By JAKE CHASTAIN
| UFC 161 has experienced a lot of changes over this past week. Fighters have gotten hurt, replacements have been set, and the main event was even changed. With all of that said and done it’s now time to focus on the important stuff…the fights that ARE happening.
Rashad Evan vs. Dan Henderson was promoted to the card’s main event of the evening when Renan Barao had to withdraw from his title fight against Eddie Wineland due to a foot injury. Many fans, myself included, were already considering the light heavyweight scrap between Evans and Henderson to be the most highly anticipated bout on the card. Now, with the main-event booking, the fight will start receiving main-event hype.
Rashad Evans is heading into the fight following the first ever back-to-back losses of his career (Jon Jones and Lil Nog) and is not getting any sympathy from his longtime employers at the UFC as he is now booked opposite one of the most fear strikers in the sport in Dan Hendo. Aside from that Henderson is a former Olympic caliber wrestler which makes his game that much more dangerous. Still, Evans said that he would rather take the fight to the ground then stand and bang with the former PRIDE Champ. Avoiding that “H-Bomb” is going to be key if Evans wants to right his ship and get back into the win column at UFC 161. His game plan: take Henderson down over and over again. That’s easier said than done, obviously, but Rashad is a former All-American wrestler from Michigan State University and that strategy, if it works, is probably his best bet in winning the fight. The blueprint was already set by Jake Shields, who beat Henderson in Strikeforce by using his takedowns. So Rashad seems to be tapping into that vein for this fight. Here is what Rashad had to say about his plan:
“I had a chance to compete against some of the best mixed martial artists of all-time: Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Machida, Rampage Jackson,Tito Ortiz, Jon Jones, now Dan Henderson. I’m excited about the opportunity to fight Dan Henderson. He’s definitely on the top of that list of some of the best and some of the hall-of-famers I’ve competed against. I know what I want to do to get the results that I want to get: Trust in myself and gettin’ it done. Takedown, ground and pound, roll up our sleeves and get dirty and go to work. I’m gonna try to get 50 takedowns this fight. 50. If get him down on the ground, I want to ground and pound him until he’s done. Dan’s right hand is very dangerous. He knocks everybody out with it, hard. He just knocks them the hell out and they sleep for a long time. I don’t think it’ll be a mistake to trade with him, I’ve got some power too. Let’s not confuse this whole situation. I’m not going to go in there and stand in front of him and try to bang it out and hope to God I don’t get hit with that big right hand. I’m going to be smart. He’s gonna want to knock me out. It’s not gonna happen. He’s not knocking me out. I’m not going anywhere. I may have stumbled a little bit, fell down, but I get myself back up, dust myself off. I’m a top competitor. I deserve a chance to fight for the belt.”
Securing 50 takedowns is reaching quite a bit but we get the idea. Rashad is going to try to avoid Henderson’s right hand and try to wear him down with grappling and constant pressure. It seems like the right idea and Rashad is going to need that plan to work if he wants to come away from UFC 161 with a “W”. Both men are highly-skilled MMA fighters and are right on the cusp of light-heavyweight contention. However, with Rashad dropping his last two I would say that he is in more dire need of the win than Hendo is. That’s not to say that Henderson, who is also coming off of a close decision loss to Machida, doesn’t need the win as well.
So what do you think? Is Rashad putting together the right game plan to come away with the win on June 15th or is he just brewing up the makings of another boring main-event. Let’s hear some thoughts on the fight, Penn Nation! Sound off!