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