The MMA fans of Atlanta, Georgia were treated to a top-flight night of UFC action capped off by the third defense of “Bones” Jon Jones’ (16-1) UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in which he ended his rivalry against “Suga” Rashad Evans (17-2-1). Both “Ares” Rory MacDonald (13-1) and “Mayday” Michael McDonald (15-1) proved that they deserve the respect they have been given by defeating “Beautiful” Che Mills (14-5) and “Angel” Miguel Torres (40-5), respectively. “Big Ben” Ben Rothwell (32-8) and “The Filipino Phenom” Eddie Yagin (16-5) each saved their UFC careers from an almost certain end with their victories over “The Hybrid” Brendan Schaub (8-3) and “The Machine” Mark Hominick (20-11). Canadian submission master Mark Bocek (11-4) continued his rebuild against “The Natural” John Alessio (34-15) to open the evening. The UFC had a $2.3 million gate and clearly came out a winner with the Georgia fans, but to find out which fighters came out ahead, we have The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Jon Jones: Every opponent Jones defeated since his championship win has been brushed aside with an excuse referencing his opponent’s age, health, or deservingness of a title shot and these excuses were always followed with the assertion that it wasn’t “his title shot” but Rashad’s, and he just got lucky that Rashad was injured. Last night, Jones finally ended that gripe from his detractors by dominating Rashad Evans for five straight rounds. For 25 minutes, Jon Jones out-worked, out-struck, and out-fought Rashad Evans. Now his career can progress past the man who he replaced in his title bid and with a fighter like “Hendo” Dan Henderson (29-8) next up, it is important that those distractions are behind him.
Rory MacDonald: Rory MacDonald has charged through the UFC welterweight ranks win a ton of hype behind him. When the only man to defeat him, “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (28-5), captured UFC gold, it set up talks of a rematch. Now, following a three-fight win streak capped by a complete destruction of a very dangerous international talent in Che Mills, MacDonald has firmly installed his name near the top of the title contenders list. Another solid victory from MacDonald and a shot at the title seems set in stone, especially if Condit manages another clean win with time to defend a second time prior to the unification bout against “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2).
Ben Rothwell: Rothwell entered the Octagon Saturday night on the heels of a very unimpressive 1-2 UFC run and was certainly headed for the chopping block if he failed to defeat Brendan Schaub. The former IFL contender clearly took the threat of expulsion from the UFC seriously as he came into the cage looking like a completely different fighter. “Big Ben” was leaner, more muscular, and more athletic than ever before and went toe-to-toe with one of the best athletes in the division…and won. “The Hybrid” came on a little too strong following a solid right only to be blasted into unconsciousness by Rothwell whose first impressive performance since joining the UFC saved his career and earned him a “Knockout of the Night” bonus.
Michael McDonald: If Rory MacDonald was the super-hyped young stud looking to cement his place among the elite at UFC 145, Michael McDonald was the underestimated blue chipper needing to make himself known to the MMA world at large with a win over a top-level opponent. He was universally listed as the underdog when he was paired against the highly experienced former WEC champion Miguel Torres. Many felt he was a promising young fighter being sacrificed on the altar of rebuilding a former champion. Unfortunately for Torres, it didn’t go down like that. McDonald was in control from the opening bell, completely dominating the stand-up exchanges until a well-placed uppercut blasted the former champion from consciousness, announcing McDonald’s presence to the division in no uncertain terms.
Eddie Yagin: The term ‘tomato can’ was thrown about fairly liberally by pundits when Eddie Yagin was paired with former featherweight title contender Mark Hominick. “The Filipino Phenom” had an extremely unimpressive record that included losses to every UFC veteran he had ever faced and, as a one-punch brawler, was considered to be far outclassed by Hominick in every way. This wasn’t untrue. Hominick controlled the pace and distance, landed a much greater volume of strikes, and was overall the superior fighter. Yagin, however, stole the fight on two cards by doing the lion’s share of the damage in rounds one and two with big overhand rights and subsequent ground-and-pound, earning himself a Split Decision over one of the best featherweights in the UFC as well as a “Fight of the Night” bonus.
Mark Bocek: Mark Bocek continued the rebuilding phase of his UFC career with a lopsided decision win over John Alessio at UFC 145. Though somewhat wary on the feet, once Bocek was able to take the action to the mat, he was in complete and total control. Alessio simply has no answer for the elite level Jiu-Jitsu of the Toronto native and for his part, Bocek made sure that every round ended up being a ground battle. It’s a long climb up the lightweight ladder, but with three wins in a row, Bocek is back on track.
Rashad Evans: Evans went in with a game plan that failed and was unable to adjust against Jon Jones. The former champ pushed Jones harder than any previous opponent, but he was unable to capitalize on any of the brief moments where he was able to gain control early and by the midpoint of the bout, Rashad was totally out of the fight. A combination of range, tactics, and speed ensured that Rashad would not find victory on the feet and by the time he tried to utilize his high-level wrestling, he was too battered and worn down to do so effectively. A punishing loss for the former champ to be sure, but it does leave him open to set up several intriguing match-ups against Jones’ other victims.
Che Mills: Mills is a top-level competitor on the international stage. Unfortunately for him, the only performances the UFC or the vast majority of its fans care about are those that happen with the Octagon itself or, to a lesser extent, those that happen in Strikeforce. Mills was off to a good start when he obliterated “C-Murder” Chris Cope (6-3) at UFC 138, but now has suffered an equally one-sided thrashing at the hands of welterweight wonder kid Rory MacDonald. He hasn’t been irreparably damaged by the loss, but he will need several high profile wins to make up for the beating he took from “Ares”.
Brendan Schaub: Schaub has talent; there is no doubt of that. Unfortunately he hasn’t had time in his career to develop those talents to the point they need to be to compete on the higher levels of the UFC. The brutal back-to-back first-round knockouts Schaub has suffered in his past two fights have all but solidified his role as the UFC axe man: the last fighter heavyweights fight before being drummed out of the organization barring a stand-out performance. Luckily for “The Hybrid”, he is only 29 and still has several years to reinvent himself as a contender.
Miguel Torres: The old phrase “how the mighty have fallen” comes to mind when one thinks of Miguel Torres. Just three years ago, he was the WEC Bantamweight Champion with one loss in 38 bouts, riding a 17-fight win streak. Since then, it seems his long career has caught up with him as he recently has gone 3-4 and been finished three times. Though relatively young at only 31-years-old, Miguel’s 12-year, 45-fight career seems to have finally caught up with him. It may be time for Torres to focus more on training the young bloods coming up in his gym, and less on continuing a career at the UFC level.
Mark Hominick: Hominick’s first loss on his current skid was to the champion, “Junior” Jose Aldo (21-1), in a fight that many consider Aldo’s toughest test to date. The second was a seven-second knockout loss that was written off as just one of those fluke KO’s that happen in a world where powerful strikers wear 4oz. gloves. Now at the third loss in the streak, the former title contender cannot be excused. His opponent was in every way far outmatched by him on both paper and film, a fact supported by Hominick’s clearly superior striking throughout the match. However, “The Machine” got caught on the chin in both the first and second rounds, leaving no doubt that he needed a finish in the third to achieve victory. He had Yagin on the ropes but never even attempted to capitalize and finish the fight in the final frame, costing him a Split Decision loss that may well ensure he doesn’t get a second glimpse at UFC gold.
John Alessio: Four times Alessio has been given a chance to compete on the world’s greatest stage for MMA fighters and four times he has failed. “The Natural” has suffered one-sided beatings in every one of his attempts to start a career in the UFC both at welterweight and now at lightweight. He has improved over the course of his long and storied career, but has proven time and time again that he can’t win in the Octagon. In all his previous failures, he could at least be given the benefit of the doubt as he faced champions and future title contenders who were in the midst of their heydays. This time, he lost to a fighter who was 2-2 in his last four and was struggling to rebuild his career.
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