Fans want big action at UFC 98

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

If history is any indicator, there will be boos during tonight's UFC 98 main event.

Not that the two men in the cage aren't accomplished mixed martial artists worthy of marquee status.

Lyoto "Dragon" Machida and champion "Sugar" Rashad Evans are both undefeated in the Octagon. Each has victories over some of the toughest light-heavyweights on the planet.

But both are counter-strikers and while Evans holds a slight edge in chasing down his opponent, neither is known for stalking the man opposite him in the eight-cornered ring.

Evans has shed some of that label in his last two fights -- a knockout win over Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell and a belt victory over Forrest Griffin. But Machida's karate-centred style of striking at the most opportune times has proven unpopular with fans and even fellow fighters. Light-heavyweight contender Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has gone as far as to call Machida's boring and bad for business.

Machida is well aware of his critics.

"Of course, it's part of his job to entertain the fans," the Brazilian said through an interpreter. "In the end, it's a sport, but it's also entertainment. I'm being paid to entertain the fans."

Machida plans to feed off the criticism and refine his game plan to please fans.

"I believe that all of the criticism goes on to a good side of my training because I can hear what the people are saying and kind of adapt my training, and kind of get better in whatever way I can.

"One of my main priorities is to put on a great performance and to really satisfy fans. And I think that if I come out there relaxed and just think about the fight, then it's going to be a great fight."

SILVA-LEITES LETDOWN

The UFC would love nothing more than a crowd-pleaser following one of the weakest main events in recent memory. Boos reverberated through Montreal's Bell Centre at UFC 97 last month when a tentative Anderson "Spider" Silva went five rounds with an equally tentative Thales Leites.

Machida, who has a 14-0 record, says he's ready to deliver and build on his knockout win over previously undefeated countryman Thiago Silva in January.

Evans said he doesn't spend much time dwelling on the fact one fighter will come away from tonight's fight with his first professional blemish.

"Accomplishing what me and Lyoto have accomplished, you know, it wasn't an easy task," says the former Michigan State wrestling star, who is 13-0-1.

"But you know when I go in there and fight, just like Lyoto probably, it don't matter if I'm undefeated or not. I'm just trying to win that one fight."

UFC 98, from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, will also feature a much-anticipated showdown between former The Ultimate Fighter coaches Matt Hughes and Matt Serra.

JOSE.RODRIGUEZ@SUNMEDIA.CA


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