Leg Kicks: The Alternate Narrative of an Evans Victory
Disclaimer: As many of my readers already know, I am from Binghamton. Thus, I have a certain connection in my heart to Jon Jones and his rise. Although I support his practice of dominance that puts my hometown on the map, this work is an effort to harness a more dispassionate feeling about this particular bout.
The Mainstream Narrative
The current, mainstream narrative of UFC: 145 Jones vs. Evans goes like this:
Rashad Evans, famed takedown artist and ground-and-pounder, is singular in his intention: he immediately but earnestly forces Jones onto his back, a position in which he has only 12 seconds experience in his UFC career.
Jones, once on his back, pulls the latest in his series of surprises. He survives the first round comfortably, in contrast to the typical experience of being underneath Rashad Evans. He invites his former teacher into moments of side control and half gaurd (perhaps in a scenario akin to the Joe Roganism “corner mount”) but deals with each strike gracefully, throwing upward elbows of his own at a modest pace.
Early in the second round, Jones sprawls again only briefly before continuing negotiaions from below. In round 2, however, Jones is less complacent about Evans’ strikes. He attempts an armbar from underneath. The crowd goes wild as Evans, perhaps with just the slighest smirk escaping from one side of his mouthpiece, escapes the technique with elegance and moves on.
Then, in a pivotal moment for the sport, Evans punches hard, missing Jones’ cranium handily and falling substantially off balance. Jones, knowing that the world is watching in slow motion, wraps Evans up in a picture-perfect triangle, pulling his own ankle into the crotch of his knee to the rhythm of the camera shutters all around the cage.
Evans briefly bears a look of consternation – it fades rather quickly into complacence as he taps out to the choke.
Bloggers everywhere proclaim, with no irony intended, that UFC 145 demonstrates unequivocally what everyone has wanted to say since he bested Shogun: that Jones is it. The greatest fighter in MMA history.
Meanwhile, in a nearby alternate universe…
Another completely separate narrative of this fight exists. I can’t find a compelling account of it anywhere, so I have to assume that folks are keeping it closely guarded in their imaginations, hoping to save face when the inevitable mainstream narrative becomes reality.
Yet, this alternative is not at all difficult to imagine. It goes like this:
Round 1. Jones, defying the imaginations of only the utterly predictable, begins standing tall. He knows that this appears to be a stark contrast to the crawling with which he has begun his last two bouts. He weaves and walks close to the center, anticipating the immediacy and inevitability of the Evans takedown attempt that defines the mainstream narrative.
To Jones’ surprise, it does not come. Not in the first 10 seconds; not in the first minute; not in the first round.
Instead, Evans works the inverse economy of the trade that Machida attempted: Instead of trading a hook punch for an overcommited liver or body kick, Evans is content to allow Jones to land a glancing blow in exchange for his real treasure: a solid kick to either one of Jon Jones’ untested, nearly massless thighs.
For the first round, this is taken – quite literally – in stride. Nobody says or thinks much about it.
Round 2, in appearance, is a repeat of round 1. Jones lands a few punches, some of them with a seriousness that at first looks genuine but quickly turns out to be superficial. Evans continues the punishment of the muscle matter that constitute the thighs of Jon Jones.
Two things change:
First, everyone takes notice that Evans’ leg kicks are not in jest – they are part of a plan. Notably, it has the character of the first serious, comprehensive plan that Jones has faced. It is a deployment of leg kicks unseen since Jose Aldo slowly and scientifically applied them in disabling fashion to Uriah Faber.
Second, Jones himself notices. He switches stances frequently as per usual, but his facial expression betrays the obvious fact that this shit hurts, and he’s going to lose one of his legs pretty soon. Southpaw becomes – at best – a backup.
Round 3. To the best of Evans’ ability, an absolutely uncreative (if boring) sequale to the first two rounds. Yes, Jones surprises with a flying knee or a takedown attempt of his own, but for the most part this round turns out to be disastrously uneventful but for the ongoing damage to the outer thighs of our champion.
Round 4. Evans corner has made clear that its time to deploy phase 2. Jones: frightened. He is committing less. His facial expression has changed. His authority as champion – as conductor of the orchaestra of the body parts that make up UFC 145 – has been questioned with volume and pride by Evans. Evans begins the round by moving with certainty to the center of the cage to a Jones full of anticipation and hope. Hope that his poor legs will be left alone and that the fight will radically change to a dynamic that more intimately involves his upper body.
Jones quickly wishes he had watched what he had wished for.
Evans, taking the bruised Jones down with ease, finds himself in the guard of a champion who is numb and tingly from thigh to ankle. He begins pounding. And he doesn’t stop. Soon Jones’ consciousness absconds, and Evans finds himself in side control, mercilessly applying hammer fists to his former student’s temple, no doubt in a manner that Evans once advised Jones – at all costs – avoid.
Evans bores with side control, moving gracefully into full mount and smothering the airways of the troubled Jones with his chest. Jones has quadrupled (or more) his cummulative time on his back in this fourth round, yet hasn’t had the gumption to attempt a single technique from below. Evans waits a few seconds, hugging his former student with pride – metaphorically whispering into his ear a reminder that yes, his future as a champion and a legend is surely his birthright – before posturing up and punching him.
Punching him like he has never, ever been punched before. Jones’ will is broken, and he too is filled with the sense that providence has brought his career into check. TKO is declared seconds later. Both fighters are filled with a deep, heart-claiming pride. Evans wishes he had the self-assured nature to lay on the canvas with his student and hug him, but instead he stands up and does his best to boast.
Evans takes the belt, Jones is reminded of his mortal nature, and MMA moves on.
I’m not saying that I’m predicting this precise outcome, I’m just saying that, for me, it’s as belivable a narrative as the mainstream version. For all the enthusiasm about the superhumanity of my hometown hero, it is not difficult for me to imagine a night that instead reminds him that yes, he is after all a human being.
Tonight, we’ll find out which course belongs to this reality. Here. We. Go.