by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
This Saturday night, ‘Sugar’ Rashad Evans is going to take on his toughest opponent thus far in the former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. The rivalry has been brewing for a couple months since their altercation at UFC 69, where Tito and Rashad were talking some trash to each other, when Tito shoved him. Tito even went as far as to call Rashad a “nappy headed ho” on an internet forum. Now the time is almost here to settle the score.
Rashad Evans was the heavyweight winner on the Ultimate Fighter Season 2, but dropped down to light heavyweight following the finale. After beating Sam Hoger and Stephan Bonnar, Evans knocked out the very game Jason Lambert. In his next fight against Sean Salmon, Evans shocked the world by knocking out Salmon by head kick.
With his fight just days away, Evans joined Damon and Jeff on MMAWeekly Radio to discuss his upcoming bout with Oritz. If Rashad were to defeat Tito, he would be right in line for the winner of the fight between Dan Henderson and Quinton Jackson. Rashad feels the same way. “Yeah, in a sense. But the UFC has its own plans. They’re gonna get something that sells a lot of tickets.”
Many people believe that Tito hasn’t been the same in a while. After all, his last three fights he has beaten Ken Shamrock twice and lost to Chuck Liddell. “I feel like he’s really only fought Ken Shamrock,” Evans said. “He tried against Chuck. But he’s scared of Chuck, and he doesn’t look like the same fighter. His fight with Forrest Griffin could have went either way.”
Evans trains out of the very popular Greg Jackson camp, which has fallen on hard times as of late. Joey Villasenor, Keith Jardine, Diego Sanchez and Georges St-Pierre have all lost their last fights, but that doesn’t affect Rashad. “Every time I go out there, I fight for the Jackson team. I always try to go out there and represent. It’s unfortunate that we lost a few in a row, but that’s the name of the game. I won’t feel any added pressure though.”
Rashad is looking to get his camp back on track with a win over Tito Ortiz. His training partner Nate Marquardt is fighting on the same card for the middleweight title. Many people say that you are only as good as your training partners, and Evans agrees. “It’s been a great experience, and it’s a privilege to get to train with those guys.”
Rashad believes that he has some large advantages over Ortiz that will help lead him to victory. He believes his wrestling and speed will be determining factors in this fight. “I think I’d beat him in a wrestling match, but it isn’t a wrestling match. I am faster than him and I am quicker than him. I’m good at scrambling,” said the Michigan native. “Tito doesn’t like to get hit. He doesn’t like to exchange. Patrick Cote rocked him a couple times and he took him down. I don’t care what he says, his game plan will be ground and pound.”
With Ortiz’ busy schedule and very public relationship with Jenna Jameson, Rashad believes that distractions have made him less of a fighter. “I kind of think he’s went in a downward spiral lately. There are too many distractions. He hasn’t looked like himself in a long time. I don’t think he believes in himself as much as he says he does.”
With all of the hype surrounding this match up, and with some of the things that Ortiz has said about Evans, Rashad doesn’t let any of it get to him. “If I let him get under my skin, I guess I’m just as weak as he is. He has no confidence in himself. He’s an insecure guy.”
Evans is completely confident in his abilities to defeat Tito and offered a prediction. “They are gonna raise my hand in victory, in the second round, 3:36. It’s gonna be a knockout!”