Evans and Jackson were coaches on the least season of the Ultimate Fighter and the escalating animosity between them was there for all to see. The idea was that the two coaches should meet in a light heavyweight showdown once the series had concluded but instead Jackson surprisingly announced his retirement from MMA.
Frustrated fight fans wishing to see the two settle their differences in the Octagon will finally get their wish at UFC 114. It is an intriguing match up between two fighters who despite their very public differences share obvious similarities.
Both are former light heavyweight champions, both have only been beaten once in the UFC and both come from a wrestling background. Both men are good with their hands and both hold first round knockouts over former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell.
Jackson is not renowned for his submissions but is more than competent on the ground. Despite having been recently awarded a BJJ black belt Evans has never won a professional MMA match by submission. Jackson appeared particularly susceptible to low kicks in his loss to Forrest Griffin. This is one aspect of his game which Evans may look to exploit but he may be reluctant to throw too many kicks for fear of being taken down.
Unless either man has a major surprise in store it is likely that the game plan for both will be to either finish the fight with a big right hand or impress the judges with a series of eye catching take down. With a huge amount of pride at stake, as well as a shot at newly crowned light heavyweight champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, this is a fight fit to headline any UFC card.
While the headliners may be motivated by their dislike for one another Dan Miller and Michael Bisping should need no more motivation then the knowledge that they will be fighting for their UFC futures in this middleweight clash. Both men have lost two out of their last three fights and another loss would do serious damage to their chances or long term survival in the UFC. Bisping’s profile is sufficiently high that the UFC will be reluctant to cut him too quickly but three losses out of four would leave him in a very precarious position. A third consecutive defeat would almost certainly spell the end of Miller’s UFC career.
Miller is a BJJ black belt and will be looking for a submission win. Bisping is a well rounded fighter whose only losses have been to the very best in the business, Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson and most recently Wanderlei Silva. He bounced back from both his previous losses and will be looking to get back on track after a disappointing decision loss to Silva. Bisping will be looking to utilize his stand up whereas Miller will be desperate to take the fight to the floor which should make for an interesting clash of styles.
Recent heavyweight arrivals Todd Duffee and Mike Russow find themselves surprisingly high up the card. Although a newcomer to the UFC Russow is a veteran of 14 MMA fights and will be looking to make a name for himself by making it two UFC wins out of two. Duffee is still something on an unknown quantity having won his first fight by knock out only seven seconds into the opening round. An impressive win could potentially catapault either man up the rankings in a division which currently lacks a little depth.
A couple of more established fighters will also be in action. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira stepped out of the shadow of his elder brother, former heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, in spectacular style knocking out Luiz Cane in the very first round of his UFC debut.
He looks an outstanding prospect in a division dominated by Brazilians and will be expected to easily overcome the challenge of Jason Brilz. A late replacement for the injured Forrest Griffin, Brilz is a wrestler who has won three out of his four UFC fights. Nogueira is an excellent boxer and will be looking for another early knock. He is also a BJJ black belt and even if Brilz can take him down he will be very comfortable fighting off his back. It would represent a major surprise if Brilz can stop ‘little Nog’ from rising further up the light heavyweight rankings.
Diego Sanchez has decided to vacate the lightweight division after a vicious beating at the hands of BJ Penn. He returns to the welterweight division to face unbeaten Englishman John Hathaway. It will be by far the toughest test of Hathaway’s career with Sanchez expected to make an immediate return to winning ways.
UFC 114 is an enticing concoction of veterans with a point to prove and up and coming fighters with nothing to lose. The highlight will undoubtedly be the long awaited clash between Evans and Jackson. These two have not been shy about expressing their dislike for one another and now it is time for them to let their fists and feet do the talking.