The Octagon returns to Atlanta with one big grudge match and a bunch of fights that don’t seem to exist.
Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans: I’m excited for this fight even though I expect it to be fairly one-sided. The build up has been very good and every time Jones fights it just feels like something special. While I think Evans may surprise some people with how well he does, I can’t imagine Jones losing this fight. For Rashad to win, he needs to get aggressive with his striking and be able to mix up his takedowns. That’s going to be pretty tough to do against a guy with the reach and wrestling of Jones. If Evans gets inside for too long, he runs the risk of getting put on his back from the clinch and having Jones on top of you is arguably the scariest place to be in the sport. The best thing Evans can do is to keep Jones guessing. He was able to rock Quinton Jackson almost immediately by faking a takedown and then coming over the top with a right hand. If Evans can keep Jones guessing, and actually have success, then it’s possible he could make things competitive. Jones is just on another level in the division though. He improves with every fight and takes calculated risks that usually pay off. He does a great job controlling the distance with his kicks, he’s extremely strong and active in the clinch, he makes guys pay on the ground, and he has outstanding chokes. If Jones wants to make a statement, he puts Evans away within the first couple of minutes, but I think Jones toys with Evans a bit and lets him know who the alpha dog in the division is. If he ever feels in trouble, he’ll fight to his strengths, but unless Evans can put him into some trouble, Jones will fight his fight and at his pace and put Evans away on his terms.
Prediction: Jones, TKO, Round 3
Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills: Beating Chris Cope gets you a co-main event slot against the fast rising prospect in the welterweight division. No knock on Mills, who is a talented fighter, but I think he’s in over his head in this fight. Mills is a solid striker with power and does nasty work in the clinch, but his wrestling and grappling isn’t on the level of MacDonald’s. If MacDonald hangs around too long on his feet, he runs the risk of getting caught, but I think he’ll put Mills on his back, use his dominant top game, and eventually submit Mills.
Prediction: MacDonald, Submission, Round 1
Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell: This is Schaub’s reward for fighting Rogerio Nogueira in Brazil. And I don’t say that sarcastically. Fighting Rothwell is a reward for any fighter who needs a victory to get on track. Rothwell is pretty much a punching bag at this point, although that might be a knock on punching bags, because at least they remain useful after 2 minutes. Schaub’s chin might be a bit questionable, but I suspect that he’ll be able to use his speed and technique in order to pick apart Rothwell and avoid his slow punches. If worse comes to worst, Schaub can just around for a couple of minutes and wait until Rothwell gets tired before taking him down and beating him up until Rothwell combusts from exhaustion.
Prediction: Schaub, TKO, Round 1
Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald: There was a time when Torres was considered one of the most exciting fighters in the entire sport. If you told that to UFC fans who never watched the WEC, they’d probably call you crazy for even suggesting such a thing. Nowadays Torres is a more reserved fighter who sits behind his jab and occasionally throws a right hand behind it. It’s not exciting, but so far it’s been effective. McDonald is a slick counter puncher with speed, but because of Torres’s new style, he’s not as open for counters as he once was. If McDonald was smart, he’d test the less than stellar wrestling of Torres, but guys seem afraid of Miguel’s active guard. Thus I believe we’re in for another dull jabfest from Torres. Maybe he’ll surprise us though.
Prediction: Torres, Decision
Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin: This feels like a designed win for Hominick. Yagin isn’t a terrible fighter, but this is a bad match up for him. Hominick is the better striker and should be able to pick Yagin apart with relative ease. The most interesting part about this fight will be whether or not Hominick has corrected his striking defense at all. It’s never been all that great, but he’s been able to survive despite it thanks to his great chin. Well his chin was cracked pretty good against Jose Aldo and even more against Chan Sung Jung. If he still thinks that he can get away with standing in the pocket and not getting his hands up or moving his head then he could find himself looking up at the lights again. Maybe not against Yagin, but in a future fight.
Prediction: Hominick, TKO, Round 2
Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio: It’s nice to see Alessio make it to the big stage after a solid run on the regional circuit. Unfortunately, taking a fight on short notice against a guy like Bocek is a rough start to your UFC career. Alessio might be the better striker, but Bocek is the better wrestler and definitely the better grappler. Lets not forget that Bocek out Lentz’d Lentz in his last bout and nearly submitted Jim Miller when they met up. If Bocek gets this fight to the ground, which I fully expect him to do, he can submit him, but at the very least he’ll control his way to a decision.
Prediction: Bocek, Decision