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Ultimate challenge
Unknown Evans takes on UFC star Liddell

ATLANTA - About a month ago, Rashad Evans wanted to clear his head and take a few hours off from thinking about his upcoming fight with Chuck Liddell.

The UFC fighter decided he would go see the new movie "Pineapple Express."

He had no idea who would make a cameo in the picture.

"About halfway through the movie, there's Chuck Liddell beating the hell out of this guy. I was like (darn) I can't get away," Evans said. "I wanted to get up and walk out, but I was like 'I can't escape the dude anyway.'"

After the movie, Evans went home and took out his frustration on his aerodyne fitness equipment and picked up a tip while watching Liddell on the big screen.

"Yeah, not to get hit," Evans said with a laugh.

It's not a bad game plan as Evans heads into Saturday's bout against Liddell at UFC 88, considering Liddell has won 12 fights by knockout.

The Liddell vs. Evans main event is part of a card that also features former middleweight champion Rich Franklin take on Matt Hamill at Philips Arena. The event is expected to be the largest single day sports event ever held at the arena as the UFC comes to Atlanta for the first time.

For Evans to see Liddell on a movie screen shows the difference in the two. Liddell is one of the biggest names in the UFC and has made appearances on shows like HBO's "Entourage." He's graced the covers of national magazines like ESPN The Magazine and to the average fan he's the guy with the mohawk.

Evans' only claim to fame is winning season two of the hit Spike TV reality show "The Ultimate Fighter."

That could change Saturday with a win over Liddell.

"I'm just excited that it's here already," Evans said. "I've been training for ever it seems like. This fight got postponed before, so now it's back on so I'm excited to go ahead and get it done and over with."

The bout was originally planned for early June, but Liddell had to pull out due to an injury.

It will be Liddell's first fight since a win over Wanderlei Silva in December and Evans' first bout since a victory over Michael Bisbing in November. Needless to say both fighters are inching to get back in the octagon.

"I feel great," Liddell said. "I'm in great shape, everything is going good. My timing is good. I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to get back in there."

A win for either fighter would put them on the fast track to challenging Forrest Griffin for the light heavyweight title as soon as December. But neither fighter is ready to talk about a possible title fight.

"It makes it big, but at the same time I really don't get into the whole what's going to happen if I win this fight because sometimes you get your heart set on something and it don't even happen," Evans said. "So I don't even worry about it no more."

Added Liddell: "I think it should, but that's something we'll argue about after the fight."

After winning The Ultimate Fighter, Evans has quickly climbed up the UFC ladder in the last three years and is one of a handful of fighters who are undefeated. The former Michigan State wrestler has a 16-0-1 MMA record and is 6-0-1 in the UFC.

"He moves wells, he throws punches, he throws kicks, he's got a good shot," Liddell said. "He has a way of finishing and doing enough to win like getting a takedown at the end of a round.

"I've just got to pressure him and keep putting hands on him and make him work. Make him win the fight not just slide in there."

Liddell is the former light heavyweight champion and lost the belt more than a year ago to Quinton Jackson.

In his next, fight Liddell lost a split decision to Keith Jardine and since then has had to work his way back towards a title fight. He'll take another step Saturday.

"Chuck does a lot of good things," Evans said. "He has power, knockout power in both hands, so he's very seasoned and been in there several times, so he has a lot of things that present a problem."