April 22, 2012

The fight ended with Jon Jones on his back.

That's how dominant he was.

Say what?

What I'm saying is, Jones took so much of the fight out of Rashad Evans through the first 24 minutes, 50 seconds of Saturday night's light heavyweight title bout at UFC 145 in Atlanta that, as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the fans roared for one last flurry of fisticuffs, what they got to see instead was a champion demonstrating that he can do anything he wants at any time.

So "Bones" leaped at Evans, wrapped his arms around his neck and legs around his back, then pulled the challenger down on top of him -- the defensive maneuver known in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as pulling guard.


"You know what? Rashad, I knew he was going to be swinging for those haymakers," Jones said afterward in an interview in the cage. "And I am a mixed martial artist, and I'm not afraid to be on my back. So yeah, definitely, pull guard."

Later, at the postfight news conference, the 24-year-old amplified his reasoning.

"A lot of times people want to, you know, they look at that as kind of a sissy move or something," Jones said. "But I think a lot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners around the world loved it and respected it. It's part of the game, and I think it was a smart decision."

That's one way of looking at it. Another way would be to acknowledge that Jones is ceaselessly unpredictable and imaginative. I mean, if he wanted to avoid any last-ditch Evans haymakers, the champ could have simply climbed on his bicycle and done some of that not-quite-Ali shuffling he'd showed off earlier in the round. But he wanted us to see something we hadn't seen from him before. He always has something new to show us.

Saturday night's victory, though by clear unanimous decision, was far from Jones' most thrilling performance. But for the fourth time in 13 months, he beat a former champion. And even though two judges scored the first round for Evans, and Rashad landed a solid blow now and then, there never was a doubt who was The Man.

Will there ever be?

Dan Henderson gets the next shot. He has the thunderous right hand to change the championship picture in a flash, but is he fast enough -- or will he ever be close enough -- to sail that fist onto solid ground? Or to use his Olympic-level wrestling to get Jones off his feet?

Henderson at least understands the task at hand. "I thought Rashad fought Jon Jones' fight, and you can't do that against someone like Jones, who is going to pick you apart," the 40-year-old former Pride and Strikeforce champion said during the Fuel TV post-fight show. "I don't think Rashad came in and had a solid takedown attempt. I don't really think he utilized wrestling, and that's what he is best at, is mixing it up and taking guys down. Jones did a great job picking him apart."

Good luck trying to do better, Dan. I just don't think you, or anyone else in the light heavyweight division, can touch Jon Jones.

"One of the things about these fights, these 'grudge matches,' it usually means the guys respect each other," Dana White said. "You saw respect in there tonight."

That was the UFC president at Saturday night's postfight news conference, trying to explain how his much-anticipated main event had been so methodical, with so few fireworks.

But while Dana cited respect, the fighters pointed to other nonphysical factors. Insecurity. Intimidation. A mental block.

"I would totally say that Rashad has been my toughest fight to date," Jones said at the news conference. "I think a lot of it came from how awesome and talented a fighter he is. And a lot of it came from a slight insecurity fighting Rashad. You know, Rashad, he did big brother me a few times when we used to work out together. So having that in the back of my head, it made me more hesitant. So I really had to fight myself in this fight as well as Rashad Evans."

Evans, too, seemed to be fighting himself for much of the bout. Part of the reason for that might have been the residual grogginess from being repeatedly elbowed in the head. But even after he landed a punch or kick on occasion, he never seemed able to take Step 2. It seemed like he was waiting for something to happen instead of making it happen.

"I didn't do the things I trained to do," Evans said. "It was just something I wish I had back, a couple of moments in the fight that I felt I could have took advantage of some situations. But I didn't do it. It was my mental block."

Jones, for his part, took something away from the experience of discomfort. "I learned that I need to trust my stuff more," he said. "Not be intimidated by people, by what they have. And just to trust what I have. I definitely move pretty fluidly when I'm going against a heavy bag or a coach with mitts, but tonight I kind of felt gangly and uncoordinated at some points. And I know that came from a slight insecurity in my attacks."

"I wasn't hurt, but there was a point where he did wobble me. I had gotten hit and I was like, 'OK, I felt that.' And I tried to side shuffle and I stumbled, which means I must have been rocked."-- Jones

"He had those sneaky elbows that kept coming in. I played the wrong game."-- Evans

"I was just like, 'Man, this guy is just so smooth. Look at him.' And the people were -- I thought I was winning that round, but he still got cheers. I was like, 'Don't cheer; I'm winning this round, you know, what are you doing?' He's just a smooth operator, man."-- Jones, talking about the moment in mid-fight when Evans turned away from him and started to strut

"I've still got to go home and probably cry a little bit. We've got some cool experiences that we shared together and that we'll probably have in the future. We'll see. We'll probably compete again one of these days, so we'll keep it on the level where we can say, 'What's up?' but at the same time be willing to beat the hell out of each other when we have to."-- Evans

"It felt completely different fighting him. As you could see tonight, I threw a lot of elbows. That's a thing you would never do to a training partner."-- Jones

"I feel great that I already have a mission. I'm going to work extremely hard to better myself. Dan Henderson is an awesome opponent. He's a winner, and he has a large fan base. I'm sure the haters are going to come out right away, which I'm OK with."-- Jones on Henderson, his next opponent

"I'm excited to finally be able to get back to work. I appreciate all the support of the fans."-- Henderson, via Twitter, on getting a shot at Jones

"He has extreme knockout power, and I'm excited to conquer it. My goal will be to finish Dan Henderson, with all due respect."-- Jones on Henderson, who has been finished once in the last seven years (by an Anderson Silva choke in 2008)

"Another test for @jonnybones and another test passed with flying colors. He looked great tonight congrats."-- Chuck Liddell (@ChuckLiddell)

"Those elbows are a game changer! #UFC145"-- Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon)

"I know I've had a rough run lately but I wouldn't trade any opf my fights for that performance. #ShowUpAndGetPaid"-- Dan Hardy (@danhardymma)

"Jones fought very well but Rashad had his opportunities to capitalize. Always eager watching from outside the cage tho. Two great fighters!"-- Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian)

If you read my Viewers' Guide to UFC 145 earlier in the week, you should be ashamed of yourself. No, not for reading the story -- I want you to do that -- but for allowing a dumb mistake to slip by without calling me on it like Rod from Toronto did.

The boo-boo was in my "Jon Jones by the numbers" section, where I wrote, "84½: Reach, in inches, which gives him a 9½-inch advantage over Evans."

Do you see the error of my ways? No? Well, I'll allow Rod to enlighten you (after tossing me a nice compliment):

"I always love your articles! I want to point out a tiny mistake that writers have been making since martial arts began. You stated that Jon Jones has an 84.5-inch reach, giving him a 9.5-inch reach advantage over Evans. He may have a 9.5-inch longer reach than Evans, but he will only enjoy a 4¾-inch reach advantage, because the measurements take into account both arms. Unless, of course, he has one arm that's actually 9.5 inches longer than Evans' arm!"

That seems to obvious that I'm embarrassed that I didn't notice it while I was spewing stats. In my defense, the "by the numbers" part was the last section of the Viewers' Guide that I had wrote, and all of the stats had my head spinning like I remember it spinning during the math SATs. And while I'm tossing out excuses: I was hungry, I had to go to the bathroom and my dog ate my homework.

No Mensa for me.

"The media wasn't giving much respect to my opponent, so you look bad when you lose."-- Rory MacDonald, who did not look the least bit bad in dominating and defeating Che Miller via second-round TKO on the undercard, battering and bloodying Che's face so badly that the poor guy, who heretofore has billed himself as "Beautiful," might need a new nickname

"I win that. I win that."-- Mark Hominick, talking ostensibly to one of his cornermen after his fight against Eddie Yagin, but really talking to himself, trying to convince himself. He might have convinced himself, but two of the three judges weren't swayed, handing Yagin a split-decision win

"I'm feeling great, I can finally eat some pizza, some ice cream. It's so gonna be a party tonight. Not with alcohol, with sweets."-- Michael McDonald being a 21-year-old after eating up former world champ Miguel Torres via vicious first-round knockout

"You can take a look at me, and it speaks for itself."-- Ben Rothwell -- that is, a trimmer, more physically in shape version of Ben Rothwell than any we've seen -- talking about his rededication to training led to his KO win over Brendan Schaub

"My kids go through so much with me being away for eight weeks. I have two little beautiful boys. It's so hard on them, not having their dad around."-- Travis Browne, dedicating his quick submission win over Chad Griggs to his children

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