PHILADELPHIA – Jon Jones, the UFC's brightest star, wasn't particularly impressed by the performance of his former friend Rashad Evans on Saturday in a second-round technical knockout win over Tito Ortiz in the main event of UFC 133 at the Wells Fargo Center.
In answer to a fan's question about his impression of Evans, Jones tweeted, "Same old stuff."
If it was the same old stuff from Evans, though, Jones is one of the few who felt that way. Evans was quick, fast and aggressive in dismantling Ortiz, stopping him with a perfectly placed knee to the solar plexus. Referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in to halt the bout at 4:48 of the second as Evans was raining punches down on Ortiz, who was frozen by the knee and couldn't get off the canvas.
"If it was the same old stuff, it's exactly why he didn't want to fight me the first time," Evans said. "Jon knows what happened when we trained. He knows if I'm focused, and I'm strong and I'm healthy, he knows he's got a fight on his hands. Jon's a tough guy. Jon's a champion. But I know what Jon's weak at. He knows what I'm weak at. We'll see who covers up first."
Evans showed few weaknesses on Saturday against Ortiz, who was an unlikely challenger in the main event. Ortiz was 0-4-1 in his previous five fights before he met Ryan Bader on July 2 in Las Vegas at UFC 132, where he was fighting to keep his job. He saved his job by choking out Bader, then saved the show at UFC 133 by accepting the fight against Evans when Phil Davis had to pull out with a knee injury.
He wasn't much of a match for Evans, though, who was faster and quicker than he had been when he last fought in the UFC 14 months ago while at the same time also appearing stronger.
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Ortiz repeatedly said "Rashad was the better man tonight," at the post-fight news conference and UFC president Dana White said he was blown away by how good Evans looked. He awarded each men a $70,000 bonus for putting on the Fight of the Night.
"What Jon Jones said about seeing the same old stuff from Rashad, I got to tell you, I don't know about the rest of you, but I didn't see the same old stuff tonight," White said. "I was very impressed with his performance, going to the head, the body. You very rarely see guys going to the body in MMA. He looked fantastic tonight."
Evans looked better because Ortiz actually looked good, as well. He caught Evans in a guillotine choke early in the second round and, for an instant at least, it seemed as if he'd duplicate his effort last month when he choked out Bader.
"I thought it was close for about a tenth of a second," Ortiz said.
But Evans had practiced defending the move with jiu-jitsu master Renzo Gracie, who advised him to put his head down and move his shoulder into Ortiz. Evans managed the escape perfectly, putting his head on the mat, burying his shoulder into Ortiz and then pushing his knee out of the way.
It wasn't long after that until Evans planted his knee in the middle of Ortiz's chest and began the fight-ending sequence.
And that sets the stage for a dramatic main event at UFC 135, when Jones will defend his belt against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Evans will get the winner and is eager for it to be his one-time friend turned into bitter enemy.
Evans had invited Jones into his camp at Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque, N.M., several years ago and the pair became fast friends, as well as training partners. Jones frequently referred to Evans as his mentor.
But when Evans was injured about six weeks before he was to take on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title on March 29 in Newark, N.J., at UFC 129, the UFC gave the bout to Jones.
Jones took the bout, won the title and bad blood ensued between them.
Evans is widely disliked by mixed martial arts fans for what is perceived to be his cocky attitude, but he said he's nothing compared to Jones. He said he hopes Jones beats Jackson, so he has the chance to teach Jones a bit of humility.
"I would prefer to get it from Jones, because I would love to be the first one to beat him, to really beat him," Evans said. "He's so cocky. You think I'm cocky? He's for-real cocky. I'm on the camera, joking around cocky. He's like going-to-sleep, praising himself-type cocky. That's how cocky he is.
"I would love to teach him a lesson. If he makes it past ‘Rampage,’ then I'll get a chance to do that. Like I said, he has a tough fight ahead of him. If ‘Rampage’ does the work, then he could actually do something."
It was Evans who was able to do something – something big – on Saturday. And while nearly everyone in MMA agrees that Jones is almost a supernatural talent, few agreed with his assessment of his old buddy's performance on Saturday.
It was hardly the same old stuff. Ortiz and Evans fought to a draw at UFC 73 in 2007, a bout Ortiz would have won had referee John McCarthy not docked him a point for grabbing the cage. But Ortiz knew early that this was a different fighter he would be facing.
"At the weigh-ins, I looked over and I said, 'Holy [expletive], he has abdominal muscles,' " Ortiz said. "He looked in great shape. I knew he was in really great shape. You take 14 months and put them into two camps and you get a chance to use your skills and sharpen up those tools over and over again, he looked awesome."
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- Rashad Evans
- Jon Jones
- Tito Ortiz