Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson engaged in a three round contest Saturday night that was long-hyped as the biggest grudge match in MMA history. There was clearly no love lost between the two men in the lead up to the fight as they spit venom at each other every chance they got. Come fight night, Evans proved himself the better man as he used speed, footwork and wrestling to keep Jackson off balance and unable to mount much offense. Rather than use lord the victory over Jackson and add fuel to their rivalry, Evans was classy in victory and gave Jackson nothing but respect.
“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 at the post-fight press conference.
Evans even credited his respect for “Rampage’s” skills for his victory over the Memphis native.
“Rampage is probably the best in the game when it comes to timing people and pulling back and catching them with the uppercut,” said Evans. “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.”
The real key to Evans’ victory was his ability to dictate where the fight took place by utilizing his speed coupled with his resurfaced wrestling ability. Evans entered the sport on his wrestling prowess but had drifted away from his wheelhouse after finding success with his stand up skills; a stylistic mistake that likely caused him to lose his light heavyweight belt to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98. Evans told media at the presser that the return to his wrestling roots that was on display at UFC 114 will remain part of his fighting style from here on out.
“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,” said “Suga.” “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 the win, Evans secured himself a title shot against champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua; Evans mentioned at the press conference that he emerged from the fight unscathed but there has been no timetable set as of yet for their impending match up.