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UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones is one of the most feared and fearsome competitors in MMA history. The odds heavily favor him to beat former champ Rashad Evans at UFC 145 this Saturday in Atlanta, Georgia. As of this writing the online bookies are taking action on Jones at more than -500, meaning that you have to bet $500 to win $100 back. Ouch.
It's not just the odds either. Jones is 8 years younger, 5 inches taller. He's got a 9 inch reach advantage. Come fight time it's likely he'll have 20 pounds on Evans, who wouldn't be exceptionally big for a middleweight.
A look at Fight Metric's UFC 145 main event preview reinforces this perception of Jones' advantages. Jones lands an average of 3.82 strikes per minute of fight time to Evans' 2.13. Jones' 52% striking accuracy is considerably better than Evans 40% accuracy rate.
But perhaps there is a path to victory for Evans that significantly improves his chances to win. We'll see Luke Thomas' deeper look at Fight Metric's numbers after the jump.
SBN coverage of UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans
From MMA Fighting:
On balance, Jones has the advantages. That's especially true in striking and submissions. Yet it's hard to look at the accumulated data and conclude Evans is somehow doomed. Evans can be taken down, but he's only spent 4.4% of the time in his UFC career on bottom - not a ton of time to do significant damage. Jones is clearly better at submissions, but Evans has never been submitted. Jones has never been taken down, but Evans has taken down everyone he's fought. Jones has the statistical wind at his back, but Evans has a demonstrated ability to rise to the occasion. There's also the x-factor of how much their perceived intimate knowledge of each others game plays a role.
What we have with Evans vs. Jones is a perfectly good case where relying on quantitative information for predictive insight can be tricky. I suspect whoever prevails at UFC 145 will do so by re-writing today's numbers, not fulfilling historical patterns.
The real test for both will be to get take downs where others couldn't; to score from spaces where others couldn't; to control position and times held in those positions where others couldn't; in short, to make the other fight in ways they haven't.
Jones is the odds-on favorite. He should be. He's got more ways to win and is statistically impressive almost everywhere. But Evans offers challenges in professional competition Jones has not faced.
The stats reveal that the game will ultimately come down to Rashad Evans' ability to take down Jones and also prevent Jones' takedowns. More from Thomas:
Evans has taken down everyone he's every fought. According to FightMetric, "Evans' average of 4.32 takedowns per 15 minutes of fighting is the 2nd highest average in light heavyweight history. He's managed to takedown every single opponent that he has tried to get to the ground. His takedown accuracy is second only to Jon Jones, with a 53.3% success rate, 2nd best in division history."
But Jones is no slouch himself. FightMetric also notes Jones' "takedown accuracy of 63.6% is the very best in light heavyweight history. He's already scored 21 takedowns, 4th most in division history, and his 3.32 takedowns per 15 minutes average is the 4th highest in division."