Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Jon Jones lands a punch on Rashad Evans during the UFC 145 World Light Heavyweight Championship at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Saturday. Jon Jones defends his title of Light Heavyweight Champion.
ATLANTA -- Jon 'Bones' Jones put up his arms and then belted out a big scream after his UFC fight on Saturday.
It wasn't a knockout or submission like his last title fight wins, but Jones retained his belt at UFC 145.
Jones defended his UFC light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision on Saturday in front of a sell out crowd of 15,545 at Philips Arena. The 24-year-old defeated former champ 'Suga' Rashad Evans for his seventh-straight win by a score 49-46, 49-46, 50-45.
"Rashad is an awesome opponent," Jones said. "He's fast, he has swag, punches hard and I definitely respected Rashad a lot. It was a great fight and I respect Rashad a lot."
The last time Evans fought in Atlanta he delivered a knockout to UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell in 2008. Nearly three and a half years later, Evans wasn't so successful against the younger Jones.
"I don't think I did a good job," Evans said. "I don't think I did the things I'm trained to do. I didn't go out there and perform the way I wanted to."
The win for Jones improved him to 16-1 overall and 10-1 in the UFC. He's now defended his light heavyweight title three times, putting him in elite company with guys like UFC greats Anderson Silva (nine-time defender), Georges St.-Pierre (six), Matt Hughes (seven) and Tito Ortiz (six).
"Jon is doing his thing," Evans said. "He's yet to clean out an entire weight class. But it looks like he's on his way there."
Jones' next title bout will be against challenger Dan Henderson, a former UFC and Pride champion.
"I think Jon Jones is going to be one of these kids, he's 24-years old, he's so young and every fight he gets he's gaining experience," UFC President Dana White said. "There's no doubt Dan Henderson will be a great test."
The anticipation for Saturday's title bout was built over the last few months. Jones and Evans were teammates under trainer Greg Jackson for nearly two years. When Jones won the light heavyweight title last year, Evans left the team and a rivalry began. The two exchanged verbal jabs over the past year and there was tension whenever they entered a room.
Jones won the title by beating Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua in March of last year. He became the UFC's youngest champion at age 23. Since then he's defended his title three times by beating former UFC champs Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Lyoto Machida and now Evans.
"He's a talented kid and got a lot better like I thought he did," Evans said. "He was able to keep me from what I really wanted to do and that's something he needed to do to get the win. I give him his respect and he's the champion."
In the five-round title fight, Jones delivered a jarring left elbow to Evans in the second period.
"He had those sneaky elbows that kept getting in," Evans said.
Evans brought a hard right to Jones' chin to start the third period. It was one of the few clean blows Evans got on Jones.
Jones is well-known for his takedown defense and has never been taken down in the UFC. Evans went for a double leg takedown late in the third period and tried a single leg in the fourth, but both were unsuccessful.
Jones sent Evans to the ground late in the fifth round and with less than 10 seconds left in the bout, Jones attempted a flying triangle. He went immediately to his back and it was one of the few times he was in a vulnerable position all night.
"I would totally say that Rashad has been my toughest fight to date," Jones said. "I think a lot of it is because of how talented and awesome of a fighter he is."
In the co-main event, Rory MacDonald used a second round technical knockout to beat Che Mills. The 22-year-old MacDonald from Canada has been tabbed as the 'next GSP' in reference to welterweight champion Georges St.-Pierre, who is also Canada.
"I made some mistakes, which is a blessing because you can learn from them," MacDonald said. "I just stayed on him. I knew he was hurt from the first ground and pound. He was very tough, hard to put away."
In the night's earlier 11 fights, Mark Bocek had a unanimous decision over John Alessio. With a bloody nose and mouth, Eddie Yagin pulled of a split decision over Mark Hominick. Michael McDonald, a 21-year-old rising star in the UFC, knocked out former WEC champion Miguel Angel Torres.
"This was the biggest jump up in competition in my career and easily the biggest win," McDonald said. "He caught me a couple times, but my power and aggression won out. When he went out I was like 'go go go go' and I finished it."
Ben Rothwell had a first round knockout over Brendan Schaub to climb up the heavyweight ranks.
In the preliminary fights, South's Carolina's Stephen Thompson lost a unanimous decision to Matt Brown.
"It was a great night of fights. I seriously couldn't be happier," White said. "They delivered tonight. It was an awesome show."