MMA: Evans outlasts Rampage to win UFC grudge match
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS — Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson shook hands and slapped each other on the back, their long-raging rivalry finally calmed by the mutual respect that's only earned in the octagon.
Only Evans is leaving Las Vegas happy, however.
Evans dominated the first two rounds and survived Jackson's vicious third-round flurry to win their light heavyweight bout by unanimous decision at UFC 114 on Saturday night.
Evans got the final word in his feud with Jackson, taking charge with a big overhand right in the opening minute. Except for one rally by budding movie star Jackson, Evans controlled the action with his superior wrestling skills at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in the UFC's hometown.
"I wanted to go in the fight and make him respect me," Evans said. "If he gets his rhythm down, he'll tee off on you with the big power shots. I knew if I threw that straight right hand, I might catch him."
Jackson (30-8), who will appear in the big-screen version of "The A-Team" when it opens next month, started slowly in his first bout since March 2009. He nearly stopped Evans with a third-round shot that dropped Evans to his back, but Evans survived and even landed one last takedown before winning 30-27 on two judges' scorecards and 29-28 on a third.
Jackson appeared more frustrated than beaten, but he acknowledged being impressed with Evans' preparation.
"Rashad had an excellent game plan, and it looks like he stuck to it," Jackson said. "In the rematch, I'll just try to be more aggressive. I tried to mentally block out all the people talking about ring rust, because I knew it was going to be a factor. I felt it, and I fell victim to ring rust. Emotion had nothing to do with it."
UFC president Dana White said there might be a rematch eventually, but Evans (20-1-1) first will get a shot at UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
The fight punctuated a protracted feud between Evans and Jackson, who coached against each other on the UFC's reality television show last year. They were scheduled to meet last December, but Jackson postponed the bout to continue work as B.A. Baracus in "The A-Team," angering Evans and White.
Their mutual distaste made the nontitle bout into the UFC's most anticipated of the year to date, with pay-per-view sales expected to rank among the sport's biggest.
"I'm not a sore loser," Jackson said. "We're all cut from the same cloth. Anybody can beat me, no matter how or what. ... I would like to get back in there as soon as possible. I didn't like the way I felt, how much I hesitated. This fight is going to haunt me for a long time."
The roughhewn, trouble-prone Jackson and the more laid-back, cerebral Evans have sparred verbally for the past year, leaving little doubt they genuinely can't stand each other. Evans apparently irked Jackson many years ago by asking to train together, while Evans thinks Jackson perpetuates negative stereotypes of black athletes.
The fighters' staredown was more intense than several bouts on the undercard, with Jackson staring motionlessly into Evans' eyes. But Evans landed the first big shot, an overhand right that stumbled Jackson against the cage in the opening minute.
Evans then made a rough takedown midway through the round, but Jackson replied with several solid punches. After Evans controlled Jackson against the cage for much of the second round, Jackson made his rally in the third — getting Evans in a vulnerable position for a few intense moments, but failing to finish.
"I was hurt for a little bit, but that's what happens sometimes," Evans said. "I'm not going to give up, no matter what."
Chicago policeman Mike Russow stopped unbeaten heavyweight Todd Duffee with a two-punch knockout in a major undercard upset, while Michael Bisping won an uneventful decision over Dan Miller. Earlier, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira eked out a split-decision victory over game underdog Jason Brilz in the fight of the night, while England's John Hathaway won a surprising decision in his first U.S. fight, beating former title contender Diego Sanchez.
The 33-year-old Russow's vicious right hands midway through the third round dramatically ended a fight he was losing handily to the 24-year-old Duffee, a prospect expected to make short work of a journeyman in just his second UFC fight.
The first punch from Russow (13-1) knocked Duffee (6-1) backward and senseless, and the second dropped him motionless on his back. Russow's eyes grew wide with elation after a swing that even surprised him — and earned him a $65,000 bonus for the knockout of the night.
The crowd in the sold-out arena included Spurs big man Tim Duncan, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, David Spade, Mike Tyson and Snoop Dogg.