MMA: Quinton Jackson

Rashad Evans does not see a way for Quinton Jackson to win the light heavyweight belt at UFC 135 this weekend, insisting Jon Jones can beat the former champion standing. More »

Jones labels Evans, Jackson as haters

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
7:41
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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JonesEd Mulholland for ESPN.comJon Jones has found himself defending his character since becoming light heavyweight champion.
When Jon Jones manhandled Mauricio Rua in March to become UFC light heavyweight champion, he was just 23 years old.

Supreme athletic ability, an unorthodox fighting style and unwavering determination are some of the reasons very few people doubted Jones would become the youngest UFC titleholder ever. Jones also exhibited good character inside and outside the cage, which had never been questioned during his rapid rise to the top.

But after Jones won the belt, his character became a hot topic. It has remains a hot issue heading into his first title defense Saturday night (pay-per-view at 9 ET) in Denver.

And the man often leading the discussion is Quinton Jackson, who will look to dethrone Jones at UFC 135. Jackson has expressed contempt for Jones, claiming the champion isn’t the nice person many believe him to be.

“When I first met Jones he was real cocky,” Jackson told ESPN.com. “I have no respect for him. I don’t care two shakes about him.

“And I want to be the first person to hand Jones his first [butt] whipping.”

Jackson claims Jones made disrespectful comments about him, though the former UFC 205-pound champion can’t recall exactly what was uttered. The exact words don’t matter; Jackson is determined to demolish Jones.

But Jackson isn’t the only high-ranking light heavyweight who has questioned Jones’ character in the past few months. Former UFC champion Rashad Evans labeled Jones a "fake."

While Jones (13-1) could envision becoming a champion, he was unprepared for the hostility that followed. On the surface it appeared the verbal assaults had no impact on Jones, but inside he was hurting.

Jones can’t pinpoint why he became the target of such anger. But after several months of seeking answers, he has reached a conclusion.

“It’s hate. That’s all it is,” Jones told ESPN.com. “I’m not one who goes around calling people haters, but in this case I really think that’s what it is. I really do. It’s hate.

“I know Rashad is a hater; definitely. I don’t want to talk about Rashad for this fight. But he proves that he’s an envious person in everything that he does, when it comes to me. And it’s so clear, that I feel sorry for him.

“With Rampage it’s also hate. I’m a young guy who’s worked hard. I’ve made it to a position that they both want. And both of them know that it’s going to be really hard for them to ever get this belt again.

“Maybe they think by coming out and trying to insult me makes them look better.”

Jones is 24 years old now and there are days when the harsh criticism still stings emotionally. But he refuses to let wounded feelings interfere with his mental and physical preparation.

Jones has had a solid training camp. He is in top physical condition and believes the questioning of his character has accelerated his mental maturation.

“I’d never gone through anything like this before,” Jones said. “It’s been a very interesting little road to travel, but I’m growing.

“The only thing that this has done is make me stronger, wiser and more experienced as an athlete. But at the end of the day, we’re going to get in that cage and rock it. We’re going to start swinging at each other.”

Jones isn’t about to reveal his game plan for Saturday night’s fight, but he hasn’t ruled out trading punches with Jackson.

That’s sweet music to Jackson’s ears. He’d love nothing more than to have a toe-to-toe battle with the young champ. Jackson (32-8) is an old-school slugger. Maybe his verbal attacks are intended to lure Jones into slugfest, which would favor Jackson.

“I’m going to keep it real,” Jackson said. “God made me to be a fighter. That’s what makes me different from anybody else Jones has fought.

“I’ve been a fighter my entire life. I was designed to be a fighter. It’s everything about me, from my natural punching power to how big my legs are -- that’s where you get the punching power from -- from the way my head is shaped to my thick neck.”

The physical objective of each fighter is no secret: Jones needs to utilize his long reach to stay out of harm’s way; Jackson must come up with a plan to close the gap.

Strategy aside, this title bout likely has already been determined by the prefight mental war. If Jackson has damaged Jones’ young psyche, a slugfest will ensue and a new light heavyweight champion should emerge.

“That is what Rampage is trying to do, get my mind off the fight, to get in my head and maybe that will change things -- which it won’t,” Jones said. “People who support me understand my character. That’s what’s important to me.

“I have good intentions. I’m just trying to be my best and inspire others with some of the things that I say and the way I carry myself. Some people will love it, others will hate it.”
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson has spent a good part of the last month attempting to get a reaction out of Jon Jones, yet it seemed to be the challenger who was in most danger of losing his cool during the UFC 135 phone conference. More »
Jon Jones claims he will walk into the Octagon at UFC 135 not as a champion, but as a warrior attempting to fulfill his destiny. More »
Quinton Jackson has labelled Jon Jones a cheat who has "Bambi legs", and he insists the UFC light heavyweight has nothing to surprise him with at UFC 135. More »
All the buzz coming out of Dan Henderson's camp has been that he is UFC-bound and would like to unify the 205-pound belts against Jon Jones. Yet, Henderson himself hasn't been contributing to these reports.

In fact, he says if he had it his way, he'd defend his light heavyweight title in Strikeforce and fight in the UFC, interchangeably. Speaking to Clinch Gear Radio this week, he broke it down.

"I definitely feel that there's still the possibility for me to defend that belt in Strikforce, but I think now that the UFC has bought Strikeforce and they need to make money and I need to make money, so we'll see what happens," he said. "I'd like to work out a deal where I'm fighting in both promotions...I'm sure we'll figure out a deal within the next month, two weeks. I would love to be able to fight in the UFC and defend my belt in Strikeforce."

He also went on to say that the Anderson Silva loss at UFC 82 was the one that stuck in his craw the most. "Probably," he said. "Especially the way [Silva] fights most the time. He's disrespectful to his opponents and the fans at the same time."

Whether a deal like that can be worked out or not depends on what Zuffa's big picture plans on for Strikeforce. The writing appears to be on the wall that Strikeforce isn't overly interested in having traditional champions and defenses the way the UFC operates. Right now there is a vacant welterweight and heavyweight title, and a Henderson's is currently in limbo as he negotiates. Besides that, outside of Muhammed Lawal, there aren't a lot of vastly intriguing challenges for Henderson in Strikeforce. However, he has plenty of options in the UFC, with potential fights against Silva for the middleweight strap, Quinton Jackson (who beat him for the 205-belt in 2007), Mauricio Rua and Jones. Zuffa has stated that the Nick Diaz deal they worked out several months ago allows him to fight in both the UFC and Strikeforce, so maybe it's possible they could give Henderson a similar clause in his contract.

Rampage 'ain't worried' about crazy spinning elbows

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
5:12
PM ET
By Ben Blackmore
ESPN.co.uk
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Rampage Jackson insists he is "very confident" of beating Jon Jones at UFC 135, and he warned the champion he "ain't worried" by any of his weapons. More

Hamill shows uncommon sense, grace in retiring

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
5:22
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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HamillAP Photo/Mike GrollMatt Hamill, the only deaf fighter to ply his trade in the UFC, served the sport well over the years.
Matt Hamill didn’t look like a man beset by injury against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133 on Saturday night, nor did he look like a man who knew the end was at hand.

Maybe that’s the point.

After taking the fight on a bit less than a month’s notice and admitting afterward he didn’t have much of a game plan, Hamill largely held his own against the 24-year-old Swedish up-and-comer before a final exchange that saw him succumb to a TKO three minutes, 41 seconds into the second round.

You could argue he didn’t do any worse than the average late-replacement fighter who climbs in the cage just planning to wing it, so it was a mild surprise on Monday when Hamill announced his retirement in a prepared statement on his official website, citing a years-long accumulation of injuries and what sounded like psychological exhaustion.

“I just don't have it in me to fight anymore and my last two performances have shown that …,” Hamill said in the statement. “I can't continue to fight without having the hunger and desire to do so.”

You know what? Good for him.
[+] EnlargeHamill/Jackson
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comMatt Hamill, right, has seen his fair share of grueling battles over the years.

Hamill clearly knows he still has things to accomplish in life. Autumn will see the official release of his self-titled biopic, a film that’s already netted a handful of awards at regional film festivals and garnered decent advanced reviews from people in fight circles. As the first deaf fighter to compete in the UFC and a decorated amateur wrestler, he’ll no doubt have more than his fair share of business opportunities coming his way, so it’s admirable that he’s decided to try to take advantage of them now, before the fight game exacts any further toll.

His MMA career likely isn’t one for the history books, anyway, and even if Hamill looked fairly capable on Saturday night -- moving around the cage well and marking Gustafsson's face with a lunging jab -- his best days in the UFC were surely behind him. After back-to-back losses to Quinton Jackson and Gustafsson and that embarrassing “win” against Jon Jones back in December 2009, it felt as though a gulf was widening between Hamill and the top of the light heavyweight division. That gap wouldn’t get any narrower moving forward.

Instead, Hamill opts for the smart way out, taking with him a 9-4 record in the UFC, three of the company’s incentive-based postfight bonuses and a list of opponents that includes four past and present world champions.

No, Hamill may never have won a title in the Octagon, but in retiring at age 34 with most of his physical and mental faculties intact, he pulled off a much more important feat. He got into the fight game, he left his mark with 14 career fights (all but one in the UFC), he made a little bit of money and he got out. You can’t play it much better than that.

What's fans' problem with Evans, anyway?

August, 8, 2011
8/08/11
2:01
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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Dana White said on Saturday he thinks the tide might finally be changing for Rashad Evans.

After years of being one of the light heavyweight division’s most successful yet seemingly least popular fighters, Evans might -- in the wake of his thorough domination of Tito Ortiz at UFC 133 – be on the verge of a breakthrough with fans who have long jeered him. At least that’s how the UFC President sees it.

“As he continues to grow as a fighter and a person, it’s kind of hard not to like Rashad Evans now,” White old MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani hours after Evans finished Ortiz via TKO following nearly two full lopsided rounds. “It’s kind of hard not to respect him.”

Indeed, what wasn’t to like about Evans’ showing last weekend? Despite the perhaps dubious level of his competition, he answered all of our questions about how he might be affected by a 14-month layoff, changing training camps and the distraction of an ongoing feud with frienemy Jon Jones. He turned in arguably the best performance of his career, showing improved striking and aggressive ground-and-pound while further distancing himself from early criticisms that he’s a boring fighter by crafting his fifth stoppage win in his past 10 fights.

Already a former champion, Evans ran his career mark to 16-1-1, reaffirmed his position as the 205-pound division’s No. 1 contender and looked better than ever while doing it. Even still, the Philadelphia crowd booed and heckled him on his way to the cage and, if anything, seemed indifferent to him on his way out.
[+] EnlargeEvans/Ortiz
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comIt remains to be seen if demolishing Tito Ortiz, left, will help Rashad Evans win over fans.

Admittedly, they have their reasons: Then there’s the prefight (and sometimes mid-fight) dancing, the obligatory crabwalk into the cage, the sometimes brash attitude and, yeah, there are those sunglasses. Add to that the questions about his killer instinct after a stretch from 2004-06 where he won five consecutive decisions and his choice to sit out this past year to try to preserve a promised title shot against then-champion Mauricio Rua and you start to get the picture.

Yet fans’ distaste for Evans sometime feels out of proportion to all that. Though he’d certainly be included on a list of MMA’s most-hated fighters, his reasons for his being there aren’t as pronounced as some others.

Evans isn’t viewed as a self-styled pro-wrestling heel like Chael Sonnen. He’s not seen an over-the-top bully like Josh Koscheck. He’s not regarded as a pitiable sad sack like Tim Sylvia. He’s just a cocky guy in an industry full of cocky guys. He’s a guy who speaks his mind and, deep down, maybe does half of those antics mentioned above because he knows they make you mad.

Is it time we cut him a little slack? Probably, but for his part – and despite White’s prediction of a coming sea change -- Evans isn’t holding his breath.

“I think the fans boo me because they love me,” he joked at the UFC 133 postfight news conference. “I’m going to get a shirt that says ‘Boo if you love me,’ so maybe then they might stop, but it doesn’t bother me. Somebody’s going to be the villain, it’s just the way things work. I don’t mind being the villain, because I know I’m not a villain in life. If they boo me, they still paid to see me, either way.”

Henderson fancies winner of Jones-Jackson

August, 2, 2011
8/02/11
7:14
AM ET
By Ben Blackmore
ESPN.co.uk
Archive
Dan HendersonJosh Hedges/Forza LLC/Getty ImagesDan Henderson wouldn't mind a return to the UFC if it meant a crack at the light heavyweight title.
Man of the moment Dan Henderson admits he is all for the possibility of returning to the UFC to unify the light heavyweight belts. More ╗

Ortiz in his words: The crash, the test, more

July, 27, 2011
7/27/11
11:31
AM ET
By Tito Ortiz
Special to ESPN.com
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In this blog, former champion Tito Ortiz why he'll never text and drive again, what made him cry and his thoughts on Rashad Evans ahead of their clash at UFC 133.
Tito OrtizAP Photo/Danny MoloshokThere's no crying in MMA, but there is crying at the mechanic's shop.

I learned a valuable -- or maybe I should say “expensive” -- lesson at the weekend: Don't text and drive!

I was taking a day off from training and driving in my Rolls-Royce Phantom, my pride and joy, and I looked down at my phone for literally one second because I had a text -- and I crashed my Phantom.

My first concern was my son, Jacob, who was travelling with me. He was fine, we were only doing 20 mph and I hit the brakes, but it is a shock to any parent to have their kid involved in any kind of accident. But he was totally fine so I got out to look at the damage ... and I nearly cried right there.

I let my attention slip for one second ... I just couldn't believe what I'd done. The grill was totaled. The headlights were done. The hood was mangled up. It was a really, really expensive mistake. That's my dream car. It sucks. It sucks so bad. I really, literally cried. Seriously, I cried. There will be some guys reading this going "Really? Tito cried over a fender bender?" but I know other guys will understand a man's love for his vehicle. That's my pride and joy. I love that car. I worked so hard to get that car. That's a unique vehicle and I was so dumb to look at my phone.

Seriously, I know it is just a car, just a possession, and it's a little funny to think of a grown man, a UFC champion, crying because of a fender bender but I don't care. The car is worth $300,000 and I did about $45,000 worth of damage. Just so, so depressing.

Putting it another way: after tax, that's my entire “Submission of the night” bonus from choking out Ryan Bader at UFC 132.

Now I need another sub or KO or Fight of the night against Rashad Evans at UFC 133.

Seriously, kids, don't text and drive.

Ready for the fight

Tito OrtizMarc J Sanchez / Icon SMIMan of honor: Don't expect Tito Ortiz to target Rashad Evans' bum knee.

After crashing my car and damaging my bank balance (all on my rest day), I was pretty damn happy to get back to the gym. I very happy with the way my body has responded to the quick turnaround. Like I said in the blog before, I've adapted my training as I've gotten older and don't do six, seven hours a day anymore. My body needs more quality training, and I'm dialing down the quantity and I feel great.

It's all there for me. I am in a completely positive place. I've beaten Rashad Evans before, it has gone down in the books as a draw but the fact is that in the Octagon, I was the better man when we last fought and I am a healthier version of myself than last time.

Now he's coming off a lay-off and a serious injury. He has been out a year with a knee problem, like I had to before my rematch with Forrest Griffin a year ago, and he's going to have to deal with that doubt. Is he mentally strong enough to deal with knowing he’s going to be rusty? We will see.

I've been asked if I will target his knee -- and the answer is no. I won't. I'm not that type of person. I want to beat Rashad Evans at UFC 133 fair and square. If I kick his leg, it will be part of a wider game plan to win the fight. It won't be to take advantage of an injury Rashad may or may not have.

Forrest Griffin targeted my injury in our second fight and I don't want to be that guy.

Lots of weight on Rashad’s shoulders

Rashad Evans Quinton 'Rampage' JacksonJon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesAfraid of commitment: Tito Ortiz feels Rashad Evans, left, backs off from engaging.

I invented this role of the s--- talker in the UFC. I was the first guy to do this and blow up because of it. I talked a ton of s--- about a lot of guys before fights to get attention and to establish my name and my Punishment brand.

But I backed it up. All those title wins, being champion for longer than anyone else ... and even the fights I did lose, I still backed up what I had been saying.

Now Rashad's taking over that role. He talks a lot of crap, but I don't think Rashad backs his big mouth up like I did mine. Rashad isn't me of course … I am the longest-reigning UFC 205-pound champion ever, and he couldn't hold on to the belt for one defense.

He talked a lot about my friend Quinton Jackson, but he didn't want to fight when it was time to go into the Octagon.

Now he's making a big mistake talking about me being “lucky” to beat Bader and get this fight with him. His ass can't cash this check.

Has he done what I've done in my career? No. Could he even defend the title once? No.

I don't need to run my mouth anymore. I can retire tomorrow, and I will be in the record books. My career right now is all about positives. I want to win my title back, inspire people, show that you can overcome injuries and a lot of negativity. I'm overcome so much to get back here. Rashad hasn't done anything like that.

I said it before and will say it again: all the pressure is on Rashad. And I am going to put a ton more on him in the first round.

Can Rashad deal with that pressure? Can he deal with the pressure that everyone expects him to win this fight, against a guy he should have lost to before even thought I was hurt in that first fight? That's a lot of pressure on him. He stayed out for 14 months rather than take fights, and it was a huge mistake in his career. Now he's almost forgotten and the guy he has a W over -- Rampage -- is fighting for the title and not him. That's even more pressure on him for this fight.

I am not sure he can handle that pressure.


Follow Ortiz on Twitter @titoortiz and at www.punishment.com

Five-round mains not without caveats

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
5:55
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Charlie Brenneman and Rick StoryDavid Dermer/Getty ImagesAn even longer shot: Would Charlie Brenneman have pulled the upset in a five-round fight?
At UFC 131 in Vancouver, Dana White broke the news that going forward all main events -- title fights and non-title fights alike -- would be five-round affairs.

At the time, when I asked him if this would be universal for altered main events that are put together on short notice, he stated simply, “no exceptions.” That seemed like a pretty straightforward way to think -- save for the fact that there’s been nothing but pretty exceptional things happening for the last few months to card headliners, making for a complicated case-by-case basis of five-round main events.

In short, it’s hard to imagine five-round headlining spots being universal, given the recent trend of altered main events.

Imagine if the UFC had enacted this frill-based privilege before UFC 130. That was the card where Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard became Matt Hamill versus Quinton Jackson on a few weeks' notice. Forget that the world would have been subjected to two more rounds of a blasÚ match-up, the bigger problem is that Hamill and Jackson would have had to alter their camps to train for five rounds rather than three. Similarly, when Shane Carwin stepped in late for Brock Lesnar at UFC 131, he would have had more to think about than just Junior dos Santos. Would it have played a hand in his decision to take the fight? Probably not. But he had been training for a three-round fight with John Olav-Einemo up until then, and it’s a pretty sizable shift in thinking for a guy whose main concern for the last year was gassing out.
[+] EnlargeTito Ortiz
Kari Hubert/Getty ImagesWould it have been fair to expect Tito Ortiz to accept a five-round fight with Rashad Evans on quick turnaround and short notice?

But over the last couple of weeks the proposition of five-round main events has gotten stickier still. If there were truly no exceptions, the UFC Live on Versus card in Pittsburgh would have been that much more complex. Anthony Johnson versus Nate Marquardt on plenty of notice became Nate Marquardt versus Rick Story on relatively short notice which became Rick Story versus Charlie Brenneman on virtually no notice. How easy is it to prepare for an extra couple of rounds if you’re Brenneman, who was only hoping for the off chance of a hypothetical three? Even for a fighter who is physically ready, the mental adjustment is significant.

And then this stuff with UFC 133 began happening. Would Tito Ortiz have still have taken the fight against Rashad Evans if it were a five-rounder? Ortiz is stepping in for Phil Davis on a little three week’s after spending a day in contemplation about whether to accept it or not. Would he have been as willing if the fight with Evans -- whom he fought to a full 15-minute draw at UFC 73 -- was a set-in-stone five-round fight? Maybe, but it’s that much more to ask.

The bottom line is, if we are to take this recent string of events at face value, for the UFC to make all main event bouts five-rounders without exception it will have to convince its roster to be ready for 25 minutes of fighting at all times. Either that or it will have to make some exceptions, and have five-round main events operate on a case-by-case basis.

Maybe then Lyoto Machida could argue for Anderson Silva money on the premise that he’d be working time and a half.

UFC 135 official; Jones to make title defense

June, 9, 2011
6/09/11
6:26
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
VANCOUVER -- A few tidbits from UFC president Dana White today, who held his usual court with reporters after the UFC 131 news conference:

If everything checks out with his health, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will have his first title defense against Quinton Jackson on Sept. 24, at UFC 135 in Denver.

“That is the date he will headline, in Colorado,” White said. “Assuming [Jones] has healed. Doctor’s got to say his hand’s OK [first], and he’s got to get in the gym to prove it.”

The advantages are stacking up for Jones. He trains at Greg Jackson’s in Albuquerque at altitude, so his first title defense at 205 pounds occurring in the Mile High City will work in his favor. The date also occurs only six weeks after UFC 133 in Philadelphia, where No. 1 contender Rashad Evans is fighting Phil Davis, so if Jones is cleared to fight the timing could mesh for a late-2011 meeting between Evans and Jones. That is if everything lines up just right.

UFC 135 will also feature a welterweight tilt between Diego Sanchez and Matt Hughes, and will be the first event in Denver proper, since Zuffa bough the company in 2002."

White also said that, from this day forward, all non-title main events --regardless if they are major pay-per-views or free televised cards -- will be five rounds. The one exception is the Davis/Evans fight, because that contract was signed previously to the decision to lengthen main events in general.

When I asked him if there would be asterisks involved, such as a fighter jumping into the main event on short notice, or a co-main event being bumped up to become the main event as happened with Matt Hamill and Quinton Jackson at UFC 130, White said there were no exceptions -- all main events are five rounds.

“For Spike and everything else, all five rounds,” he said. “If you’re in the main event you have to fight five rounds. Even if it’s short notice.”

That’s fairly a significant detail for how gyms will need to alter training camps, as now the possibility of fighting five rounds rather than three will be in the back of a fighter’s mind.

Matches to make after UFC 130

May, 29, 2011
5/29/11
6:18
AM ET
By Brian Knapp
Sherdog.com
Archive
Rampage Jackson vs Matt Hamill Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comNow is the time for Quinton Jackson to avenge a few of the losses on his ledger.
What should come next for Quinton Jackson in wake of his dominant decision victory over Matt Hamill at UFC 130? A rematch with either Mauricio Rua or Forrest Griffin. More ╗

Mickey Rourke makes his picks

May, 28, 2011
5/28/11
4:43
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
LAS VEGAS – The last time I asked actor Mickey Rourke for his picks was at UFC 118 in Boston, and he presciently called the fights exactly right, taking Frankie Edgar over B.J. Penn in the rematch, Gray Maynard over Kenny Florian, and Randy Couture by first-round TKO over James Toney.

As a former boxer, Rourke had sparred with Toney on occasion, and Toney -- who accused Rourke of trying to sucker punch him during one particularly heated session -- didn’t go too light on him. This made for a contentious yet brotherly relationship between the two.

As a big fight fan with a practiced eye in the way of combat sports, I asked Rourke for his picks on the co-main and main events for UFC 130. This time Rourke wasn’t all that forthcoming. He says he definitely likes Frank Mir over Roy Nelson, but in the main event, he yielded to the stinker in sports psychology, that set of things known as “the intangibles.”

“With [Matt] Hamill and [Quinton] Jackson, that’s a toss up. It comes down to who wants it more ... and how good Hamill’s chin is.” That’s as committal as he would get on it. So, for the record, Rourke’s official picks for tonight are Mir in the co-main event, and Desire in the main event.

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