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Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans relieved to have fight behind them

Pressures of highly anticipated fight felt by both fighters at UFC 114

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Steve Marcus

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson leans against the cage after three rounds with “Suga” Rashad Evans in the light heavyweight main event during UFC 114 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

UFC 114: Rampage vs Rashad

Light Heavyweight Rashad Evans silenced opponent and arch-nemesis Quinton Jackson with a unanimous decision win Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

UFC 114: Evans v. Jackson

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Having just fought in one of the most anticipated bouts in UFC history, in an event that drew more than 15,000 people, on a weekend that attracted more than 100,000 to a Fan Expo, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans seemed to agree they felt one emotion above any other Saturday.

Relief.

“I’m happy I don’t have to talk about Rampage anymore, so happy,” said Evans, who won the fight by unanimous decision. “I talked about him every single day. No matter who I was fighting, I was talking about Rampage.

“He was haunting me in my dreams. I couldn’t even get away from him in my sleep.”

For a fight that was supposed to be more about settling a personal dispute than anything else, it almost appeared as if the fighters were too exhausted with their rivalry to treat it like one Saturday night.

Besides a relatively intense prefight staredown, there were no back-and-forth exchanges in the center of the octagon. No late punches after the horn had blown. No finger pointing or last-minute taunting by the eventual winner.

Fans inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena actually booed the fight at times, mostly when Evans would work Jackson (30-8) into a clinch up against the fence for long periods of time — which didn’t stop Evans (20-1-1) from continuing to use the strategy throughout all three rounds.

“One thing you understand quickly as a fighter is that you’re not punching with eight or 10 oz. gloves,” Evans said. “We’ve got 4 oz. gloves. It only takes one good shot for a fight to be over. I wasn’t trying to catch none of those shots.”

Jackson, especially, seemed not himself before, during and after the fight.

He admitted as much at the end of the night, saying that the pressures from such a highly anticipated fight and the upcoming release of the new "A-Team" movie in which he starred in had thrown him off.

“You know, I’ve never had pressure like ever in my whole fighting career,” Jackson said. “Having this damn movie, I almost regret even doing it. There was so much pressure. Fox threatened to sue me if I lost because they didn’t know I was fighting. I’ve just never faced this pressure before in my life.

“Normally, I fight well under pressure and I still think I did good considering everything. I’m just so happy for this part of it to be over.”

The fight was certainly not a bust, as Jackson caught Evans with a right uppercut in the third round that nearly gave him a comeback win after he had clearly lost the first two. Evans recovered and put Jackson in trouble later in the round when he smothered him against the cage and landed a series of unanswered right hands.

But after everything that had been said between the two fighters over the past 14 months, it probably wasn’t what some were expecting — including Jackson, who said he would like to get back into action as quickly as possible.

“I feel like tonight wasn’t the real me,” Jackson said. “I felt like I hesitated too much. I don’t feel like I was at my best.

“This fight is going to haunt me for a long time. I’m just one of those guys — this is going to haunt me.”

The two fighters will go their separate ways for now, as Evans will move on to face the newly crowned light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Jackson, assuming he continues to fight in the UFC and not retire to continue acting, will take on another top contender in the 205-pound division.

They both seemed genuinely interested in the idea of fighting each other again, however, UFC President Dana White appeared to be interested in a rematch only if the two naturally cross paths again.

“I think anything can happen,” White said. “Obviously, Rashad is going right to Shogun for the title. We’ll see what happens from there. I said before and I’ll say it again, these are two of the best light heavyweights in the world and they could meet again.”

For fans, and probably the fighters as well, a second meeting between the two might prove to provide more closure than this first one will.

Performing under less pressure, Evans and Jackson might get a better shot at completely ending their rivalry — which took a step towards coming to an end Saturday, but didn’t completely.

“Rashad can still kiss my (expletive,)” Jackson said. “He said a whole lot of stuff that I’m not going to forget. We’re both warriors and I’m not a sore loser, but I’ve been a fighter all my life and he can kiss my (expletive.)”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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