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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Greg Jackson wasn't the only man to work closely with UFC 145's Jon Jones and Rashad Evans. Striking coach Mike Winkeljohn has a lengthy history with both fighters as well, and he addressed the upcoming fight between the former teammates this week in an interview with Stephie Daniels at BloodyElbow.com.
"My personal opinion is that Rashad is lost," Winkeljohn said of the personal nature of this feud. "He's in a place where he's not sure what he wants to do. I honestly think Jon has Rashad's number right now, and Rashad is using this feud to distract from the fact that he is worried about the fight."
While Winkeljohn still holds respect for Evans, and is even open to working with him again in the future, he's stuck with Jones throughout the situation, and believes the current Champ absolutely has the advantage in this fight.
"I do believe [Rashad is outmatched]," he said. "I saw the last time Jon and Rashad sparred, and I feel that Jon has improved, many times, since then. Rashad has changed his game a little since then. He's gotten better at a few things, but I think he has gone backwards on a few other things, and I think we're going to see that in the fight. I do believe that Jon's at a whole different level."
Winkeljohn feels Jones has the tools to do what he wants to do in this fight, and believes the reach advantage that he's come to use very effectively will be a big reason why he wins in Atlanta.
"With [Lyoto] Machida, he was a little tentative, and had not fought a left hander, so he was a little uncomfortable, but very comfortable when he fought Rampage," Winkeljohn said. "If Jon fights long, he's pretty much unbeatable... Rashad is very explosive. He can get in and he can move off at angles, but we kind of know what he's going to have to do to get there. There's no doubt he's going to be in tight."
"We expect to get taken down and maybe have to get up, and maybe even take some damage. With that being said, I have confidence that Jon can keep him at length, if he decides to, and make Rashad have to guess at what to do then."
Penick's Analysis: Winkeljohn's had first-hand experience with both fighters and the way their striking game is employed, and he of course knows where Jones is at especially on that front heading into next week. There doesn't seem to be a ton of optimism regarding rekindling things with Evans, and I doubt Evans takes kindly to Winkeljohn's characterization of the matchup, but ultimately that's not going to matter. This is such a huge fight for both men, it will absolutely be interesting to see how both of them fare next Saturday.
[Jon Jones art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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