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Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Stars align for Jones-Evans grudge match

By Josh Gross

Jon Jones' long-awaited UFC light heavyweight title defense against Rashad Evans is booked, and it couldn't have been better positioned on the calendar.

Thanks to a judicious call by Zuffa to postpone a pay-per-view card in Montreal slated for the end of March, Jones-Evans bookends what's likely to be the widest gap between UFC pay-per-view events in 2012.

When the rivals step into the Octagon in Atlanta, it will have been almost two full months since Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson battled it out for the UFC lightweight belt in Japan. Eons in this world. The result: ample space for fans to recover from pay-per-view fatigue and for the Jones-Evans story lines, of which there are many, to flesh out.

That sort of vacuum is rare these days, and, I must say, welcome.

As the UFC pumps out fights and content at capacity, there’s hardly a moment to pause and get excited for the next one, or dwell on what just happened. While there are some intriguing bouts scheduled between Feb. 25 and April 21, including three Zuffa events and the start of the new Bellator campaign, none come close to matching the gravitational pull that Jones-Evans delivers.

Beyond the benefit to customers (and, not that you care, the media too), the mid-spring date works well for Jones and Evans.

After defeating Lyoto Machida in December, Jones said he'd like four to five months off. So it shall be. That's good news for a young champion, whose 2011 featured four fights against dangerous competitors in highly pressurized spots. After the new year, Jones changed his tune some, suggesting he'd like to compete as soon as possible. But it was in his best interest to sit out, and so a date in late April with Evans is just right.

Able to recover from a hard training camp and five-round fight against Phil Davis at the end of January, Evans has a chance to be at his best, which he must be to have a shot against his former sparring partner at Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque.

Jackson will have to decide soon whether or not he'll work Jones' corner. He's wavered on that point since initially ruling it out when the fight was first made in 2011. Injury prevented the fight then, leading to trash talk and inflamed passions among the camps.

With a solid seven weeks to hone in on, discuss, analyze, debate and project what will happen when these two finally meet in the cage, well, if you’re not interested in the fight it sucks to be you.

For those of us who see Evans as a threat -- perhaps the only threat -- to Jones, there’s a lot to like about how this played out in the end.