The UFC comes home to Las Vegas, NV this Saturday night with UFC 114, which airs live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena at 10 p.m. EST on pay-per-view. After months of build-up Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans finally square off in a main event grudge match that many fans have been waiting for. The rest of the card has some compelling match-ups that feature promising UFC upstarts and also some veterans looking to return to their winning ways. Below is a main card prediction, how to watch, and full card details.
Main Event Prediction
Doors have been smashed off their hinges. Verbal insults have been flung. A fighter has turned his back on the Octagon, only to return. All of this has led up to the bout between Jackson and Evans, which now arrives with a surging wave of hype.
The biggest disappointment of "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights" was knowing, after watching the two former light heavyweight champs get in each other's face week after week (after week!), that no fight was actually going to take place at the end of the show. During the season Jackson and UFC President Dana White's verbal sparring in the media let the cat out of the bag that Jackson was going to try out his acting chops and give up a fight against Evans in his hometown of Memphis, TN. Of course, true to form, the bite of the acting bug has faded for Jackson, and he has returned to the fighter fold to collect another payday.
If MMA history has taught us anything at all, we know sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a real feud and one that's simply being sold to us. If there's really bad blood here, and the fighters plan to stand and trade, then Evans will find himself flat on the canvas with a howling Jackson standing over him. However, history teaches us other things as well.
One lesson is that Evans likes to dance and pick his spots, refusing to engage in the type of brawl that many are expecting this to be. The second lesson is that his coach, Greg Jackson, is known for his conservative game plans. Put two and two together and this makes for a long three-round fight, one where Jackson stalks, looking to land a bout-ending blow, but also one where Evans uses his superior speed to land strikes as he stays on the move.
Rumors abound that during his Hollywood hiatus Jackson put on the pounds. Even if he has rounded himself back into shape, he's still got to contend with the considerable cage rust that comes with over a year's absence from the Octagon. Evans has fought twice in that span. There's no doubt he'll be ready to go the distance, and the same can't be said for Jackson.
Look for Evans to win the boxing war by using his head movement, footwork, and quicks to keep Jackson off balance. In the event that Jackson does close the gap, Evans will use his wrestling and clinchwork to keep Jackson pushed against the fence, again neutralizing the space and torque Jackson needs to land a finishing blow. What will make the fight exciting is the fact that even as Evans mounts a commanding lead on the judges' score cards, and Jackson eventually tires and plods about the cage, everyone will be holding their breath, knowing that one thunderbolt, in the form of a Jackson punch, can turn the tide immediately. But this won't be the war that we've been sold, and in the end Evans will ride out the bout to a unanimous decision — and a title shot against champ Mauricio Rua.
How to Watch
Two preliminary bouts, Amir Sadollah vs. Dong Hyun Kim and Efrain Escudero vs. Dan Lauzon, will air free on Spike TV at 9 p.m. EST. Charlotte MMA fans can obviously purchase the entire pay-per-view through their local cable or satellite provider. UFC.com and yahoosports.com provide online viewing as well. For iPhone owners, there is now an application available through the iTunes store that offers live streaming. While at the time of this writing the UFC sports bar search engine was coming up empty, normally area bars and restaurants such as Fox and Hound, Hickory Tavern, and Buffalo Wild Wings air the bouts. Just make a quick phone call to your local watering hole first to confirm.
Full Card Details
Though lacking in true star power, the rest of the card has some interesting bouts. British fighter Michael Bisping squares off against a tough opponent in Dan Miller, while Antonio Rogerio Nogueira looks to build off his impressive UFC debut last year with another win over MMA veteran Jason Brilz. Promising heavyweight prospect Todd Duffee puts his undefeated record on the line against Mike Russow, while Diego Sanchez hopes to rebound from last year's loss to B.J. Penn with a triumph over John Hathaway, who has a clean slate at 13-0.
Here is the full card listing:
Quinton Jackson (30-7-0) vs. Rashad Evans (19-1-1)
Michael Bisping (19-3-0) vs. Dan Miller (11-3-0, 1 NC)
Todd Duffee (6-0-0) vs. Mike Russow (12-1-0, 1 NC)
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (18-3-0) vs. Jason Brilz (18-2-1)
Diego Sanchez (23-3-0) vs. John Hathaway (13-0-0)
Amir Sadollah (4-1-0) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (12-0-1, 1 NC)
Efrain Escudero (13-1-0) vs. Dan Lauzon (12-3-0)
Melvin Guillard (42-9-3, 1 NC) vs. Waylon Lowe (8-2-0)
Luiz Cane (11-2-1) vs. Cyrille Diabate (16-6-3)
Aaron Riley (28-12-1) vs. Joe Brammer (7-1-1)
Jesse Forbes (13-5-0) vs. Ryan Jensen (15-5-0)