Friday, April 20, 2012
Fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship: Not So Good for Friendships
By Guest Blogger: Steven G. Folmar
On Saturday night in Atlanta, 2 former friends, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones and former Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad “Suga” Evans will step in the ring coming full cycle in their relationship. The former friends and training partners will come to blows in one of the most acrimonious partner splits in the UFC since Ortiz / Liddell. The winner will look almost unstoppable in the Light Heavyweight Division, the loser will have to think long and hard about their future in the UFC.
Jon Jones is an incredible athlete, probably one of the most gifted in the UFC right now. No fighters have lasted long in fights against him. His wrestling is great, his striking unpredictable and fierce, and his submissions are solid, as we all saw when he put away Lyoto Machida with a standing choke. Evans is a more complete fighter without some of the God given talent that Jones has. He was a very accomplished collegiate wrestler at Michigan State. He can knock you out with punches, kicks or chokes. A couple times in his last fight with Tito Ortiz I thought he was caught in submissions that somehow he fought out of no worse for wear. Both have more than enough knockout power. But the story with these two is as much more the story of how they got here than the athletes themselves. Both were training partners, both also claimed they would never fight the other to preserve their friendship. When Evans hurt his knee before a title fight with Shogun Rua, Bones jumped in a won the title. This immediately rubbed Evans the wrong way and the bad blood began. This has led to no small amount of name-calling and bad feelings between the two.
I have very mixed feelings about them both going into this fight. I feel this is two of the most talented two young men to fight in years. And the bad blood only makes for a more intriguing fight. I have always been an Evans fan but everyone knows he can come off cocky. He was told to quit showboating by opposing team captain and UFC legend Matt Hughes during The Ultimate Fighter Season 2. He has rubbed opponents wrong many times in the past. But when he does personal interviews I think you see a very intelligent fella who is well aware of how precarious his situation is. Conflict is always a great lead in for fights, Ali/Frasier, Leonard/Duran, Manny/ Mayweather (If they ever manage to get it off the ground) just to name a few. But I don’t think it is real good for maintaining friendships. I think both have acted childish in the leadup to this fight. How can Evans truly believe they would never going to fight considering they are both in the top 5 of their division. That is like Eli and Peyton not playing in a football game because the Giants and Broncos are playing each other. You are professionals, it is what it is. Evans seems naive on this point. This may be his way of vilifying a friend to make him want to fight. Interviews since then have been cocky on both sides. Jones, despite being extremely talented, seems like he may be getting a little cocky. He still has not been pushed into later rounds, outside of the Rampage Jackson fight, when he spent a lot of his time chasing Rampage, who was looking for that knockout punch. This may be his Brock Lesnar/Frank Mir like wake up call.
In the fight, Rashad has experience on his side. He has been humbled and I think that has made him hungrier. He also has experience with bigger opponents with longer reach. I was watching the championship fight from TUF Season 2 today where Evans did a great job of adapting against a much bigger Brad Imes, whose 6’7” frame and reach seemed insurmountable. But Evans learned as the fight progressed and won one of the classic TUF matchups. Jones has not been tested going into the later rounds beyond the Rampage Jackson fight where he had to chase more than anything else and I think Evans will frustrate him by taking him there. I also think that Evans has got in his head and Jones is going to get frustrated. I have Rashad taking back his title with a knockout in the final two rounds. But Jones will not be sidelined long. And you should plan on seeing these two, and their feud, around the light heavyweight division for quit a while. Win or lose, this is going to be a good one!