown defense.”
Even though Jones has ripped through the competition since joining the UFC in August 2008, Liddell believes Evans creates many potential problems for Jones.
“He won’t be able to control where the fight goes as easy as he does normally," Liddell said. "So we’ll see how that affects him.”
In his 10 UFC fights, Jones has never been threatened or seriously hurt. No fighter has been able to prevent Jones from doing whatever he wants to do in the cage. In his last three fights, Jones has stopped three former champions: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Jackson, and Lyoto Machida.
“Jon is a good kid,” Liddell said about the champion. “He’s got his head right. He goes out and works hard.”
Evans and Jones certainly have a storied history. Not only did Jones ascend to Evans' former spot atop of the light heavyweight division, he also effectively took Evans' spot at Jackson’s MMA training camp.
Evans quickly found a new home at the newly formed Blackzilians training camp in Florida.
Liddell believes Evans knows how to put together an effective strategy regardless of where he is preparing.
“Against Rampage, he was really good at keeping the distance,” Liddell said. "He was either all the way in or all the way out. I tell the guys all the time, ‘if you have a good puncher, all the way in or all the way out.’ Don’t stay there and box.”
The “experts” have listed Jones as a heavy favorite in the fight.
“The fight opened with Jones at 6 to 1,” Liddell said, referring to the current odds. “That’s ridiculous. I think it’s going to be a lot bigger test than that.”
Liddell has that view based on firsthand experience with Evans. Evans' knockout victory of Liddell started Liddell’s string of three straight knockout losses, which eventually led to the end of his historic career.
The former top draw for the UFC is content with his decision.
“I think the reasons I retired stay the same,” Liddell said. “I don’t want to change my style. I can’t take a punch like I used to for whatever reason. I’ve heard all sorts of theories as to why that would happen, but I can’t do it.”
Instead of fighting, Liddell now works in the front office of the UFC.
“I’m still a fan,” Liddell said. “I still like watching fights.”
The fight with Jones and Evans is no exception. The match-up will be Jones’ highest-profile fight to date. Liddell wonders how the younger Jones will react to the added pressure.
“The biggest thing about that fight is: is he going to stick to his game plan as much as he normally is able to?" Liddell said. "We’ll see.”
As for who Liddell believes will win the fight, the former champion believes an upset is very possible.
“I think Rashad has a lot better chance than most people think.”