Mixed martial arts, when compared as a sport to its contemporaries like football, basketball, and baseball; is just a kid. It was born from a combination of Vale Tudo shows conducted in Brazil from the early 1920’s, and Japanese professional wrestlers who wished to conduct shoot matches to prove their skills were real rather than compete in events with predetermined endings (which morphed into the SHOOTO organization). Of course this all culminated in The Ultimate Fighting Championship which was started by Art Davie, but is now run by Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta. Now what does this history lesson have to do with Jon Jones or Rashad Evans? Simple, whoever wins their much anticipated bout at UFC 145 should be considered the best light-heavyweight to compete in MMA thus far.
Now I know a few of you will be saying right away; “What about Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, or Mauricio Rua? What about Dan Henderson making a great run late in his career, added on to his PRIDE tenure”? Those are great questions to ask, and every one of those combatants deserves the moniker “All-time Great”. However, none obtained the amount of continued success over the quality of fighter faced by both Jones and Evans. The competition level in the UFC today is just flat out harder to go up against then what the aforementioned former champs faced. Over their careers, Jon and Rashad have beaten seven former UFC Champions, one former IFL champion, one former PRIDE champion, and three TUF winners.
Jon “Bones” Jones might already have the most impressive resume of any light-heavyweight in MMA. His summary of conquered foes reads like a UFC hall-of-fame induction roster: Quinton Jackson, Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida, Stephan Bonnar, and the list keeps on going. Ten of his fifteen career wins have come in the first or second round. His title capturing performance against Shogun, along with his two defenses against Rampage and Lyoto, were all decisively finished. He has succeeded in taking each one of the men he’s faced in the Octagon to the ground, and his striking continues to improve with each fight. Add on that his past two title defenses ended in submissions against Machida who had never cried uncle, and Jackson who only tapped out once against Kazushi Sakuraba (when he took the fight on just a few days notice); and you have maybe the most complete fighter in MMA.
“Sugar” Rashad Evans is a monster as well. Although he doesn’t contain Jones’ talent for finishing off his opponents (eight finishes is seventeen career wins), he still has beaten some of the top names in the last five years of fighting. Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell, Rampage, Tito Ortiz, Michael Bisping, and just recently Phil Davis were all defeated by the former Michigan State Spartan. The last two performances in particular saw Evans take leaps in the way he fought. Against Tito he pressured the bigger man all fight until the worn down Ortiz gave up when a nasty knee crushed his body in the second. In his title-eliminator with Phil Davis he barely took a back step all fight as he landed short precise punches while mixing in takedowns (with great grappling) to take a dominant decision victory. If Evans is able to become the first person to legitimately beat Jon Jones, then he is more than worthy of the “best 205lber of all-time” distinction.
That is a big if though. Jonny Jones has some who would call him the “baddest man on earth” (which is a term this writer would agree with). Evans will have to use his speed to keep Jones on his toes, and mix in wrestling whenever possible. However, the discussion about where the winner ranks in MMA history along with the inevitable non-stop trash talk from both sides makes the build up to this fight almost as exciting as the match itself.
If I may steal a line from Bart Scott for an ender: “Can’t wait”.