The winner of Saturday night’s main event between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “Suga” Rashad Evans on the UFC 114 card in Las Vegas not only gets the upper hand in settling a personal blood feud but also a shot at the light heavyweight title against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
The hard feelings between Jackson and Evans actually date back to June 2004 when Evans, according to Jackson, disrespected him and a teammate at an event. Then Jackson and Evans went nose to nose in the octagon following Jackson’s win over Keith Jardine, Evans’ teammate, in UFC 96. And the feud became mainstream news on “The Ultimate Fighter 10” when the two basically attacked each other verbally in about every politically incorrect area you can think of (race, sexuality, etc.). They had to be separated several times by UFC president Dana White, who calls Saturday’s fight the most heated rivalry in UFC history — they’ve continued the verbal sparring if not raised it at pre-fight news conferences.
“It’s no secret that Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans don’t like each other, and this rivalry has gotten more and more intense in the last few months,” said White. “I can guarantee you that neither one of these guys wants to lose to each other, this fight is going to be insane.”
I think it’s fair to assume this one doesn’t go to a decision.
Jackson (30-7) and Evans (19-1-1) were originally scheduled to fight in December at UFC 107 in a traditional end-of-season fight between “The Ultimate Fighter” coaches but a little movie called “The A-Team” got in the way – Jackson stars as B.A. Baracus (the Mr. T role in the TV show) in the movie. Evans thus fought Thiago Silva at UFC 108 and earned a decision victory.
The fighters’ well-publicized verbal sparring has many expecting this to be the biggest non-championship pay-per-view buy in UFC history. And we’re seeing similar interest at Bodog. This bout is one of the rare times that we have seen so much action that the favorite and the underdog have switched before the bout. We opened Jackson as a -140 favorite but sharp money on Evans quickly moved the line to -125. Even at this new number the players were still betting the underdog and the line moved to a pick’em at -115 each. But when the first episode of Spike TV’s three-part “UFC Primetime” show highlighting this bout aired in mid-May, bettors apparently were swayed. In the hours following the broadcast we saw more action on Evans and moved him to a favorite of -125 with Jackson at -105. This new number is generating great two-sided action but let’s see if the final episode of “UFC Primetime” this week changes bettors’ minds again.
If Jackson needs any more motivation than pummeling Evans, he wants payback for a 2005 loss to Rua in a Pride middleweight fight. Rua knocked Jackson out that day and Jackson claims that loss still haunts him – going so far as to call Evans just a “tune-up” fight.
Certainly Jackson-Evans will carry the night Saturday, but there are a few other interesting bouts drawing attention. At welterweight, Amir Sadollah (4-1) is currently a -145 favorite against Dong Hyun Kim (12-0-1), who is +115. Sadollah memorably won “The Ultimate Fighter 7” despite entering without a professional bout on his resume. This bout opened at Sadollah -170, but heavy betting on the undefeated Korean has moved the line to -145. Many bettors have looked to parlaying Sadollah and Efrain Escudero to get an even money payout.
Escudero (13-1) is currently -500 against Dan Lauzon (12-3), who is +325, in a lightweight bout Saturday. Escudero, “The Ultimate Fighter 8” champion, is coming off a submission defeat to Evan Dunham in January for his first loss (Dunham paid out +210 for that). Lauzon tapped out to Cole Miller at UFC 108, also in January. Escudero opened as a -450 favorite for this fight between former training partners. A significant amount of parlay money came in on Escudero and moved the line to -500, as players paired him with both Jackson and Evans.
By Richard Gardner – Bodog Sportsbook Manager
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