No MMA fighter had a better year in 2011 than Jon Bones Jones. About 14 months ago (UFC 128), Jones became the youngest fighter in UFC history to win a championship in the octagon. He did this six weeks after his first fight of the year (normal breaks between fights are at least 3 months long). His contributions to the UFC history books didnt end there. Jones finished the year with 2 title defenses against former light heavyweight champs Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida by becoming the first person to submit both men in the octagon.
Now lets fast forward to April 21st of this year. Jones kicked off his 2012 campaign with a title bout against another former light heavyweight champ in the form of Suga Rashad Evans. But, this fight was different because Rashad used to be Jones sparring partner.
Rashad was supposed to face Mauricio Shogun Rua at UFC 128. A training camp injury derailed those plans, and he could do nothing but watch as Jones (his protégé) beat Rua for the light heavyweight title. Jones ascension atop the light heavyweight division lead to a split that was anything but friendly. So much so, Evans left Greg Jackson (his and Jones trainer) to form his own camp (the Blackzilians) in Florida.
On fight night, the bad blood had reached its peak. It was more evident with Evans than Jones. Rashad appeared very tense as if his body would explode with the rage he had bottled up during prefight intros. Jones, on the other hand, appeared to have his emotions more in check.
The former friends spent the majority of round 1 testing the waters. Neither one really imposing his will for fear of allowing the other to do some serious damage. The round ended in Jones favor due to him landing more punches.
Round 2 is where the action picked up, and where Jon turned the tables on Rashad. During an exchange early in the round, Jon hit Rashads left temple with a nasty elbow. That one blow was the beginning of the end. Rashad couldnt contend with Jones reach advantage. At 64, Jones isnt the most imposing light heavyweight but his 84 inch reach is unmatched in the entire division.
Jones used his elastic limbs to attack Rashad from a safe distance, and create space when Rashad would attempt any offense. Jones employed this strategy en route to a unanimous decision and his third consecutive win against a former champion. I give a lot of credit to Rashad. A lot of people didnt think this fight would go the distance, and I was one of them. Hopefully, it wont be too long before Rashad gets another title fight.
As for Jones, he will face Dan Henderson (another former UFC champ) later this year. If Jones wins, then a jump to the heavyweight division is expected. Could Jones thrive there as he has so far? I dare say well find out one way or another.
Other Notable Fights from UFC 145:
Rory MacDonald def. Che Mills via TKO at 02:20 of Round 2.
Ben Rothwell def. Brendan Schaub via KO at 01:10 of Round 1.
Michael McDonald def. Miguel Torres via KO at 03:18 of Round 1.
Eddie Yagin def. Mark Hominick via split decision.
Mark Bocek def. John Alessio via unanimous decision.