A few months ago during the lead up to that mammoth Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem bout, I asked the several key figures in Asian MMA to make UFC predictions. Several CEO's, owners and promoters from the largest organizations in the continent made time off their busy schedules, to roll up their sleeves and participate in a simple feature where they get to give their picks on the sport that they love.
Now with UFC 145 approaching, I asked the most popular fighters in the region to do the same and give their predictions for the main event. They may be some of the biggest stars in the region, but they are also big fans of the sport, so here are their thoughts on the light heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans:
Felipe Enomoto (6-4), ONE Fighting Championship: My pick would be Jon Jones, because this guy is getting better every time he fights, and his style will be too funky for Rashad. I think even though Rashad probably knows Jones' weaknesses, he will not be able to capitalize on them because Jon is developing his fighting skills so fast. The weakness that Rashad knows of will probably not even be there anymore when they meet in the cage. I would say TKO, round 3 in favor of Jones (but I'm almost never right with predicting other peoples fights)
Mark Striegl (9-0), DARE Championship: I know everybody thinks Jones is unstoppable, but I believe that anyone can be beaten in this game. I think that Evans has the athleticism to really test Jones and make him work. Also, Evans tends to do exceptionally well when he's pressured and has his back against the wall, like when he went against Chuck Liddell. I see Rashad Evans winning via Unanimous Decision or by a late stoppage.
Eduard Folayang (11-2), ONE FC Star and URCC Champion: I think Jon Jones will win the fight because he is a complete fighter with a high level of skills.
Adrian Pang (19-8), Former Legend FC Lightweight Champion: I have never been one for predictions as in the fight game, anyone can win on any given night! Jones has his youth & unorthodox skills, while Evans has his strong wrestling & new fight camp, so will be interesting to see the outcome. I guess will depend on Rashad's chin whether he can keep taking it to Jones consistently! My prediction is, the fans will win! (laughs)
Phil Baroni (14-14) UFC and PRIDE vet, SFL Commentator who last fought for ONE FC: I think the Jones vs. Evans fight is going to be super tough to call. Is Jones really as good as he has looked? Evans will be a huge test. He looked great against Tito. It's the best I've seen him look, and was loose and relaxed like a real seasoned pro. I was very impressed the way he out-wrestled and blew through Davis on takedowns in his last fight.
I think this is by far Evans' toughest test. Evans is strong, hits hard and can wrestle his ass off. Can Jones with his unique unorthodox high amplitude striking stop Evans' solid boxing? Can Jones' surprising and aggressive submission game catch Evans in between transitions the way he did Machida? I say no, and I'm going with the upset. Evans by TKO late in the fourth, by out-working Jones, making him wrestle and work hard. Jones has just made it look to easy and maybe I'm just jealous? Big right hand hurts a spent Jones late in the 4th, Evans G and P's for the TKO win, with Jones complaining the stoppage was early. Rashad Evans by TKO.
Justin Cruz (18-4), PXC and URCC Bantamweight Champion: Jon Jones has better all around game. He's very big for his weight class and he's a very athletic fighter. I predict Jon Jones will be the winner by 3rd round TKO.
Will Chope (9-5), of Phuket Top Team / Team Buffet, last fought at DARE Championship: Jon Jones, hands down, is going to win this fight. He is going to tear Rashad up. Rashad won't be able to get a take down and I honestly can see a TKO victory in the 1st Round. Hope to see bones land some nasty elbows. Jon Jones by TKO.
Tristan Arenal (4-2), PXC contender: I think Jon Jones will win. He's just too strong. Rashad Evans has a chance only because they used to train together. He might have an idea of Jon Jones' kryptonite, but Jon Jones has proved he's just at another level. Jon Jones by 3rd round TKO.
Geje Eustaquio (3-1), ONE Fighting Championship: I think Jon Jones will win by TKO.
Much more after the jump.
Pros who picked Evans: 2 - Striegl, Baroni
Pros who picked Jones: 6 - Enomoto, Folayang, Cruz, Chope, Arenal, Eustaquio
Pros who couldn't decide: 1 - Pang
These fighters also make the case on why you should watch more Asian MMA.
Why should UFC fans watch Asian MMA?
Felipe Enomoto (6-4), ONE Fighting Championship: Why? Because Asian MMA is exciting. Especially ONE FC because the rules of soccer kicks, elbows and knees on the ground makes fights you will not see, if you only watch UFC. So be open-minded ,otherwise you miss out on some great action from Asia!
Mark Striegl (9-0), DARE Championship: Asia is a very exciting place to be right now with a booming economic growth alongside an explosion of interest in MMA. As a result, a number of Asian MMA promotions have emerged over the last few years. Simply put, there's a lot going on here right now. Being the birthplace of martial arts, Asia has provided the foundation for modern MMA. There's so much history here and there's much more history to be made!
...Also, people should check out Team Buffet because we have a lot of fun.
Eduard Folayang (11-1), ONE FC Star and URCC Champion: UFC fans should watch Asian MMA and the fights from Team Lakay because Asian fighters have a unique way of putting a good show in the ring.
Adrian Pang (19-8), Former Legend FC Lightweight Champion: Asian MMA is ever exploding in popularity and talent. Asia has such a large population & a long history of martial arts, so it is inevitable that it will produce a champion in the UFC as it has in many other organizations thus far. Legend Fighting Championship is a promotion where each of my opponents have been harder than the last. They really give to the sport and care for the fighters. The professionalism shown by them is second to none, and I have fought for many promotions in my 11-year career. I feel Legend Fighting Championship will continue to be the pinnacle of Asian MMA, and I look forward to being part of their success with the fights/wars I have performed for them so far.
Phil Baroni (14-14) UFC and PRIDE vet, SFL Commentator who last fought for ONE FC: I think fans should watch Asian MMA because the fights are exciting. Guys are fighting to finish more often than not. Guys aren't scared to lose their jobs as much as they are in the UFC. Fighters are going for it more. The tactics and styles aren't as much wrestling and decision seeking as often as they are in the American MMA. Fighters seem to be letting it all hang out and not fighting not to lose more in Asian MMA.
Justin Cruz (18-4), PXC and URCC Bantamweight Champion: UFC fans should watch PXC so they can have a feel of what kind of MMA talent there is in the pacific region. Also to see new up and coming talent who may possibly reach the UFC level of MMA, since the PXC is one of the only MMA show in Asia producing UFC caliber fighters.
Will Chope (9-5), of Phuket Top Team / Team Buffet, last fought at DARE Championship: UFC fans should definitely take interest in Asian MMA! Asian MMA is always exciting, where there is a perfect balance of spectacle and sport. You will always see a show. Road FC and ONE FC both have soccer kicks and knees to the head allowed, and as a striker I love it. Another org to look out for is the URCC with their two 10 minute rounds! How awesome is that? Very rare in URCC you ever see a decision. There are countless other awesome orgs to take interest in as well. Dare's 1 Million Dollars Tournament, Gods FC first league where 8 teams from 8 Major Asian Cities fight for the rights to claim their team is supreme, and also Legend FC where the best ethnic Asiana-Oceania fighters shine.
At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, are you a fan of MMA or are you just a fan of solely the UFC. If you are the first then you need to check out the vastness of Asian MMA.
Tristan Arenal (4-2), PXC contender: UFC fans should watch Asian MMA as well as the PXC promotion, because there are a lot of great fighters that no one has seen yet. PXC for example, gives opportunities to future stars in Asia, that one day will make it the UFC. Nothing better than watching a fighters career from the beginning. There are a lot of untapped resources in Asia as well as the Philippines that people need to know about.
Geje Eustaquio (3-1), ONE Fighting Championship: Fans should watch Asian MMA simply because it is one of the reasons why the UFC has come to this point (PRIDE). Today there are also many dedicated, skilled and talented Asian fighters that show spectacular and impressive performances in the sport of MMA. Also, UFC fans should keep an eye out for Team Lakay, which is one of the most promising teams across South East Asia as they can go along and excel on all the aspects of MMA.
Pros who think you should watch Asian MMA: All of them.
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