I'll start this off by saying I've never been the biggest Rashad Evans fan in the world. With that out of the way, I wanted to bring up something that has been erking me slightly in the build up to this fight. While, to be expected, there has been many a fan fearing for Rampage's wellbeing in this fight because of his extented layoff, with some questioning if his heart is still in it there also appear to be many a fan that seem to be vastly overrating Evans' skills when they look at this match-up.
When a lot of people break down this fight they all seem to rely on a number of preconceptions about Evans that aren't really true.
Preconception #1 - Evans' Superior Cardio
This is probably the main preconception about Evans that bothers me the most. I've heard the following or a variation of "Rampage better be in shape, because Evans is always in excellent shape for the full three rounds" which if you look at Evans' recent history, it hardly rings true.
In his last fight back in January at UFC 108, Evans worked hard for the first two rounds, racked up points he needed and then completely faded in the third round. I wouldn't say he was entirely gassed but he had noticeably slowed and was nowhere near the world beater he looked in the early portion of the fight. If Evans is going to implement the stategy that many a fan suggests he imply - that is putting him on his back - then he's going to have a much harder time of doing that than he did against Thiago Silva, as the best way of describing Silva's wrestling is that he has very good Muay Thai. Add into that Rampage is a much larger fighter than Silva, and you are looking at one tired Evans.
Looking back even further and you see Evans starting to slow in the Griffin fight before he capitalised on that Griffin kick, he was completely spent against Bisping midway through the second and was completely buggered against Tito. He won all of those fights but he's facing a different animal in Rampage Jackson.
This is not all to say that he hasn't trained differently for this fight but by all reports Evans hasn't really changed anything up so by looking at his history you can't really keep the preconception of his superior gastank.
Preconception #2 - Evans' Fearsome Striking
With knockout victories over Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin, it probably seems a bit harsh to pick on Evans' striking as a false preconception. However, if you look at those knockouts and the other recent fights on Evans it seems pretty clear to me that in those fights Evans was getting pretty soundly outstruck before landing the "good night irene".
In the Liddell fight he lost the first round before he unleashed hell with the right in the second round, and it has been put forth that he was luring Liddell in and getting his timing. For the sake of argument I'll buy that and then we move on to the Griffin title fight where he clearly on my scorecards lost the first two rounds as he was outstruck by Griffin. Even with Evans' vaunted speed he was still getting picked apart by the gibbon stylings of Griffin who isn't exactly Amir Khan in terms of speed.
The Machida fight is hard to draw from as no one had the Shogun blue print going into it, but he still looked lost and then in the Silva fight he avoided any stand up exchanges early but when he did engage in the third he had his bell rung severely and was on the brink of a stoppage loss.
When Evans lands it is indeed vicious and if he lands like he did against Liddell or Salmon on Rampage I have no doubts we're going to see B.A. "unconcious" (read in style of the trailer). But as we saw with his recent fights, Evans eats some getting in, and the last person you want to be eating things from in the light heavyweight division is Quinton.
Preconception #3 - Rashad's Stellar Wrestling
Rashad Evans is a good wrestler, there is no doubt about that. Just like Jorge Gurgel is a good jiu jitsu practioner. Similar to Gurgel, during Evans' title run and brief reign people were calling for him to go to his bread and butter of wrestling rather than strike. It is my opinion however, that when we see Evans wrestle someone who is semi-decent at depending them we will see what see when Gurgel finally uses his jiu jitsu on someone who knows how to defend submissions well. In short, its not all it is cracked up to be.
While Evans' credentials as a wrestler are solid he is still fairly undersized for the light heavyweight division. Because of this size disadvantage, when he wrestles larger men such as Thiago Silva he tires a lot quicker. When you add in Rampage's excellent takedown defense and Evans later round conditioning problems things don't seem so pretty.
This preconception about Rashad's dominating wrestling probably originated from his run on The Ultimate Fighter 2 where he controlled slower heavyweights with no game off their backs. He then dropped to light heavyweight where he again earned success against such anti-wrestlers as Sam Hoger and Stephan Bonnar. As he the competition got stiffer cracks in this wrestling strategy began to show as he was outwrestled by Tito Ortiz and was even taken down by Michael Bisping in there fight.
Evans' wrestling is of course something Rampage needs to concern himself with in the fight but for the reasons outlined above it isn't exactly the death knell it has been made out to be by some.
I know that some of you will probably look at the first sentence of this post and then read the above arguments as me being a revisionist nitpicking at Rashad's record. This isn't the case. I give full credit to Evans beating all the fighters he has, in the manner he chose to do so. I just believe that if you weigh up the various deficiencies he has shown in those fights you can break through the many preconceptions being spread about Evans in this fight.
Now to get to the crux of my argument I present my prediction:
Rampage via KO early in round two after Evans resorts to exchanging.