clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC 114 Breakdown: Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson vs. Rashad Evans

LAS VEGAS -- Fight prediction is a tricky business with a lot of variables. Are both fighters in shape? Did they undertrain? Overtrain? Are there any personal issues clouding concentration or preventing preparation? Most of these things aren't known to the public as the fight plays out in their head before it actually happens.

Add to that list the effect of the grudge match. When a fight is personal, you never quite know how a man will react. Will he want to do too much, too fast, leading to a mistake? Or will he be too tentative, afraid of a slip-up?

Such is the case with the UFC 114 matchup between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans.

From what I could gather after seeing them up close, hearing their thoughts and talking to people close to them, the two view the personal nature of the bout a bit differently. Rampage was genuinely offended by Evans' intrusion at UFC 96. He's been simmering and stewing ever since.

For Evans, though, the genesis of the feud is different. He simply got caught up in the heat of the moment of UFC 96 after Jackson had beaten his friend, Keith Jardine. Evans once looked at Jackson as one of his favorite fighters, even one that he admired. Though he has his complaints about Jackson's behavior, he still likely respects him under the surface.

So at UFC 114, we're likely to see one fighter going on emotion, and another fighting a bit more tactically.

Jackson, though, is one fighter who has few problems harnessing emotion into success. In fact, he may be at his best when he's personally invested. His UFC 92 fight against Wanderlei Silva was inspired, and his title fight against Chuck Liddell had personal meaning. Both of those fights ended in first-round knockouts.

Jackson (30-7) came into his fight camp at 251 pounds, and the hard work he put in shows how seriously he took this last two-month stretch. At the weigh-ins, he looked about as chiseled as he's ever been. His strength and conditioning coach Mike Dolce said Jackson sometimes woke him up an hour earlier than scheduled just to get a quicker start on the day. This wasn't lazy Rampage; this was inspired Rampage. And inspired Rampage is one of the best and scariest fighters in the world.


Of the two fighters, though, Evans (14-1-1) is much more likely to have a plan. While Jackson might freestyle, Evans is going to want to change up his look, move between striking and takedowns, put Jackson on his back where he's the least comfortable, and wear him down in hopes that the quick cut to 205 will zap him.

Evans has admitted that he will try to take Jackson down at some point. It won't be easy. According to stats handed out by the UFC, Jackson has only been taken down on 23 percent of attempts during his career.

One thing that Evans hasn't really talked about but will likely be a big part of his game plan is leg kicks. Jackson's legs have been an easy target over some of his most recent fights. According to Compustrike, Jardine landed 31 of 43 kicks during his close fight with Jackson, while Forrest Griffin landed 51 leg strikes during his five-round win over Rampage in July 2008.

Before this fight, though, Jackson overhauled his striking, bringing in renowned MMA and Muay Thai coach Lance Gibson to plug some holes. With just a few months together, it's impossible to know if Gibson and Jackson have fixed everything, but if it's enough to take the leg kick away, the partnership will have served its purpose.

Jackson's plan is likely a little more simple: stay on his feet and punch Evans as hard as he can, as often as he can. Rampage trusts his chin and his hands, and has no doubt that if the fight comes down to his chin and hands against Rashad's, he'll win. If he can make it that type of fight, he's probably right.

Rampage is extremely durable. Meanwhile, after a strong start to his career, Evans is facing questions about his own durability. After being knocked out by Lyoto Machida last May, he was knocked down during his January fight against Thiago Silva, although Evans recovered to win by decision.

Even with a 448-day layoff, Jackson's fire is hard to deny when you see it up close. He's motivated and inspired. He's got explosive hands and the willingness to use them. Evans brings enough weapons to have a chance, but Rampage usually nullifies what he does well: wrestling. He also hits harder, and truth be told, when the bell rings and it gets nasty, they're going to be in Rampage's world. Jackson via TKO.
.fanhouseButton {margin:2em 0;} .fanhouseButton a:link, .fanhouseButton a:visited, .fanhouseButton a:hover, .fanhouseButton a:active {background-color:#dd2829;color:#FFFFFF;font-size:18px;padding:0.3em 0.6em;text-decoration:none;} .fanhouseButton a:hover {background-color:#000000;}

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting