File Photo: Sherdog.com
After the UFC 114 main event between Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had finally come and gone Saturday in Las Vegas, Evans made a point to show his respect for a man he had been disrespecting for months.
“Whenever you go in there and you fight somebody for 15 minutes and they give you everything they got, there’s a bonding experience, an exchange in there, and I respected that,” Evans said.
He told Jackson as much in the Octagon after besting him via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). The light heavyweight contest, which was hyped endlessly with trash talk from both sides, looked as if it might last only seconds. Evans began the bout by drilling Jackson with a right hand that sent him reeling into the fence.
“It was very important,” Evans said of the punch. “One thing I wanted to do, I wanted to go in the fight and make him respect me. One thing that Quinton does is if you let him and he gets his rhythm down, he’ll tee off on you with those big power shots. I picked up on something and I knew if I threw that straight right hand, I might catch him. I wanted to jump on him right away and let him know that I do have a little power too.”
Jackson recovered from the strike and didn’t take another one like it. He did, however, struggle with Evans’ quickness and movement. That was part of Evans’ plan: keep his opponent off balance.
“Rampage is probably the best in the game when it comes to timing people and pulling back and catching them with the uppercut,” he said. “I wanted to keep him guessing and not knowing what I was going to do. I picked up on a couple of things he was doing in anticipation for my shot, so I wanted to try to exploit that.”
Evans’ wrestling also played a key role in the fight. It allowed him to score points with punches on the ground and also helped him survive a shaky third period. Jackson nearly finished him with a rally on the ground that had referee Herb Dean hovering nearby, but Evans got to his feet and hit a single-leg and then another takedown later.
“One thing that happens sometimes when you find success in one area -- and I found success standing up -- I kind of forgot about the area where I was the strongest at,” Evans said of his progression leading up to his May 2009 loss to Lyoto Machida. “Me, doing my wrestling now, is just going to be something I do from here on out. Just because no matter how far I go in my standup, I always got to remember my bread and butter is my wrestling and everything else stems from that.”
With his win, Evans earns a shot at light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. UFC President Dana White said he would discuss when to make the matchup next week. For now, it appears the Rampage-Rashad rivalry is settled. Jackson returned the respect Evans showed him after the fight, but neither man took it further than that.
“He did a good fight, but he still can kiss my ass,” Jackson said. “He said a whole lot of stuff. I ain’t going to forget it, but we both warriors. I’m not a sore loser. I’m a fighter. I’ve been a fighter all my life, but I still ain’t going to forget the stuff he said. He still can kiss my black ass.”
“I feel the same way,” Evans replied. “He can kiss my ass too.”