As the final days countdown to the UFC 123 main event between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida, there’s one person who may have a better insight about how the fight will go than anybody else.
“Sugar” Rashad Evans has fought both of them in the past, and he recently spoke to MMAWeekly.com giving his prediction on the fight.
Regardless of his past misgivings with Jackson, Evans is quick to give his former “Ultimate Fighter” coaching mate some compliments heading into his fight with Machida.
“Honestly, I think Rampage has a lot better chance than what appears before your eyes,” Evans said. “It all depends if Rampage is going to come for this camp. If Rampage is really taking it serious, and he starts training how he needs to train, I think he has a really good chance of beating Machida.”
There’s one particular aspect of how the fight breaks down that Evans believes gives Rampage a distinct advantage over Machida. He says if the Brazilian falls into this tendency, he may suffer his second knockout loss in a row.
“One of his strengths is one of Machida’s weaknesses, which is he always pulls back in combinations, he goes in and he pulls back,” Evans commented about Machida’s style. “Rampage has always been good at reaction punches, so if he moves forward, he’s going to charge him and catch him like how he caught Chuck Liddell and how he caught Wanderlei Silva. That’s one of his strengths, if you pull back on Rampage, you’ll get caught all day.
“If Rampage is in shape and can push the pace and make Machida make mistakes when he’s pulling back, he has a very good chance of catching Machida and knocking him out.”
On the flipside, Evans is also quick to point out a fatal flaw that Jackson can make that could seal his fate come fight night.
“At the same time, if Rampage is in the center of the cage not moving forward, Machida will pick him apart and pretty much do what he wants to, and probably finish him off within the first two rounds,” Evans said.
Both Rampage and Machida come into UFC 123 off of losses. Rampage was defeated by Evans back in May, while Machida was knocked out by current UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua the same month.
When looking at the mental make-up of each fighter, Evans again has to give the edge to Rampage simply because he’s been there before and he knows how to recover. The only downside according to Evans is just how seriously Rampage is taking MMA these days.
“I think probably Rampage because he’s been there before. He’s lost eight times, so he has the better ability to bounce back from it. The thing about it is I don’t think it’s about the winning and losing, I think it’s about, my question is has Rampage been jaded by the sport enough that he stopped caring about it to train hard? Or has he got his hunger back and remembered why he liked the sport in the beginning?” Evans assessed.
As for Machida, Evans says there is a certain unknown quality about the former light heavyweight champion that can’t be answered until fight night. Machida had never been finished or tasted defeat prior to his last fight. As Evans knows from his own experience being knocked out by Machida, it puts a lot of doubt in a fighter’s head and something that’s not just so easy to get past.
“With Machida, is it going to be the Machida that’s a little bit more afraid? Really not looking to engage anymore? Is it going to be a too cautious Machida? When you get knocked out, I kid you not, the first thing you think is like ‘damn, can I take a punch?” Evans explained. “Then you start thinking about it. It rents a space in your head, and until you get that first good shot, and you think ‘oh, I can take a punch again,’ but when you get knocked out cold that’s what runs through your mind.”
If Evans is giving Rampage the mental edge heading into the fight, who is he picking to win at UFC 123?
“I had a dream that Rampage knocked out Machida,” said Evans. “I had a dream about four nights ago that Rampage knocked him out. I don’t know why I was dreaming about Rampage’s ugly ass in the beginning, but I woke up and it felt like he knocked out Machida, it felt like it was real.”
Evans will not be in attendance in Detroit for UFC 123, but will likely be watching at home to see if his prediction comes to life on Saturday night.