UFC 145: Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions
Fight fans have served witness to the feud between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans for over a year now, and the rivalry will finally enter the Octagon on Saturday.
In the evening's main event, the former Jackson's MMA teammates will do battle as Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion, defends his title against Evans.
Given the skills that these two fighters possess, along with the bad blood between them, don't expect this one to last all five rounds.
In the co-main event, Rory MacDonald looks to get one step closer to a rematch with UFC interim champion Carlos Condit when he takes on British prospect Che Mills.
Also on the card is a clash of heavyweights, as Brendan Schaub looks to get back to his winning ways when he takes on veteran Ben Rothwell.
At 135 pounds, former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres looks to make an example out of 21-year-old prospect Michael MacDonald in a bout that will likely produce a future title contender.
In a featherweight affair, Mark Hominick takes on a former Tachi Palace Fights champion in Eddie Yagin.
Finally, opening up the main card will be lightweight showdown featuring Canadians Mark Bocek and John Alessio.
Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists Matt Juul, Jordy McElroy, Kyle Symes and myself, John Heinis, have predicted the winners for the upcoming Pay-per-view.
Take a look inside to find out who they will be.
John Alessio vs. Mark Bocek
John Heinis: John Alessio returns to the UFC after nearly a six-year hiatus. Things didn't go as planned for "The Natural" in his three prior cameos, losing to Pat Militech, Diego Sanchez and Thiago Alves.
Alessio is a classic journeyman coming in with a rarely-seen record of 34-14 without really having beaten anyone noteworthy in the process (except for, I guess, Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver).
Still, at 32 years old, Alessio has won 10 of his last 11 and is 2-0 since dropping to lightweight in November of last year.
Bocek is another fighter who has proven he is not yet ready to join the elite fighters in the business, losing to the likes of Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller and reigning lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the UFC.
However, Bocek is still a highly talented grappler. As a matter of fact, in the eyes of many fans, he decisively beat Miller at UFC 111, even if the judge's scorecard didn't reflect that.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will likely be able to take whatever Alessio can throw at him, find a way to get this fight to the ground, and grind out a tough decision.
Mark Bocek via unanimous decision (29-28)
Matt Juul: A battle of savvy, submission artists, expect a grappling-heavy battle as John Alessio makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon against Mark Bocek.
A long-time welterweight veteran, Alessio will have a tough test at lightweight against Bocek. While both fighters like to look for the tapout, Bocek is the more skilled grappler and will put Alessio away in the end.
Mark Bocek via second-round submission
Jordy McElroy: Replacing an injured Matt Wiman, John Alessio makes his UFC return after nearly six years to take on underrated ground specialist Mark Bocek.
Losses to Benson Henderson and Jim Miller have likely kept Bocek out of the top-10 rankings, but in such a stacked 155-pound division, Bocek is indeed a world-class opponent, despite being left off most rankings.
Alessio has always boasted a strong wrestling base, but it will be interesting if he tries that route against Bocek, a high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
The best advantage for “The Natural” could come on the feet. Bocek has often struggled in the standup and at adjusting his game when the takedown option is negated. Alessio can give Bocek some serious problems if manages to stuff the takedown and best the standup exchanges.
This certainly isn’t the most exciting style matchup, but fans should look forward to an incredibly competitive fight. A chorus of boos are sure to echo when Bocek controls the fight enough to sway the minds of at least two judges for a split decision.
Mark Bocek via split decision
Kyle Symes: It will be a battle of Canadians to begin the festivities at UFC 145 when Mark Bocek takes on John Alessio. Bocek was originally scheduled to meet Matt Wiman, but Alessio was brought back after Wiman was forced off the card due to an injury.
Alessio had his UFC debut at the tender age of 20 going up against the legendary Pat Miletich. Since then, Alessio has been the definition of a journeyman, traveling across multiple MMA promotions. He’s been up against some of the best fighters in the world and has beaten a handful of former UFC fighters.
He’s in the midst of a three-fight win streak, with his last two bouts coming at 155 pounds.
Bocek, meanwhile, was primed for big things after defeating Dustin Hazelett by submission at UFC 124. A loss to current champ Benson Henderson have derailed any title plans, but the Canadian bounced back with a win over Nik Lentz.
The story of this fight will be Alessio’s ability (or inability) to stifle Bocek’s jiu-jitsu game. Bocek is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners from Canada and in the lightweight division in general. Look for him to take the fight to the mat and tap Alessio out.
Mark Bocek via Round 1 submission
Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin
John Heinis: After an impressive five-fight win streak, Mark Hominick could be on the cutting block after losing a tough decision to featherweight champion Jose Aldo and being upset by "The Korean Zombie" Chan-Sung Jung.
Hominick is a finisher, earning 16 stoppages in 20 career wins, and a very technically sound striker. On top of that, he is a far superior talent to Eddie Yagin.
The only real question is: Will "The Machine" have his head on straight for this fight?
I think he will, and given that Yagin lost his UFC debut to the relatively unknown Junior Assuncao, I feel very confident picking Hominick in this one.
Mark Hominick via second-round TKO
Matt Juul: With an unsavory third straight loss looming overhead, Mark Hominick has to win this bout in order to stay relevant in the UFC’s featherweight division.
Overly aggressive in his quick KO loss to Chan-Sung Jung, expect a more cautious Hominick in this fight—but not too cautious.
With Eddie Yagin coming off a tough loss to Junior Assuncao in his UFC debut, look for Hominick to pounce whenever Yagin makes a misstep. Expect a vintage Hominick performance in this bout.
Mark Hominick via second-round TKO
Jordy McElroy: To think, Mark Hominick was challenging Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight title around the same time last year.
Now, the Canadian striker is on a two-fight losing streak. His most recent defeat came at the hands of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in a shocking seven-second knockout loss.
He hopes to rebound against Eddie Yagin, a former Tachi Palace Fights featherweight champion.
Yagin typically isn’t afraid to press the action on the feet and force his opponents to counter, but he hasn’t faced a striker with Hominick’s technical prowess.
At UFC 135, Yagin struggled on the feet in his unanimous-decision loss to Junior Assuncao, which doesn’t bode well for “The Filipino Phenom.”
As long as Hominick can keep the bout upright, he should be able to tattoo Yagin’s face for 15 minutes and walk out with the decision.
Mark Hominick via unanimous decision
Kyle Symes: Two fighters looking to get back on track will attempt to do so at the other’s expense when Mark Hominick and Eddie Yagin face off. Hominick is marred in a two-fight losing streak while Yagin dropped his UFC debut.
Hominick was last seen being KO’d by Chan-Sung Jung at UFC 140 after only one punch. Prior to that, Hominick lost a hard-fought five-round war against current champ Jose Aldo.
Yagin, meanwhile, had won two out of his last three when he made his UFC debut against the talented Junior Assuncao.
Hominick is one of the best strikers in the division, and I believe he simply got caught against “The Korean Zombie.” Anyone who can make it through five rounds with Aldo has to be tough as nails.
I see Hominick working his striking to out-point Yagin through three rounds, with Yagin being nearly finished in at least one of the rounds.
Mark Hominick via unanimous decision
Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald
John Heinis: Torres, once one of the most dominant former WEC champions on the roster, is just 3-3 in his past six fights.
Granted, most folks would agree that Torres deserves to be on a four-fight win streak since he was robbed of a decision against now flyweight competitor Demetrious Johnson at UFC 130.
Whatever the case may be, it looks like the Carlson Gracie Jr. Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will have his hands full with rising prospect Michael MacDonald.
"Mayday" has won seven in a row, including three straight in the UFC. In that same span, he also avenged his only career loss to Cole Escovedo.
If you need any more convincing that MacDonald is a serious fighter, he has 12 finishes in 14 career wins. Oh yeah, and he's only 21 years old.
While I really like what MacDonald has to offer, Torres has amazing skills on the mat and has said he is not going to get involved in "Leonard Garcia-style" brawls any more.
If Torres does pick his shots on the feet and gets this fight to the ground, he should be able to win a tough decision.
Miguel Torres via unanimous decision (29-28)
Matt Juul: With an almost full-decade difference between former WEC champion Miguel Torres and 21-year-old Michael McDonald, experience will be a big factor in this fight.
Thus far, McDonald has been rolling over the competition since suffering his first loss in 2009. Since then, the young bantamweight has gone 7-0, avenging his loss to Cole Escovedo, taking Fight of the Night in his UFC debut against Edwin Figueroa and most recently taking Knockout of the Night honors at the expense of Alex Soto.
McDonald is a powerful, well-rounded young fighter, but has yet to face someone of Torres' level.
The former champion has had a bumpy road since losing his WEC crown, but Torres has fared well since making the move to the UFC, sporting a 2-1 record. A crafty jiu-jitsu ace with great kickboxing, expect Torres to play a counter game before bringing this fight to the mat.
Miguel Torres via split decision
Jordy McElroy: Miguel Torres remains on thin ice after sending out an inappropriate tweet that nearly cost him his job.
A loss could result in the UFC handing the former WEC bantamweight champion his walking papers. The timing couldn’t be any worse, either. On Saturday night, Torres will find himself face to face with rising knockout artist Michael McDonald.
At 21 years of age, eight of McDonald’s 14 wins have come by knockout. He is currently riding a seven-fight win streak, but Torres should prove to be his biggest test in climbing the bantamweight hierarchy.
Torres will have a technical advantage on the feet. McDonald packs some serious power at 135 pounds, but when it comes technical aptitude, there are few strikers who can hang with Torres.
While McDonald packs enough power to have Torres making fish faces, he doesn’t have the wrestling to secure consistent takedowns or top control to negate the Chicago native’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
For gamblers, this is a great fight to pick an underdog. McDonald has a great chance to pull off the upset.
With that said, this journalist refuses to play on the ledge with this prediction. Torres will outpoint McDonald in a close, highly-contested unanimous decision.
Miguel Torres via unanimous decision
Kyle Symes: The potential next title challenger for the bantamweight crown could come from the winner of Michael McDonald vs. Miguel Torres. McDonald has become a hot prospect after knocking out Joe Soto in impressive fashion in his last bout.
Torres needs no introduction as he was the face of the 135-pound division for years. Possessing solid striking with grappling skills and a lengthy frame, Torres remains one of the best bantamweights in the world.
McDonald has looked impressive, given his age and experience thus far in the UFC, but is he ready for a fighter the caliber of Torres? Torres has a number of ways he could win and will be a good barometer of where the young McDonald ranks in the bantamweight division.
I like McDonald’s prospects in the future, but I don’t think he’s ready to defeat a fighter on the level of Torres, whether he’s past his prime or not.
Miguel Torres via unanimous decision
Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell
John Heinis: Former TUF finalist Brendan Schaub looked to be a dark-horse title contender after rattling off four straight wins, culminating with a knockout over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic at UFC 128.
However, the wind was quickly taken out of his sails when he was defeated by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 134 in Brazil.
The former NFL player looks to rebound against Ben Rothwell.
Don't let the pudgy physique of "Big Ben" fool you. Rothwell's punching power and wrestling skills have earned him respectable wins over Krzysztof Soszynski (twice), Gilbert Yvel and Roy Nelson—the man who knocked out Schaub on the TUF finale.
But after rattling off a very rarely seen 13 wins in a row, Rothwell has been struggling. He's 2-3 in his past five and just 1-2 in the UFC, so maybe he just isn't built to hang with the best 265-pounders the world has to offer.
If his cardio is anywhere near the absolutely embarrassing levels it was from the Mark Hunt fight at UFC 135, Schaub will most certainly put him away.
However, even if Rothwell is on the top of his game, I can't see him defeating his more versatile opponent.
Brendan Schaub via third-round KO
Matt Juul: Coming off a brutal loss to Minotauro Nogueira at UFC 134, Brendan Schaub will look to get back to his winning ways against veteran heavyweight Ben Rothwell.
While a tough opponent, Rothwell has not been impressive during his tenure with the UFC, sporting a 1-2 record with losses to Mark Hunt and former champion Cain Velasquez.
Schaub has excellent takedown defense to neutralize Rothwell’s wrestling. Coupled with his heavy hands, don’t expect this fight to go the distance.
Brendan Schaub via second-round KO
Jordy McElroy: Brendan Schaub and Ben Rothwell are both coming off devastating losses.
In front of a partisan crowd in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Schaub was knocked cold at UFC 134 by MMA legend and former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Meanwhile, Rothwell’s cardio meltdown at UFC 135 had him waddling all over the Octagon gasping for air in a losing effort to Mark Hunt.
People can poke fun at Rothwell’s cardio woes, but his ability to absorb punishment has to be respected. Like in his losses to Cain Velasquez and Andrei Arlovski, Rothwell showed tremendous heart during Hunt’s onslaught.
A similar showing may be needed against Schaub, a freak athlete with explosive knockout power.
Considering Schaub’s speed and athleticism, Rothwell will have a tough time winning a conventional fight. He needs to turn this fight into brawl and keep Schaub on his heels.
If things get dicey on the feet, Schaub will look for takedowns to bail himself out of trouble. It won’t come to that, though.
Look for Schaub’s right hand to find its mark and put Rothwell to bed early in the first round.
Brendan Schaub via first-round KO
Kyle Symes: Brendan Schaub seemed on the fast track to UFC title contention after securing Knockout of the Night honors at UFC 128 against the legendary Mirko “Cro Cop.” The win was Schaub’s fourth in a row, indicating that the former NFL player was destined for big things.
Unfortunately for Schaub, he couldn’t keep up with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the Brazilian’s home country. The KO loss sent Schaub back to the drawing board and tumbling down the heavyweight rankings.
Ben Rothwell was a talented heavyweight who could dish out as much punishment as he could take when he made his UFC debut. Since then, Rothwell has gone 1-2 with his latest fight being an embarrassing performance against Mark Hunt at UFC 135.
Rothwell hasn’t really shown me anything to make me believe that he can compete with upper-level heavyweights, which is exactly where Schaub is headed.
I see Schaub using his footwork and speed to work around Rothwell’s lumbering body. Rothwell has been notoriously tough to finish but Schaub has the talent to get it done.
Brendan Schaub via second-round TKO
Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
John Heinis: Rory "Ares" MacDonald is heavily favored in this one, and it's no secret why. He is 12-1 with 11 finishes, and his only loss was to now-interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
Though "The Natural Born Killer" scored a TKO win, don't let the final result fool you: MacDonald decisively won the first two rounds, and there is a good portion of fans who felt the stoppage was a poor one. Personally, I thought it was justified.
After making it look easy in his next fights against Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, he now gets Che Mills, filling in for an injured Brian Ebersole.
Mills is fresh off a "Knockout of the Night" performance against Chris Cope at UFC 138, his fifth win in a row.
"Urban Monkey" (what the hell?) has good striking and an adequate submission game, but he has never faced a talent like MacDonald before.
By the rare chance that Mills gets the better of their stand-up exchanges, MacDonald will utilize his wrestling game to control his opponent and gain the upper hand on the ground.
Given that three of Mills' four losses have come via submission, I think that's how Ares ends this one.
Rory MacDonald via Round 2 submission (armbar)
Matt Juul: This battle of top welterweight prospects will propel the winner into the upper echelon of the division.
Though he is one of the UFC’s youngest fighters, Rory MacDonald has a load of experience against top-level guys. Owning dominant wins over Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, MacDonald is a proven, well-rounded force that provides a tough match-up against most of the division.
Che Mills, however, should not be underestimated, as this proven striking master is another prospect with tons of potential. Fresh off of a Knockout of the Night performance against Chris Cope, Mills will be a huge challenge for MacDonald.
If Mills can keep the fight standing, he may be able to pick MacDonald apart. However, MacDonald’s wrestling will be the difference as he will ultimately take over on the ground.
Rory MacDonald via split decision
With that said, MacDonald is a special prospect who has been dubbed by some as the future UFC welterweight champion.
Mills, who is currently riding a five-fight win streak, will be looking to shock the MMA world and steal some of the young Canadian’s thunder. Unfortunately for Mills, it’s hard to envision him getting his hand raised in any other fashion than a flash knockout.
Being the superior fighter and athlete, this fight is MacDonald’s to lose.
He has the ability to engage Mills on the feet, but the most likely scenario is a plethora of takedowns and top control.
Calm down, “Just Bleed” fans.
You won’t have to run to the message boards complaining about how MacDonald held Mills down for 15 minutes. MacDonald is an active wrestler with vicious ground-and-pound. Look for Mills to enjoy an early beatdown before giving up the submission late in the first round.
Rory MacDonald via first-round submission (Rear Naked Choke)
Kyle Symes: Rory MacDonald will finally be returning to the Octagon after a lengthy layoff due to injuries. The blue-chip Canadian prospect faces England’s Che Mills in the co-main event at UFC 145.
Mills, meanwhile, will be in his second UFC bout after defeating Chris Cope in under one minute at UFC 138. The win also earned Mills an extra handful of cash and Knockout of the Night honors.
MacDonald has shined thus far in the UFC, and I see no reason why he won’t continue to impress fight fans. The manner in which he handled Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle was impressive to say the least. Even in his loss to Carlos Condit, MacDonald was seconds away from a decision victory.
Look for MacDonald to continue his rise to the top and work towards becoming the future of the UFC welterweight division.
Rory MacDonald via second-round TKO
Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
John Heinis: Former Jackson's MMA teammates Jon "Bones" Jones and Rashad "Suga" Evans finally get the opportunity to settle their differences in the Octagon.
Tensions have been building ever since Jones decisively won the light heavyweight title from Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128, as Evans formed the Blackzilians training camp immediately afterwards.
Evans feels that Greg Jackson betrayed him, while Jones believes that Evans is a big crybaby. In my opinion, both points of view probably have at least a little truth to them.
Due to their time training together, many say Evans is the one and only man at 205 pounds that can strip Jones of the title.
He does present an interesting style match up: great wrestling, crisp, hard striking and excellent submission defense.
However, Jones' 2011 resume boasts wins over Ryan Bader, Shogun, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto Machida. The latter three are former UFC champions and Bader seems to be a consensus top 10 guy right now.
And Bones finished all of them.
Evans' dismantling of Phil Davis at UFC on FOX 2 in January was impressive, but it left something to be desired.
As a basis of comparison, his past four wins over Davis, Tito Ortiz, Rampage and Thiago Silva only had one finish and that was against a way-past-his-prime Ortiz.
While Evans may provide an entertaining round or two, Jones will eventually find his range, score a takedown, put his friend-turned-foe away and finally put an end to this feud.
Jon Jones via third-round TKO
Matt Juul: One of the biggest fights of the year, the grudge match between reigning UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and former champion Rashad Evans will finally go down.
With a long, documented history of training together as friends before splitting into enemies, the hype surrounding this fight will definitely pay off.
While Jones may be the favorite, Evans’ experience and knowledge of Jones’ fight game will at least give the champion some problems. If Evans can get inside Jones' reach and tries to beat him up from the inside, it will force the 205-pound king into a spot he has never been put in before.
On the ground, Evans will have to beat Jones up from the top while avoiding his tricky guard.
But the funny thing about Jones is that, whatever your game plan, he always has a way to throw it off. If Jones continues to use his odd angles and length to keep Evans at range, expect Jones to pick the former champ apart.
While Jones may get tested, in the end, he will cross another former champion off his list.
Jon Jones via fourth-round TKO
Jordy McElroy: The time for talking is finally over, and the time for fighting is upon us.
Former teammates Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will duke it out in quite possibly the most heated rivalry since Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.
Regardless of who loses, someone will have to skip dinner to make room for a massive slice of humble pie.
On paper, it’s hard not to like Jones in this bout. He tends to take heat from fans due to his enduring confidence and some of the things he says, but in all honesty, he is every bit as good as he’s hyped up to be.
If people can’t see that now, they are either delusional or new to the sport.
There really aren’t many wrinkles in Jones’ game. His well-rounded skill set and Mr. Fantastic-like reach makes him a nightmare matchup for anyone. Evans can’t linger outside the pocket and give Jones an opportunity to pick him apart at a distance.
He needs to stay in Jones’ face and look to establish takedowns and the overhand right. The clinch game is also a big no-no for Evans. Jones is crafty from the clinch in working strikes and setting up takedowns.
Outside of a puncher’s chance, some people believe Evans will be able to find success in the wrestling department and keep Jones on his back.
Against Lyoto Machida, Evans wasn’t able to secure a single takedown. He has also struggled in the past in maintaining top position against Quinton Jackson, Michael Bisping and Thiago Silva.
Jones, who also has a world-class wrestling base, was able to take Machida down relatively easily in the second round of their UFC 140 championship bout.
What is Evans’ chin like? How long will it be able to hold up? He has been dropped in three of his last five fights.
This should be a great bout for as long as it lasts, but it would be a bit surprising to see it go into the championship rounds.
The ending won’t be a remix to the “stanky leg,” but look for the champ to sprawl and strike his way to a second-round TKO stoppage.
Jon Jones via second-round TKO
Kyle Symes: In one of the most hyped grudge matches in UFC history, former teammates Jon Jones and Rashad Evans will finally settle the score inside the Octagon. Jones has looked like a world beater so far in his career, destroying three former world champions and a TUF winner.
It’s not just who Jones has beaten but rather the manner in which he’s done it. He’s faced no adversity in his route to the top and has made keeping the belt look easy.
A freakish frame combined with unorthodox striking and strong wrestling have made Jones one of the most complete fighters in the game today.
Prior to Jones’ rise to the top, his teammate Evans was considered to be among the best at 205 pounds. Initially a strong wrestler, Evans evolved his game to feature crisp striking and great transitions (striking to takedowns).
The entire key to this fight is whether Evans can close the distance. Evans loves to use head movement to evade punches, and it will serve him well in this fight as he needs to negate Jones’ length.
An interesting factor that came to my attention when Jones and Evans had their “face off” with Jon Anik was Jones saying “I’m probably stronger than you now.” That means Evans likely held Jones against the fence or on the mats during their training sessions.
If Evans can work inside, I believe he can wear Jones down through a five-round decision. Evans did it to the much larger Quinton Jackson and I believe he can do it to Jones. However, that doesn't mean Jones won't get off a few punches or kicks while Evans works inside.
Jones has the ability to end the fight at any moment with a number of different methods. He has used his ground and pound to great effect but often chooses to look for a submission victory.
As much as I would like to see Evans pull out the win due to my dislike of Jones, I really don’t see Evans surviving 25 minutes of Jones’ attack.
Regardless of who wins, I’m sure the bad blood between these two will create an amazing fight that will live up to the hype.
Jon Jones via third-round TKO
John Heinis: Fight of the Night - Miguel Torres vs. Michael MacDonald
Knockout of the Night - Jon Jones
Submission of the Night - Rory MacDonald
Matt Juul: Fight of the Night - Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
Knockout of the Night - Brendan Schaub
Submission of the Night - Keith Wisniewski
Jordy McElroy: Fight of the Night - Miguel Torres vs. Michael MacDonald
Knockout of the Night - Brendan Schaub
Submission of the Night - Rory MacDonald
Kyle Symes: Fight of the Night - Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
Knockout of the Night - Brendan Schaub
Submission of the Night - Mark Bocek