A years worth of trash talking has the fans amped more so than usual as the remaining days until UFC 114 dwindle away. It's not often you see two fighters on the big stage step into the cage that genuinely dislike each other, and truly mean what they're saying.
On May 29, in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, fans will witness one of these rare moments as "Suga" Rashad Evans takes on Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
This will likely be the biggest grudge match since Rampage took on Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92. Only the fight at UFC 92 has already been surpassed by this upcoming bout in terms of hype.
That hype has been amplified that much more by the UFC's third chapter in the UFC Primetime series that promoted the fight heavily with the general dislike they hold for each other.
Now, the talk is over.
There's only a few things left to do and that's to make weight, boost up the buzz even more with an electrifying stare-down, and come out fighting.
Time to live up to the hype.
Rashad Evans vs. Quinton Jackson
One thing that Rampage will always bring to the table in any fight is sheer power, made evident throughout his career with a variety of power bombs, most notably in his fight against Ricardo Arona .
As Jackson has stated many times leading up to this fight, people seem to have forgotten the wrestling abilities that he possesses, granted they usually come in the pro wrestling format.
Although he isn't as skilled as Evans in that department, people will be fooling themselves if they think the fight is over if Evans scores a takedown.
Jackson hasn't forgotten about his wrestling background even if most of the fans have, and he has used it to score wins over some accomplished wrestlers in his career.
If Jackson is taken down, his strength and wrestling background is more than enough to help get him back to his feet, so wrestling may not be as big of a factor as people seem to think.
With every fight starting on the feet, the wrestling may not even be a factor at all.
Jackson has some great boxing, and he loves to use it. With his evident power, his hands are very deadly with his underestimated hand speed.
With Rampage, all it takes is one punch and it's lights out.
However, there are a few things concerning Jackson coming into this fight.
It's clear that Jackson has already dug himself a nice little niche inside the hills of Hollywood. Once his fighting career is over, that is where he'll likely be heading, but is his mind already there?
It's tough to tell until the end of this fight.
The other factor is a speed issue.
Packing all of that power slows Jackson down a bit, and his opponent Evans is one of the fastest light-heavyweight fighters there is.
Where Jackson holds the advantage in power, Evans has him beat with speed. Add in the lateral footwork and varied head movement, and this stand up war becomes really interesting.
Evans will look to avoid the power of Jackson with constant movement mixed with a series of quick combinations. He has to be precise and accurate because one wrong move and his night is over.
With Evans being the smart fighter that he is, don't expect him to try and stand with Jackson for too long though.
He'll look to shoot under one of Jackson's combinations and score the quick takedown, but this is where it gets tricky. If Evans is too quick to try and transition, he will wind up on his back due to Rampage's power.
Expect him to be patient if he finds top position on the ground. Also expect that the fight will likely be stood up because of that patience.
As the fight progresses, the fighters will have a better feeling of what the other is doing, and that is likely where Evans will begin to take over the fight.
Evans is much more athletic than Jackson, and he brings with him one of the best strategists in the game in Greg Jackson.
Jackson can take a punch with the best of them, so Evans will likely win by decision.
Winner- Rashad Evans
Michael Bisping vs. Dan Miller
Dan Miller is in a bit of a tough situation here coming off of back-to-back losses inside the cage. He is in desperate need of a victory to keep himself in the running for a title shot, but inside the octagon as well.
Although he is an excellent Jiu Jitsu practitioner, as well as recently being awarded his black belt, Miller was out-grappled in his last two bouts, albeit against two of the division's top fighters in Demian Maia and Chael Sonnen.
Luckily for Miller, he doesn't have to fight a superior ground fighter this time around and will likely find himself off of his back a lot less in this fight.
While he loves to use his submission skills, Miller has been working on his stand up game to avoid being a one trick pony, which has been evident with every fight he takes.
Still, his striking is used primarily to set up his takedowns, but against Michael Bisping, that may not work.
Bisping is one tough guy to takedown. Many fighters have tried, and most of them have failed. The only way to get him down is with a powerful takedown, or a clock-cleaning strike, and Miller doesn't necessarily posses either.
Miller is going to have to catch Bisping really off guard to score a takedown, but Bisping usually keeps a clear mind inside the cage.
He also comes to battle with a ridiculously high amount of intensity, matched only by the speed in his feet. IF you take away his fight against Dan Henderson, you'll see that Bisping probably has the best footwork of the division behind Anderson Silva.
Bisping likes to stick and move, stick and move. He'll rattle off a few combinations here and there, but it's usually landing a quick jab and bouncing back out of range.
It's a frustrating style for his opponents, as well as the fans, but it's effective nonetheless.
However, if Miller gets past the speed and tough sprawl of Bisping, he does hold a significant advantage in the fight. But as we've seen before, Bisping does remarkably well against black belt Jiu Jitsu fighters.
Bisping will look to out-point Miller on the feet and likely score a decision victory.
Winner- Michael Bisping
Todd Duffee vs. Mike Russow
Fans sure are easy to lead, aren't they?
Mike Russow is a big underdog heading into this fight because of a flash knockout that Todd Duffee scored at UFC 102, scoring him the fastest knockout in UFC history.
That's the basis of many online forum picks. Yes it's impressive, but these fans are failing to even acknowledge the presence of Russow.
For those who aren't sure of who Russow is, he's basically a slightly smaller, less athletic version of Brock Lesnar.
He uses his size advantage and collegiate wrestling background to plow through the sprawl of his opponent and take him down, but the only difference between Russow and Lesnar is that Russow has submissions up his sleeve.
Russow's plan of attack is quite simple: get Duffee down and use his size to hold him there long enough to finish him. In this new era of heavyweight fighting, that seems to work.
However, Duffee is one built physical specimen. Both fighters are actually around the same size, but Duffee is lean and ripped while Russow is pudgy and doughy.
Duffee also holds a significant strength advantage over Russow, so it'll be interesting to see if Russow is able to score a takedown. But the area where Duffee will shine is in his striking.
Considering that he floored Tim Hague with a jab in his last fight, you know he has some power. Duffee is still a bit inexperienced as a fighter, but is picking up tricks real quick.
The areas of concern for Duffee coming into this fight are his inexperience and his lack of drawn-out fights on his record. In his fight against Assuerio Silva, Duffee showed that his gas-tank still needed work.
That being said, Duffee is one of those fighters that pushes himself to the extreme just to improve on the tiniest of details.
Russow better keep those hands up when he moves in, because the prediction is a knockout victory for Duffee.
Winner- Todd Duffee
Jason Brilz vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Jason Brilz, you have the chance to shock the world. Nobody, I mean NOBODY is giving Brilz a chance here after he stepped in to fill the void left empty by Forrest Griffin and his shoulder injury.
The betting odds say it all: Jason Brilz (+500) against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (-800)
These odds come with good reason.
First of all, Brilz striking, while exciting, isn't all that great. He loves to wing punches, really wing them with all he's got. It leads to some heavy punches but there is very little technique and accuracy, and he leaves himself wide open for a counter-punch.
Nogueira being great with his Boxing, is quite gifted at throwing back counter-punches in addition to his wide array of quick combinations.
Another thing going against Brilz is his conditioning. Those hay-maker punches drain him of energy really fast (especially in Colorado) and he is often out of gas before the fight hits round three.
Nogueira has been in some brutal 15 minute wars and looked nearly as fresh in the latter of the fight as he did in the beginning.
Brilz's best chance comes in his brutal ground game with his heavy hands and his over-looked chokes, but Brilz just doesn't know how to hit the coast button every now and then.
It's always 100 percent with Brilz, which actually hurts him just as much as it helps him. When you get into a fight with someone as experienced as Nogueira, you have to be careful in picking your moments.
If Brilz somehow finds himself in top position on the ground, he'll probably blow it by being too aggressive and wind up on his back from a slick reversal by Nogueira.
Then again, this is MMA and anything can happen. Even still, Nogueira wins by TKO.
Prove me wrong Brilz!
Winner- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
John Hathaway vs. Diego Sanchez
John Hathaway has been a welterweight prospect in my vision for some time now. At the bright young age of 22, the British fighter has already piled up 12 straight victories with no defeats.
One of those victories came over fellow prospect Rick Story in an exciting, back-and-forth three round fight.
Hathaway has earned his undefeated record with a well-rounded, relentless attack.
His striking isn't the best, but he uses some nice angles to land some shots. Hathaway also has some decent evading skills but could still use improvement with head movement.
But this U.K. fighter is quite different than most of his fellow countrymen as he is quite skilled wrestling his opponent to the ground.
Hathaway isn't one of the biggest welterweights, but he is pretty big, and he carries strength to match. He is able to muscle his way through his opponent's guard into advantageous positions as he works his ground striking.
Despite keeping near-constant pressure, Hathaway's control is exceptionally good. If he happens to slip up and lose control, he usually finds some sort of submission attempt to slow his opponent.
All in all, the young Hathaway still has a way to go before living up to the potential he offers, but he does have the skills to pull off an upset over Diego Sanchez and spring board his career.
However, now is not the time for Hathaway as Sanchez owns too much octagon experience.
All of the things that Hathaway is good at, Sanchez is just a little bit better.
Sanchez has a lot more weapons in his striking arsenal, and is quicker on the draw. He also packs a little bit more power behind his striking as well.
His takedowns are timed nicely and are not as telegraphed as Hathaway's. Additionally, Sanchez's takedowns have a lot more driving force behind them.
He is also much more advanced in Jiu Jitsu as well with tighter control.
All around, Sanchez holds the edge, but that doesn't mean this fight is a lock for him. Hathaway is a tough kid that should in no way be overlooked, but with Sanchez training with Greg Jackson, you know there will be a solid game plan set against the Brit.
Sanchez's intensity will be too much for Hathaway to handle, earning Sanchez a TKO victory late in the fight.
Winner- Diego Sanchez
PRELIMINARY CARD (Spike TV)
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Amir Sadollah
Dong Hyun Kim is one of the better welterweights that nobody is paying attention to.
With Judo skills that will make just about any fighter weary of grappling with him, Kim has an uncanny ability to lure opponents to the clinch and control them from any position.
Kim is often over-looked in the striking department, as his past few opponents all had the striking advantage over him, but he can swing hard enough to put people to sleep.
However he falls behind in striking once again against his next opponent Amir Sadollah.
Still green in the sport, Sadollah evolves faster than most fighters training out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
The most notable improvements that Sadollah has made was his progression in Muay Thai over his last two fights against Brad Blackburn and Phil Baroni.
Also, being a black belt in Sambo, Sadollah won't be too lost should he clinch up with Kim in the fight.
Since Sadollah appears to be really well-rounded for his lack of experience, it's hard to pick against him in this one, but expect it to be close through three rounds.
Winner- Amir Sadollah
Efrain Escudero vs. Dan Lauzon
Dan Lauzon is still just a kid. At the bright young age of 22, he has the raw ability to transform into a fantastic fighter, but he is being hindered by his young mind.
Half of the fight game is mental, and if Lauzon can't keep his recent training woes under wrap, than his improved Boxing and Jiu Jitsu won't help his cause for winning all that much.
Especially against the eager Efrain Escudero, who is looking to bounce back from an injury and a loss at the hands of Evan Dunham.
While he has improved his striking drastically, Escudero's bread and butter is his ground attack, which is something that Lauzon still struggles with.
Look for him to take a similar, yet much more patient approach that he took against Dunham to avoid submissions, finishing him by ground strikes in the second round.
Winner- Efrain Escudero
PRELIMINARY CARD (Not televised)
Melvin Guillard vs. Waylon Lowe
Winner- Melvin Guillard
Luiz Cane vs. Cyrille Diabate
Winner- Luiz Cane
Joe Brammer vs. Aaron Riley
Winner- Aaron Riley
Jesse Forbes vs. Ryan Jensen
Winner- Ryan Jensen
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