Pros Pick: Evans vs. Machida
The UFC will pit two world-class undefeated fighters against one another for the light heavyweight championship on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Champion Rashad Evans has but one blemish on his professional résumé -- a draw against Tito Ortiz. Challenger Lyoto Machida's ledger remains perfect. At the end of the UFC 98 main event, one will exit the Octagon with the bottomless feeling of failure in his stomach, a sensation he has never before experienced.
Sherdog.com spoke with dozens of professional trainers and fighters to gauge their feelings on the light heavyweight title tilt.
Din Thomas: How do you pick a winner in this fight? Neither guy has lost, so it's hard to say how one could lose. My guess is, after five long rounds, they will defensively both be so dominant that they will cancel each other out. And [for] the first time in UFC history, nobody will win. It'll be a draw.
Randy Couture: This is a very interesting style matchup. If Rashad Evans can get his hands on Machida and implement his wrestling skills, he will win the fight, but that's no easy task. I believe he has the ability to pull it off. Should be very interesting to see it unfold.
Kit Cope: I think Evans will beat Machida in this tussle. If Evans isn't smart enough not to play Lyoto's chase game, then Greg Jackson [Evans' coach] at least is. This fight is gonna come down to game planning, and I believe Rashad will have the best one.
Zac George: Machida can out-karate "Sugar" standing, but Rashad has the tools to end it on the mat. Machida [via] fourth-round stoppage due to accumulation of damage.
Cung Le: I'm going with Lyoto by decision.
Nick Thompson: Lyoto [will win] by making Rashad swing and miss.
Jeff Monson: Machida by stoppage late.
Mike Whitehead: No pick; it's too close.
Roland Sarria: Lyoto Machida by decision.
Erik Paulson: This is a tough one. I think that this one will go to the ground, and Machida could be the victor.
Pete Sell: Rashad has proved people wrong in the past thinking that he would lose, even though I have to go with Machida. I feel Lyoto has such an unorthodox and elusive style.
Marvin Eastman: I think Evans by decision. Machida's style makes it difficult to look good against because he's always moving around. He can make for a so-so fight.
Nate Marquardt: Rashad by TKO in Round 5.
Guy Mezger: I will take Evans; he just outworks him.
Micah Miller: I predict a lot of dancing and running.
Joe Stevenson: I like Rashad. I just think that he'll be able to use his wrestling to dictate the pace of the fight. I think Machida is very good, very talented, but they are both very similar in their counterstriking ways. I think that you'll see a more crisp Rashad landing strikes on the feet and definitely more sound takedowns. From the ground, I don't see Machida submitting Rashad. Maybe he'll try to pull kimuras, but [he'll] pretty much just be taking blow after blow from his back.
Ryan Bader: I've got Rashad by decision. I don't think it is going to be a very exciting fight, but I do believe that if Rashad uses his wrestling with his hands and mixes it up, then he edges out Machida.
Michael Guymon: I love Rashad and his style, but Machida is the king of the distance game. I see [him] frustrating Rashad and getting the W.
Scott Epstein: Machida might be the most elusive fighter in the world of MMA. Evans has some choices -- either try the patience game and be elusive himself, which will make one of the most boring fights of the decade, or bum-rush the show, throw caution to the wind, get the takedown, smother Machida into the fence and pull a TKO. Unfortunately, Evans is not a kamikaze pilot and will try the first of my two choices. I got Machida by decision. As always with my predictions, I hope I'm wrong. I really don't want to watch two guys try not to get hit for 25 minutes.
Stav Economou: I see Rashad chasing Machida constantly until the fourth round, where he'll finally land a shot or two and take the win. Rashad wins [by] TKO [in the] fourth round.
Stephane Vigneault: That's a very tough fight to say. I think Rashad by decision. I predict a boring fight, too.
Gabe Ruediger: I think Machida will win. I think his style will eventually force Rashad to initiate. Machida will counter and use his footwork to ensure that he fights his fight. I'm not sure which round -- although something is telling me third -- but Machida will win.
Elvis Sinosic: This is a great match [between] two undefeated fighters. Both have really grown as fighters within the UFC. The problem is both are counterfighters. I think Lyoto is more patient, but saying that, I can see Greg Jackson making a strategy that forces Lyoto to come forward. Rashad has great stand-up and great wrestling. Both guys have KO power. Both use fantastic footwork to set up their attacks. Lyoto works best against an aggressive fighter. Will Rashad break and push forward or will he be patient enough to wait for Lyoto to attack, knowing he has the belt and you have to beat the champ? I'm stuck on the outcome of this match. I really think both guys are extremely talented and have the ability to win. I can see it going to a decision. If it goes to the later rounds, who will be stronger? I'm going to sit the fence on this one.
Rick Roufus: I think Machida will win. I think his style will eventually force Rashad to initiate. I believe the only way for Rashad to win is to take him down and ground-and-pound him. Machida will counter and use his footwork to ensure that he fights his fight.
Thomas Denny: Man, this is a rough one. These are two of the best 205ers out right now. I'm pulling for Rashad. The fight is really hard to pick Rashad via third-round TKO.
Ben Saunders: I predict a riot breaks out in Round 4, ending in a controversial no-contest [laughs].
Robin Black: Machida does not have superpowers; he's just a guy who's super good at a fighting style that's really different than most pro MMA fighters. If anyone could create a game plan that will work for Machida, it's Greg Jackson, Rashad's coach. If anyone can implement it, it's Rashad. But I'm guessing it won't happen. Machida has been so elusive and dominant; he hasn't come close to showing his full skill set. Without it, Jackson can't create a perfect plan, and Evans can't make it happen. Machida finishes the fight.
Jonathan Goulet: Rashad Evans will be the first one to beat him. They have a good game plan, and I'm telling you, once again, we will be surprised at how good Rashad is. Rashad will bring the belt back to New Mexico after the fourth-round KO.
Pros who picked Evans: 10
Pros who picked Machida: 11
Pros who could not decide: 7
Mike Sloan contributes to Sherdog.com.