'Bones' shows he's The Man, plus more thoughts on UFC 145
Jon Jones showed his versatility in dominating Rashad Evans at UFC 145
For the fourth time in 13 months, Jones defeated a former UFC champion
His next oppnent is Dan Henderson, who will be challenged by Jones' speed
The fight ended with Jon Jones on his back.
That's how dominant he was.
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."