Jon Jones vs Rashad Evans
Probably the most anticipated fight of the year thusfar, at least in terms of the real bad blood factor. Rashad Evans and Jon Jones were teammates at Jacksons MMA once upon a time, and were both steadfast in refusing to ever fight one another. One day someone got into Jon's ear and convinced him to say otherwise. This caused a huge rift between Rashad and Jon, as well as between Rashad and Greg Jackson, which collectively led to Evans leaving Jacksons MMA and make the move to a subdivision of Imperial that has since been called "the Blackzillians". The rest has been a fued that we haven't seen often in this sport. 2011 was a banner year for Jones, who easily had the single best year of any mixed martial artist to date. Dominating Ryan Bader, then taking the light heavyweight title from Shogun six weeks later, and then defending it with ease against both Rampage and Lyoto Machida. All of them were finished, only one of them was able to steal a round. Rashad earned his shot after losing his place due to extended time out from injury by pummeling Tito Ortiz in August, as well as soundly beating Phil Davis with 50-45 scores across the board.
On paper this is about as even a fight as we can hope for where Jones is concerned. Rashad is the only top light heavyweight who has trained with Jones extensively in the past. That is a double edged sword to be sure but Rashad's skillset could give him a chance. Wrestling overall is an advantage for Jones but Rashad is no slouch at all, if he can hold Rashad down for extended periods of time I'll be surprised. Overall grappling is an advantage for Jones with his deadly ground and pound and tight chokes. Striking is where things get interesting. Overall striking technique I'm giving to Jones due to his vast array of attacks. Overall striking power I'm giving to Rashad, who has historically been more effective in one punching opponents. While most of these are in favor of Jones there is no accounting for what appears to be a big brother effect here. Jones always looks a bit shaky when dealing with Rashad directly. However despite all that I think the tools Jon has collectively will be too much in the end. He'll get into his groove after a round or so and then it's all downhill for Rashad. It's only a matter of time before Jones locks on one of those chokes he likes so much and finishes big brother.
Prediction: Jon Jones by SubmissionRory MacDonald vs Che Mills
Two up and coming welterweights will square off to decide who the best prospect is currently. Rory Macdonald has manhandled most of his opponents with a mix of athleticism, wrestling, and the ability to take the best of what his opponents can dish out. Che Mills had a bit of a rocky start on his way into the UFC in losing to James Wilkes on the Ultimate Fighter. Since being brought into the fold though he's made quite an impact earning himself knockout of the night honors over Chris Cope in just forty seconds. Rory in the meantime has been busy throwing Nate Diaz around like a ragdoll and savagely knocking Mike Pyle out. Standing this fight should be hotly contested. Overall technique I'm giving to Rory because of his fluid use of kicks and punches together. Striking power I'll give to Mills since he's put more into it as his tools are limited. Wrestling, overall grappling, and submissions are all area's of advantage for Rory here, who has yet to fail in using his wrestling to overpower his opponents. I see this one playing out like alot of Rory's fights do. He'll do his thing and probably get a submission since Mills' ground game leaves a little something to be desired.
Prediction: Rory MacDonald by SubmissionBrendan Schaub vs Ben Rothwell
If there were ever two heavyweights who's stock had dropped so far so fast it would have to be these two. Schaub is coming off his knockout loss to Minotauro Nogueira in a fight he should have won easily. Ben Rothwell looked about as unimpressive as one can against Mark Hunt in three rounds. As usual Schaub should be the faster fighter as well as the better striker with power being a bit of a wash as this is the heavyweight division. On the ground Rothwell should be the better grappler but the margin will likely be slim, and his shot of getting it there is narrow. Rothwells takedowns have been less than stellar and short of knocking Schaub to the ground with strikes and pouncing on him he's going to have to get inside on that jab and footwork to do it. However stranger things have happened. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Schaub actually does his job against someone he should have no trouble waxing.
Prediction: Brendan Schaub by (T)KOMiguel Torres vs Michael McDonald
This is one of those fights where you just get the feeling the UFC brass is trying to get a name on an up and comer's resume. However the fact of the matter is that Miguel Torres isn't past his prime as is usually the case in these situations. This should be a very competitive fight regardless. Mcdonald has some tools in his belt and it goes without saying that Torres is game for pretty much anyone in the world at 135 lbs. Striking is split into overall technique and power. Overall technique is a plus for Torres while McDonald has some real knockout power in his hands. Unfortunately for McDonald Torres will have the better wrestling and better overall grappling as well. I can see this fight taking place mostly on the feet, with the occasional clinch and or takedown attempt. Torres should have the footwork and reach to frustrate Michael. Miguel has a notoriously stiff jab and loves to throw it, this will be no different. So long as Miguel can keep his mullet away from McDonald's hands I see now reason he doesn't take a decision here.
Prediction: Miguel Torres by Decision