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Disappointed with Jackson-Evans Bout? Blame Expectations, Not Fighters

Say you go to a movie on opening night. Just humor me. I swear there's an MMA-related point in here somewhere.

Say it's supposed to be a big blockbuster, something you've been looking forward to since you first saw the trailer in all its explosion heavy, one-liner spewing, ADD glory. Say the movie itself turns out to be firmly mediocre. Say you feel like you've been letdown yet again.

Say you spend the rest of the evening wondering how Hollywood keeps convincing you to drop your money on this stuff.

Now imagine you saw the same movie, only you expected it to be mediocre. Maybe it's a hot, lazy summer day and you just wanted to bask in the air conditioning and shut off the old brain for a while. Are you still rabid with disappointment, or do you feel like you got just about what you were looking for, and nothing else?

Even when we look at things with what we believe to be an objective eye, our preformed expectations always shape what we actually see. Whether it's a blockbuster movie or a pay-per-view MMA fight, we never experience these things in a vacuum.

Take, for instance, the Rashad Evans-Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fight at UFC 114. The pre-fight hype seems to have had a strange effect on some fans, and even some members of the media. They got so drawn in by the animosity narrative they briefly forgot that this is still a sport, and the men involved still professionals.

What, did they think Evans hated Jackson so much he'd abandon good sense and try to brawl with a superior power puncher? Did they think anger might turn Evans dumb, or that Jackson's smack talk would make him forget that he knew how to wrestle?

I might be in the minority here, but I didn't think Evans-Jackson was the least bit disappointing. What we got on Saturday night was a close fight in which both men had their moments, but in the end Evans proved too quick and too savvy. He also showed some surprising resiliency, battling back from the brink of unconsciousness to finish strong in a fight he largely controlled thanks to a solid, though somewhat predictable game plan.

The only way that equals a letdown is if you were expecting a completely different kind of fight. And if you were expecting that, I have to wonder whether you've been paying attention to the last several years of Evans' career. The intense personal rivalry between these two made for some great pre-fight entertainment, but it's not going to fundamentally change who they are as fighters.

For a completely different example of how expectations can alter our perception of the results, look at the Antonio Rogerio Nogueira-Jason Brilz bout.

In a close fight that seemed to favor Brilz, two of the three judges scored it for Nogueira, prompting a deluge of boos from an especially fickle crowd and inciting MMA fans all over the internet to decry it as an outright robbery.

But imagine for a moment that Brilz didn't come into this fight as an absurdly heavy underdog. If the line had been even, would Brilz's performance have seemed so obviously superior to Nogueira's? Or would it have seemed more like a slight edge in a close, exciting fight?

For the record, I gave the first and second round to Brilz, and the third to Nogueira, so it's not as if I can't understand why the legion of brand new Brilz fans are hot about this decision.

But a robbery? Not quite. This is more like when you walk out of the supermarket after forgetting to pay for the Snickers bar at the bottom of your cart. It's an accidental theft. It's an honest, but still boneheaded mistake.

Difficult though it may be, it's important for us to remember that our snap judgments and initial reactions aren't always the unshakable truths we imagine them to be. We don't always get what we're expecting in MMA – just ask Todd Duffee -- but that doesn't mean that what we are getting is necessarily flawed.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that hype is a marketing tool -- not a promise. If the world won't bend itself to meet our expectations, perhaps we should try meeting reality halfway.

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