It's time...for the moment you've all been waiting for!
For the thousands browsing at home and the millions surfing cyberspace, Bleacher Report presents one of its staple series, Creature vs. Creature, for the UFC 114 main event Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson.
This grudge match has been brewing in a hype Crockpot since last year, when both fighters were supposed to throw down at the end of The Ultimate Fighter season 10. Mouths were meant to be shut and egos smashed after a grueling marathon of verbal warfare between both rival coaches on the show.
In the end, it was a missed opportunity. Rampage decided to reincarnate himself as this generation's B.A. Baracus in the new Hollywood remake of The A-Team, the catalyst to what transpired into an all-out bridge-burning between himself and UFC high chancellor Dana White.
As a result, not only did people believe Evans vs. Rampage would never happen, but many thought the howlin' powerbomber from Memphis would hang up his four ounces for good.
Time heals everything...including the bills.
Fast forward to spring 2010: Rampage and Dana have mended their relationship to a professional level, and Rashad Evans is back in the winning column. After dusting off the TUF season 10 vault, milking UFC 114 promos for all they're worth, and producing another highly effective Primetime series, the UFC has reminded us why this fight was the main event attraction the world wanted to see in the first place.
Now here we are on the eve of UFC 114. The trash talk has been taken to the curb, training is over, and all that remains for each combatant is for a 15-minute epilogue to be written in the octagon with vicious left hooks and cannon-like takedowns—Sunday morning after the fight will be a completely different start to the day for each fighter.
To help make sense of this mess—to ruffle the butterflies in your stomach—Creature vs. Creature has graciously bestowed upon yours truly the task of convincing the MMA jury, without reasonable doubt, that Rashad Evans will walk away victorious against Rampage Jackson at UFC 114.
I shall proceed with the opening arguments.
First and foremost, the underlining difference between both former light-heavyweight champions is speed—crack is not the only thing that kills. Not many at 205 pounds can match Rashad's overall speed, which flows through his hands, footwork, and takedowns effectively enough to protect a record that only sports one loss.
Furthermore, Rampage has never been the quickest fighter to grace the canvas. There is no denying his power advantage over Rashad, the ability to make a fighter look like a fish out of water gasping for his last breath. Every opponent of Rampage's is predisposed to that serious knockout power, no question.
But does the UFC B.A. have the movement and speed to sprawl against Rashad's shot? Not only does Rampage have to keep up with Rashad's cardio intensive pace, which is impressive based on the sneak peek fans got on Primetime, he also has to overcome Tin Man syndrome—ring rust and heart.
The last time Rampage felt the rigors of mixed martial arts competition was back in March of '09 against Keith Jardine, who he gratefully slipped by with a unanimous decision. If you believe a fighter is only as good as his last fight, there was a lot to say about Rampage's "victory" over the Dean of Mean.
Deep rounds have not been kind to Rampage during his UFC career; once he's defused or frustrated, his third personality rears its ugly head—Quittin' Jackson.
Mental toughness is not the only area Rashad can win the upper hand, but also in the lumberjack department if his leg kicks got refined by Phil Nurse during training.
Rampage has become notoriously terrible at checking leg kicks, an observation that will not go unnoticed by Rashad’s lead strategist and trainer, Greg Jackson. Between Forrest Griffin and Jardine, Rampage's knee was tapping out plenty in those two fights, slowing the powerful striker down immensely.
In conclusion, Rashad Evans will prove to be too quick to hit, too hard to sprawl against, and too resilient for Rampage come this Saturday night in Las Vegas at UFC 114.
If you’re an anti-nipple twister who thinks Rampage will give Rashad a classic case of jimmy legs, then don’t forget to read my colleague Robert Gardner’s rival Creature vs. Creature piece.