We saw a lot of strange things at UFC 145 in Atlanta for the UFC’s first pay per view event after a long 6 week hiatus. We saw Mac Danzig gut his way through a visually injured ankle to a win over Effrain Escudero, we saw Eddie Yagin do sit ups while his opponent Mark Hominick did push ups after the final bell, and we even saw a machismo fueled tumbling exposition from Maximo Blanco and Marcus Brimage after a snoozer of a fight. Yes, you can never again question the heart of Mac Danzig, but unfortunately none of those things alone will get you on the three stars list. Lets get to this! The Better late then never edition:
Third Star: Big Ben Rothwell
Not only has Ben Rothwell been streaky since he came into the UFC, before Saturday he was 1-2, but he has also only fought one time a year since 2009 because of injuries. As soon as I saw Rothwell at the weigh-ins I regretted my Brendan Schaub pick. I haven’t seen Rothwell look that good physically since he was in the IFL. I thought Schaub would be way too athletic for him, and would push him into a situation where Rothwell would have to rely on his strength and conditioning. I was almost right. I really thought it was all down hill after Schaub landed a perfect spinning back elbow that left Rothwell backpedalling and wobbling. The always gritty Rothwell was able to get enough of his senses back in time to land a big shot on the chin of Schaub. When Rothwell followed him to the ground, he landed some of the biggest punches I’ve seen in a while from inside the guard. From now on that is what I will think about when I hear the term ground and pound, and the punishing blows earned him the win, the knockout of the night bonus, and the third star.
Second Star: Michael McDonald
The 15-1 McDonald, now 4-0 in the UFC, seems to be getting more and more exciting as he gets more and more experience. In his four UFC bouts he has a fight of the night bonus, and a knockout of the night bonus. Had Schaub not landed that spinning back elbow before Rothwell knocked him out, he would probably have the KO of the night bonus from 145 as well. Miguel Torres was 37-1 when he lost his WEC championship belt, and since he has been 3-4 (2-2 in the UFC.) I am not quite sure why Torres insists on doing a Jorge Gurgel impression, and completely disregarding his top shelf jiu-jitsu, as he has been finished 3 of the four times in his losses. Yes, one was a submission to Joseph Benavidez, but it came after he was hurt on the feet. All said and done, this hardly matters to our second star winner.
You could see from a mile away that Torres was looking straight down when McDonald was charging in with strikes, much like when Junior dos Santos handed Febricio Werdum his walking papers at UFC 90. It was a pro move for McDonald to pick up on that so early in the fight. Much like the Werdum knockout, Torres switched off like a computer, and was out before he hit the floor. The 21 year old McDonald has some growing to do in the sport, but this is a signature win that put him on the map. Perfect timing, a perfect upper cut, and a perfect game plan won him this fight as well as the second star. Congratulations to McDonald who has only been able to legally drink alcohol for 3 months.
Third Star: Jon Jones
With every fight Jon Jones silences another group of people. In his Last fight against Lyoto Machida, even though Shogun landed on him a few times, it was “Can Jon Jones take a punch?” In this fight it was “Can Jon Jones stop the takedown?” Everyone ate it up as well. A ton of late money came in on Rashad Evans that significantly moved the odds closer together, and the bookies made a fortune. Not only did Jones stop the takedown, he made Evan’s takedowns look almost silly.
There are only a few special fighters on the planet, and when I am asked how I can tell the difference or how I spot them, I always give the same answer. Special fighters make other really talented fighters look like mediocre fighters in the fight. We KNOW Shogun Rua is a great fighter, we KNOW Machida is a great fighter, and we KNOW Evans is too, but Jones made them look mediocre on fight night. This is what all the greats in MMA and boxing have done, and the most recent example of that is Anderson Silva. In my opinion, Jones has years ahead of him before he will ever eclipse the accomplishments of Silva, but its simple to argue that he is a prime candidate to do so.
There were a bunch of weird dynamics playing in this fight. The trash talking, the seemingly endless run up, the facts they trained together and once called each other brothers, and that Jackson was in Jones’s corner. For these reasons, we got our first glimpse of a tentative Jon Jones. These moments are just as important as the all out blitzkrieg approach he has shown in the past, because it shows he can ramp up his aggression and reel it back. His calmness and demeanor in the corner is also something that should be noted, it takes a certain person to calmly ask “What would you suggest coach?” in the middle of a championship fight.
Everyone thinks grudge matches are going to turn into all out bloody wars, but most of the time its the opposite. These guys talked so much before they got in the octagon, neither wanted to look foolish or eat crow if the other got his hand raised. In Jon’s corner, at the end of the 3rd and 4th round, it was obvious they were going to take this to a decision unless a finish revealed itself in the fight. It’s a game plan many were hoping against, but it was the one that worked and earned the 24 year old Jon Jones his 3 title defense. With all of the previously discussed quirks coming into play, one can hardly blame him or his training staff. That is why he earned the first star at UFC 145.
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