I’m pretty excited about what is going to begin in about an hour and a half – UFC 114. There has been a huge surplus of trash-talking between “Sugar” Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for more than a year now, ever since Rashad entered the ring after Jackson eked out a victory over Rashad’s teammate Keith Jardine. (Rashad tends to stick up for Keith Jardine all the time, sort of a weird big-brother thing).
So now, after The Ultimate Fighter Season 10, the delay around Rampage filming the A-Team movie, and a whole lot of build up through things like UFC Primetime, they’re going to settle things. Or at least fight.
Right now most odds-makers have them dead even. MMA Torch has Evans with a slight advantage. Before things happened, I thought I would weigh in with my own thoughts.
I’ve always been a fan of Rampage, and after TUF 10 I became more of a fan of Evans. I got a chance to see what a good coach he turned out to be, and how willing he was to help his teammates, in contrast with Rampage, who came off over the course of the show as lackluster in everything but trading insults with his rival.
Everyone talks about how Rampage is larger and more powerful, where Evans has more speed and perhaps athleticism. They both have one-punch knockout power and are both strong wrestlers, though Rampage usually uses his to stuff takedowns or to get back to his feet, and hasn’t used much of his ground-and-pound since his Pride days.
On paper things look even – except when you take into account the camp each fighter comes from.
Rampage comes from the Wolf’s Lair camp in the UK, training with the likes of Michael Bisping and Cheick Congo. Rampage is far and away the most successful fighter in that camp, and I honestly wonder if he gets a chance to train with anyone near his caliber on a regular basis.
On the other hand, Rashad Evans comes from one of the half-dozen best MMA training camps in the world (those would be, in my opinion, in addition to Jackon’s Submission Fighting, American Top Team, American Kickboxing Academy, Black House, Chute Box, and Extreme Couture). At Jackson’s Submission Fighting, Evans trains regularly with the likes of GPS, Shane Carwin, Nate Marquardt and Keith Jardine, as well as up-and-comers like Jon Jones. This means that every day he is pushed by some of the best fighters in the world, including two current UFC champions in GPS and Carwin (Interim HW).
Granted – Rampage has said he is more motivated than ever before, and a motivated, well-trained Rampage is terrifying, considering how he has dominated in the past despite terrible management, lack of training, and so on. So I don’t put it past him to knock Evans’ skull into the fifth row at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Given that, however, I am going with Evans. I think that they are so evenly matched that who they train with will make the difference. I think that Greg Jackson has assembled what might be the most talent-rich roster in MMA right now, and I think that will make a big difference. In order for Rampage to defeat someone who matches up so evenly with him, he will need to move to a camp where he regularly faces fighters of equal caliber.
Rashad Evans by unanimous decision, because my assumption is that his game-plan is lay-and-pray and out-work on the feet. I think Evans will avoid settling in and trading hard shots with Rampage because…who the hell would want to trade with Rampage?