After a month-long gap since the last live UFC event besides the Ultimate Fighter reality show, the UFC on Fuel TV 2 event on Apr. 14 in Stockholm, Sweden, will be a nice appetizer to whet fight fans' appetites before the big showdown between Rashad Evans and Jon Jones at UFC 145 on Apr. 21.
Here's some picks and predictions for the main card of UFC 145:
Jon Jones (15-1) vs Rashad Evans (22-1-1)
This light heavyweight scrap features current champion Jon Jones, an elite striker whose only career loss was a disqualification due to illegal downward elbows in at 2009 bout against Matt Hamill, against former champ Rashad Evans, a top-level striker in his own right.
"This is a hard fight for Jon Jones because Rashad knows him," Jones' coach, Greg Jackson, said in a UFC.com interview. "He's trained with him and anytime you know somebody's strengths and weaknesses, it's always a dangerous situation."
While Evans may already be quite familiar with Jones' signature style, I believe the difference in this fight will be the champ's significant reach advantage. Evans, at 5-foot-11, comes into the match with a reach of approximately 10 inches less than the 6-foot-4 Jones. In the past, we've seen Evans take out bigger men like the 6-foot-7 Brad Imes, but no one with close to the talent level and speed of Jones.
The Pick: Jones by unanimous decision
Rory MacDonald (12-1) vs Che Mills (14-4, 1 NC)
No one is giving Mills much of a chance against MacDonald, a legitimate top ten welterweight contender. Mills is riding a five-fight win streak, including a victory in his UFC debut in Nov. of 2011 against Chris Cope, but he's never faced a top-level contender like MacDonald. Fans are touting this bout as a look into the future of the sport, but I'm not convinced that Mills is a big-time prospect just yet.
The UFC is letting the 22-year-old MacDonald develop slowly, and a win here would probably earn him a shot against a top five contender like Josh Koscheck or Diego Sanchez.
The Pick: MacDonald by armbar in the second-round
Brendan Schaub (9-2) vs Ben Rothwell (31-8)
These are two heavyweights looking to get off the schneid, as both men are coming off hard-fought losses. Historically, Schaub struggles against top-level competition, as his UFC career is checkered with defeats at the hands of Roy Nelson and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Rothwell has two losses in his last three, including a knockout defeat to Cain Velasquez and a unanimous decision loss to Mark Hunt. While Rothwell is a grizzled veteran, a decisive loss to Schaub may put him close to the UFC chopping block.
There's no real reach advantage with both men standing close to 6-foot-4, but the much beefier Rothwell has the upper hand when it comes to takedowns. He's not going to want to stand and trade blows with Schaub, and I see this one going to the mat in the early-going. If Rothwell can avoid a standup-style brawl, I think he has the tools to earn a submission with a ground-and-pound style attack.
The Pick: Rothwell by third-round submission (elbows)
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan and supporter of the sport of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
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