Some final notes before heading into tonight's UFC 98 event from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. PPV goes on air 10 pm EST/7 PM PT.
If you're there live, drop me a line at josh [at] ropesringandcage [dot-com] and let me know what's going on with the prelims, what your thoughts were, etc.
While we did some fun work profiling three of the televised bouts as part of our Fight Week previews (Sherk/Edgar, XFP/McFedries and Sonnen/Miller), time didn't allow us to get to the two big matches of the night: Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida and Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra.
Here are some quick capsules on what we see happening tonight:
Evans vs. Machida
Considering the light heavyweight division was the best in the UFC just a few years ago, it's still shocking to see that no one really cares about a title fight between two undefeated fighters headlining a pay-per-view.
Evans (18-0-1) has a chance to be a money draw, but needs to win convincingly here against Machida (14-0), who surprised most by knocking out Thiago Silva at UFC 94.
Machida typically wins by unanimous decision and has been labeled as a 'boring' fighter by fans and critics, but the 30-year-old still has yet to be beaten since going pro in May 2003.
Evans has also beaten everyone in his path and has taken out some big names in his last three: Mike Bisping, Chuck Liddell, and Forrest Griffin. This will be the first defense of his title.
Our pick: Rashad Evans via third-round TKO
Hughes vs. Serra
A blood feud that began back on season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter finally meets a resolution tonight as Matt Hughes will enter the octagon for what many believe will be the last time against Matt Serra in a match of former Welterweight Champions.
Originally scheduled for UFC 79 (!!!) but delayed due to injuries, the two will hook it up but with less mainstream interest than in December 2007.
This also could be Serra's last dance in the Octagon as he has been out since April 2008 when he lost the Welterweight belt to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 83.
Hughes also has been out for almost a year as he last was seen losing via TKO to Thiago Alves last June at UFC 85. He has lost three of his last four fights.
Our pick: Hughes via first-round TKO
- There weren't a lot of notes from the official weigh-ins which was pretty brief. Hughes apparently looks to be in great shape, Machida got a big ovation and Frank Mir was there doing a Q/A for Fight Club members. Here's a writeup from Bryan Alvarez of Figure Four Weekly.
- Mike Pyle got the call to fight Brock Larson tonight instead of Chris Wilson. Apparently, there are some paperwork issues regarding Wilson's medical records and his doctor has been MIA. Pyle has been on alert for the entire week about getting the call to the cage.
Josh Nason - josh [at] ropesringandcage [dot com] - has published MMA, wrestling and boxing blog Ropes, Ring and Cage.com since 2007. He has been a contributor to Fight Magazine since January 2009 and has been a contributor to Bleacher Report since 2008.