By Jaime C. Feal
One of the biggest stars in the UFC, Light Heavyweight champ and pound-for-pound great Jon “Bones” Jones, defends his title Saturday night from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland and live on PPV. Also on the card is the return of fan favorite Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, as he faces off against perennial top 10 light heavyweight Phil Davis. Finally, Luke Rockhold looks to stay in the win column after getting back on track in his second UFC fight. In his UFC debut, Rockhold suffered a loss to Vitor Belfort during the last months that TRT was still legal in the UFC. Rockhold has claimed Vitor leads a shady lifestyle, and has all but attributed his loss to Belfort using performance enhancing drugs. Saturday night will be a chance to validate the theory his loss to Belfort was a fluke, as Rockhold takes on the tough and experienced Tim Boetsch.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Luke Rockhold (11-2, 1-1 UFC) vs. Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch (17-6, 8-5 UFC)
Rockhold had a lot of hype when he came over from Strikeforce, but was derailed by a Vitor Belfort head kick and follow up strikes. His second fight in the UFC silenced some of the doubters, however, as he earned Knockout of the Night with a body kick KO over Costa Philippou in January. Now poised to take another leap up the middleweight rankings, Rockhold takes on the notoriously tough Tim Boetsch, a game and hungry fighter.
Boetsch is coming off a win himself, but dropped the previous two fights, and if he gets stopped emphatically by Rockhold, “The Barbarian” could be cut or one more loss away from being cut by the UFC. With his back to the wall, and his gritty style unquestioned, Boetsch is willing to take a lot of punishment to try to get to Rockhold. Unfortunately for Boetsch, he is too slow and plodding for a striker of Rockhold’s caliber. Should Rockhold choose to, he can dance circles around Boetsch while measuring his strikes. While Rockhold should land at a high frequency, Boetsch’s chin will likely keep him in the fight.
Prediction: Luke Rockhold wins by unanimous decision.
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis (12-1, 8-1 UFC) vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (16-4, 7-4 UFC)
This fight will really shake up the light heavyweight division. Anthony Johnson makes his long-awaited return to the UFC, fighting at a more natural weight of 205 instead of struggling, and often failing to make weight at 170 and 185 lbs. “Rumble” possess nasty KO power in both hands and feet, and if he can stop Phil Davis, he immediately vaults into the top 10 of the LHW rankings.
Phil Davis also has a lot to gain in this fight. While he has only 1 loss in the UFC (to veteran and former champ Rashad Evans) he does not have enough big name wins to warrant talk of a title shot. Should he stop or decisively beat Johnson, “Mr. Wonderful” will be considered a top 5 light heavyweight, only one big win away from a title shot.
This fight boils down to who can impose their will and style. Johnson wants to stand and trade with Davis, and while Davis has said he is willing to do the same, the smart game plan is for “Mr. Wonderful” to use his superior wrestling to take down and control Johnson. After an early scare in the 1st round on the feet, Davis will realize his best bet is to go full wrestling mode, which will bore the fans but earn him the win. In doing so, Davis remains status quo in the rankings, and the pressure on Johnson only increases.
Prediction: Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (205 lbs.):
Jon “Bones” Jones (19-1, 13-1 UFC) vs. Glover Teixeira (22-2, 5-0 UFC)
Realistically speaking, both these stalwarts are undefeated in the UFC and on massive win-streaks. Jones only “loss” was a highly controversial DQ for illegally elbowing Matt Hamill with a 12-6 elbow, a strike that finished the already battered and bruised Hamill. Teixeira hasn’t lost in over eight years, earning big wins over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Fabio Maldonado, and Ryan Bader. The fight is being hyped on Glover’s strength and punching power, but it is Jon Jones’ length and technique that will dominate the fight.
Vegas odds makers have put Teixeira as more than a 4:1 underdog, and for good reason: He is 4 inches shorter, and Jones has a reach advantage of at least half a foot over Teixeira. Factor in Jones’ superior speed and athleticism, and this is a huge mismatch on paper. Of course, most Jon Jones fights are big mismatches, but someone tall and rangy like Alexander Gustafsson is much more problematic for Jones than a short, stocky fighter like Glover Teixeira.
Teixeira literally has a puncher’s chance, and that’s it. Jones’ takedown defense is as good as it needs to be, as his opponents are constantly worried about his length and striking. What Jones did to Rashad Evans was masterful, using standing elbows like a boxer would use a jab, completely picking him apart and stuffing any takedowns. Teixeira does have a powerful submission game, but it is difficult to fathom him getting on top of Jones, unless he catches him with a huge power punch.
Jones will be looking for that power punch though, and as Glover doesn’t throw many, if any high leg kicks, Jones has so much less to worry about in this fight than Glover does. Jones can simply watch Teixeira load up on his right and left hooks and straight punches, waiting to counter-strike, move in and out of distance, and frustrate Teixeira. By the 3rd round, Glover will be desperately swinging for the fences, while Jones looks for a fight-ending combination.
Prediction: Jon “Bones” Jones wins by TKO, Round 3.