The UFC returns to our screens on Saturday night with UFC 145 from Atlanta, Georgia. This Saturday night sees the culmination of over a years’ build-up to one of the most eagerly awaited grudge matches in recent MMA history.
“Suga” Rashad Evans attempts to reclaim the Light Heavyweight title from his former team-mate Jon “Bones” Jones. Elsewhere on the card we have some intriguing bouts between welterweights Rory “The Waterboy” MacDonald and Che Mills; as well as two former TUF show winners facing off in Mac Danzig and Efrain Escudero. There is also the returns of notables Mark Hominick (who is trying to get back on the road to title contention following a devastating knock out loss in his most recent fight) and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson to the Octagon.
Here is the full card for this weekend‘s event:
Main card (ESPN)
- Light Heavyweight Championship bout: Jon Jones (c) vs. Rashad Evans
- Welterweight bout: Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills
- Heavyweight bout: Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell
- Bantamweight bout: Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald
- Featherweight bout: Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin
- Lightweight bout: Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio
Preliminary card (UFC.TV)
- Heavyweight bout: Travis Browne vs. Chad Griggs
- Welterweight bout: Matt Brown vs. Stephen Thompson
- Lightweight bout: John Makdessi vs. Anthony Njokuani
- Lightweight bout: Mac Danzig vs. Efrain Escudero
Preliminary card (Facebook)
- Welterweight bout: Keith Wisniewski vs. Chris Clements
- Featherweight bout: Marcus Brimage vs. Maximo Blanco
We’re going to go through a few of these fights and try pick out some worthwhile betting plays.
I’m going to ignore the back history in this one. If you’re unfamiliar with it please check out our earlier piece here.
Both men are at the height of their talents. We’ll start with the challenger. Rashad Evans is a power-house wrestler who’s developed some devastating striking skills since he won the second season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show at heavyweight. Evans at the time and in his early UFC career relied heavily on his wrestling skills to grind out decision victories.
Following two split decision victories and one majority decision in his favour; Evans started to show a distinct improvement in his striking skills. Notably in his fights against Jason Lambert and with a highlight reel head kick KO of Sean Salmon. Neither men were seen as top-tier opponents but a change in Rashad’s style had been noticeable. Following a disappointing draw against Tito Ortiz (Evans would have lost the fight if not for a point being deducted for fence grabbing by Ortiz); Evans went on a three fight winning streak that would see him claim the Light Heavyweight title (including KO/TKO victories over Chuck Liddell and then champion Forrest Griffin). A cockiness was apparent in his style including an infamous crotch grab during the fight with Griffin. His attitude may have been a factor in his loss to Lyoto Machida when he was outstruck and knocked out for the first time in his career.
Evans returned to a more wrestling based style in his next two fights (against Rampage Jackson and Thiago Silva) to go on to claim unaminous decision victories. He did have scares in the 3rd rounds of both fights when clipped by both opponents. Following an injury to Phil Davis; a rematch with Tito Ortiz became Evans’ next fight. Evans dominated the former champion on his way to a TKO victory. His most recent fight was a dominant performance over top prospect Phil Davis.
One thing that strikes you with Rashad is that he does not seem to have any submission game so to speak of. He’s a dominant wrestler but doesn’t appear to be comfortable doing anything other than holding an opponent down and trying to earn a stoppage by strikes. His opponent on the other hand is a whole different story.
Jon Jones is a phenom. At 24 years old he is a scary prospect for anyone standing across the cage from him. Bear in mind that his only career defeat is a contentious disqualification to Matt Hamill (for 12-6 elbows to a downed opponent). The only two fights of Jones’ career to go to decision were his first two fights in the UFC.
Despite not illustrating knock out power (as Evans has), Jones has displayed a dazzling array of skills in his recent fights. Whether it was the dismantling of Matyushenko and Vera with his wrestling and devastating elbows on the ground or his out-wrestling of Ryan Bader on his way to a submission victory. Jones has shown himself both as unorthodox in the striking department as elusive middleweight champ Anderson Silva and equally adepth at remaining calm in huge fights.
Witness his performance against Shogun Rua to claim the championship. Jones was metronomic in his destruction of the champ in the clinch with knees and elbows. The same can be said of his title defences thus far. His submission victories over Rampage (who had never lost by submission previously) and Machida have shown his versatility and willingness to wait for an opportunity to close out a victory.
This fight has a hell of a lot going for it and could be an interesting spectacle for all the right reasons come Saturday night.
Recommendation: Jones for me to take the win @2/9. I believe a value bet may be him to be victorious by submission @13/5.
A lot of people see Rory MacDonald as the Jon Jones of the welterweight division. MacDonald is one of the first guys to come into the UFC having trained disciplines specifically for MMA as opposed to being a specialist in one area and converting to MMA like most others did in the sport.
MacDonald is a supreme talent and had it not been for a late surge from Carlos Condit (Condit being victorious with seconds to spare in the fight via TKO) he would still be undefeated in his career. MacDonald has come out of each of his fights with glowing reviews from onlookers and appears to be improving at a staggering rate. His wrestling and ground striking are excellent and he has nulled a lot of seasoned performers jiu jitsu skills including Nate Diaz’s. His performance against Mike Pyle in his most recent fight showed more of the same.
Che Mills is most definitely the underdog according to the bookies and most pundits. Mills (a former Cage Rage champion) made his debut against Chris Cope and boy did he not disappoint the partisan British crowd that night. Mills won via KO in what can only simply described as a perfect performance.
Mills is primarily a stand up fighter and will hope to avoid being taken to the ground. If this stays on the feet I would actually favour Mills.
Recommendation: Rory MacDonald @1/5. I would also say a play on a Mills KO victory may be worth a look as a long shot @7/1.
Recommendation: Thompson @3/10. I’d love to say risk the KO here but Brown is extremely durable and has never had a KO or TKO stoppage in his career against him. We’re yet to see Thompson’s ground game so I’d be happy to take the victory.
Recommendation: Njokuani for me @4/9. Both men are strikers who’s weakness is the ground game. If you’re a Jiu Jitsu fan you’re not going to see much in this fight. It’s going to be flat out striking. Personally I’d suggest getting a bet on this for FOTN @6/1.
Recommendation: I believe a risk on Escudero may be worthwhile with this fight. I don’t believe Danzig is as heavy a favourite for this as made out. Escudero @ 6/4 is a nice price for a single.
Recommendation: Bocek to return to form and beat a late replacement in Alessio. Odds on Bocek are 2/7. Keep an eye out for him to win submission of the night. He’s got an amazing ground game and his odds for submission @7/5 are worth thinking about.
I wish there was some better value out there but this is a card filled mostly of heavy favourites and in my opinion they are rightfully priced as such. If you haven’t had a chance to catch up with things I’d strongly suggest catching the Countdown show can view it here.
The traditional UFC Fight-Club pre weigh-in Q&A will take place with the always entertaining Chael Sonnen at around 7pm via the UFC’s U-Stream page. You’ll be able to catch the weigh-ins there also at around 9pm GMT.