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Wednesday, 04/25/2012, 10:20 am

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Where Does Rashad Evans Go From Here?


By Ryan Busuttil:

In May 2010, Rashad Evans defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson by unanimous decision to become the number one contender to the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. What happened in the next 23 months was a whirlwind of emotions, changes and frustrations for Evans. After the Rampage fight, he didn’t fight again until August 2011 due to injuries to opponents and himself. 3 other fighters, including Rampage, got a shot at the title before he did. His teammate, Jon Jones, stepped in for Evans’ title fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jones’ title victory led to Evans leaving his training camp at Greg Jackson’s gym inArizona. When he finally got his title shot at UFC 145, Evans was unable to do enough to defeat Jones. With all that he has been through, to not win the title has to be disappointing for Evans. Wouldn’t any of us be disappointed knowing that all the issues that we’d gone through in almost 2 years didn’t have a pay off? We, like Evans, would be asking ourselves “What now?” Where does Rashad Evans go from here now that the brass ring that he was trying to reach, which was within his grasp, is far away again?

He can follow the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” and fight his way back to a title shot. On the plus side, he’s the first fighter to take Jones the distance in a title fight, he was never in grave danger of being finished and he won a round on two of the judges’ score cards. He’s also only lost twice in his career and has beaten some of the best in the division. You figure that if Evans can win a few fights against top ten opponents in the division, he can make a good case to challenge for the title again. Add that to the fact that there are still some good fights with Evans at light heavyweight. Evans-Machida II makes sense right now with both fighters coming off losses to the champion and Evans can try to avenge the only other loss in his career. Evans-Shogun can finally happen. If Dan Henderson loses to Jones, a fight between him and Evans could headline a Fox event. Like Phil Davis before him, Alexander Gustaffson can try and get into title contention in a match against Evans. Even a fight with fellow wrestler Ryan Bader would be interesting. Those are 5 fights that Evans can have and he could probably just fight and win 4 of them and get another title shot. Plus, by then, Jones may have moved up to the heavyweight division and Evans’ path to the title could be easier.

Rashad’s second option, and in my mind, the better option, would be something he spoke about a year ago when Jones was offered the title shot that was once his: dropping down to the middleweight division. Chael Sonnen has shown how effective wrestling is against the UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva. Evans’ wrestling is among the best in MMA. It’s not hard to imagine that if Evans goes to middleweight he’ll probably only have to win a fight or two before getting a shot at the title. After Silva-Sonnen II this summer, there’s not much left for the Spider (if he loses) in that division. He doesn’t seem interested in moving up to light heavyweight again and the welterweight division has gotten more competitive in GSP’s absence, making that dream match seem more and more likely that it will not happen. Evans has main evented several UFC events and would be a legitimate contender, something that the middleweight division is lacking. Let’s be realistic: how many casual fans would pay $55 to see Silva defend his title against Rousimar Palhares? Evans has shown that he can sell a fight. Silva, if he keeps his title, could use an opponent like Evans as he finishes off his career. Aside from a title fight, Evans has attractive potential fights at middleweight including against Sonnen, Brian Stann, Chris Weidmann, Chris Leben, Vitor Belfort, etc. The move would open up new possibilities for Evans’ career and new fights for fans to see.

In my opinion, an even better reason for Evans to make the drop to middleweight is that most of the fighters in the division are lacking the skills that Evans excels at. Sonnen is a wrestler, through and through. His standup leaves something to be desired. Leben likes to stand and bang, which means he can knock others out, but is also prone to getting knocked out himself. Stann has great standup, but lacks effective wrestling and takedown defense. These fighters are not as well rounded as Evans. He’s shown that he can outwrestle you, outbox you and knock you out in his fights. Sonnen may have taken Silva to deeper waters than he’s ever been, but if you look at Sonnen’s face after their first fight, it looked like he was on the losing end before that triangle choke forced him to tap. Evans style and speed would be a challenge for Silva. Combine that with Evans’ wrestling and you have a threat to Silva’s throne. Most critics will reference Evans’ “stanky leg dance” against Machida and point out that Silva trains with Machida, so it’ll be the same outcome. But, I think that Evans has shown that he’s learned from that loss in the fights since. He’s faced some powerful strikers in Rampage and Thiago Silva and has weathered anything they’ve thrown at him. Evans’ style might not always be the most exciting for fans, but it gets him wins, which is what matters at the end of the day.

Evans stated at the UFC post fight press conference that if there were opportunities at 185 pounds, he’d be willing to give it a try. I think the opportunities at middleweight are more immediate for Evans than having to go through a gauntlet of talent at 205. Either way, he’s got to get through the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world to capture gold again.

Follow me on Twitter @MMARyter

comments

53 Comments to Where Does Rashad Evans Go From Here?

  1. m says:

    He’s gotta stay and avenge his Stanky Leg to Machida.

    Would like to see a scrap v. Shogun/Hendo but I don’t think he will want to be a stepping stone for any of the up and comers at LHW.

    At MW, I can see him fighting Vitor/Munoz/Bisping to get close to a No.1 Contender Spot.

    He could fight for the MW title by the end of this year.

    Either route, he’s going to have to fight one or two people to get a title shot.

    • Reality says:

      Light Heavyweight is his home. He needs to go back to the drawing board. Acquire some new skills and technique, then work his way back up the ladder. He’s capable of beating everyone in the division and seems to be the best challenger for the champ in my opinion. People assume that going down in weight class will be better but sometimes fighters don’t perform as well at lower weight classes based on the cut.

  2. Snoop Froggy Frog says:

    Typo Alert- Greg Jackson’s Camp is in New Mexico….!!!! Sucka

  3. Brend0magic says:

    185!!! Rashad would tear up that division.

  4. DMAC says:

    Suga got mad options. I’m still salty about his performance but if he decides to stay at LHW he’s gonna have to drail a contender in a studly fashion.

  5. Rashad vs Machida II says:

    It wasn’t a typo regarding the “Arizona” error, it was just plain wrong! A typo would’ve been “New Mecico” or something like that.

    Where is bjpenn.com getting these writers from anyway? This piece of writing is so elementary.

    But, anyhow, another plan for Rashad: remain in the LHW division and win his next three fights. Jones shouldn’t be in the LHW division for much longer and should have an opportunity to win the HW division belt. At that time, the LHW belt will be available if Jones wins the HW and vacates the LHW belt. Just a thought.

    MW would be cool. The top 3 are getting old and I think Rashad can beat fighters like Weidman, Stann, and Bisping. The weight drop I think would hurt Rashad though, taking away some strength and possibly speed. As much as I disliked Rashad leading up to the Jones fight, I am rooting for him to win now.

  6. slacker says:

    He should win a few fights and fight Jon again. He can beat him if he uses his wrestling.

    • Gerald says:

      Finally someone speaks the truth!

      • Charles U. Farley says:

        HAHAHA…! What a LOAD!! He can win a few fights and get another shot at Jones, but there’s no way in HEEELLLL that he has a chance if they meet again. Jones was tentative and a little awkward against Rashad. It seemed pretty clear that Evans had gotten into his head. Jones didn’t attack the couple of times that he rocked Rashad.
        But don’t kid yourself for a second. Saying Rashad can win if only he would utilize his wrestling is like saying Koscheck has a chance against GSP for the same reason.
        If/when these two meet again Jones will be much more confident and still more evolved while Evans will be, Evans. He has hit his peak and Jones will give him the full beat down he should have last week.

  7. maurice says:

    lol rashad is stuck in a limbo. climbing back to the top of the lhw division will be nearly impossible. considering he barely got to the top because of his bullshit lay n pray and wall n stall. 185 might not be the worst option, but anderson will school him worse then jones did.

  8. maurice says:

    @SLACKER shad tried to use his wrestling. just jones stuffed him just as easy as every other wrestler he’s fought…

    • Reality says:

      How many takedown attempts did Rashad have in that fight? He barely went for any..I’m not sure why but that’s what happened.

    • slacker says:

      You think so? You think he just knew it was impossible so he never bothered to try? I dunno. You might be right, but I don’t think so. One reason I think that is because in the post – fight he said he had a mental block during the fight. You have to give credit to Jones for that and the overwhelming pressure he puts on you with his long limbs. Evans only went for two in the entire fight. The first one he let go of a single leg after a missed kick by Jones and reached for his waist – mental error. The second one was poorly set – up. He didn’t wait for a jab and duck under; he just shot in while Jones guard was up and so he stuffed it easily. No, I believe if he wrestles from the very start, he has a great chance to win. He made the same mistake Machida did. He let himself get backed up against the fence and then didn’t take advantage of the distance advantage Jones gave up when he started touching his gloves. When he does that you gotta throw upper – cuts or go for the single leg. This guy is very beatable IMO.

  9. Ninja Oreo Dollop says:

    He should fight Little Nog, avenge his loss to Machida then fight Shogun on his road back to a title. He’ll probably lose to Shogun but I’d be interested in that fight.

  10. maurice says:

    i honestly think shad gave it his all against bones. if you watch the fight shad would be doing ok until bones would hit him. then his footwork would go to hell, his mouth would hang wide open, and he would look desperate to survive. shad got rocked in every round of the bones fight aside from the 1st round. i think machida or shogun puts rashad to sleep. and shad tried atleast a handful of takedowns. either he would get stuffed easily, or jones would catch him in the clinch, then knee him in the gut and push him away. watch the fight again and youll see what i mean.

    • slacker says:

      Rashad also wobbled Jones a couple times in the first 3 rounds. As Evans acknowledged post-fight, he had opportunities he neve capitalized on. Rashad tried for 2 more take – downs after the 3rd, but he had already lost his speed and crispness by then – they were half – hearted. He should have been going for take – downs in each of the first 3 rounds.

      As for Evans, Machida, and Shogun, I think all 3 of those guys could beat each other on any given night – very even IMO.

      • Charles U. Farley says:

        Maurice, I like where your head is at. You seem to know what’s going on…

        Slacker, I want some of your caraazy weed, cause you must be high as elephant nuts!! Unless, OH.. did you think Rashad was the taller fighter?? Because he was the other guy, the guy that got ROCKED, the guy that got about 3.5 decent punches in the entire fight.

        Wobbled Jones?? Watch it again, and this time pay attention… Jones took a few decent shots that backed him up where he got distance and regrouped. There is a HUGE difference between taking a clean, or strong punch and getting wobbled. When you see Rashad take those elbows, and stagger back looking all confused and wishing he were back in his Florida McMansion; That’s wobbled.

        Don’t try to tell me otherwise, I have given And taken both types…

        • slacker says:

          You obviously didn’t watch the post – fight interview where this quote came from. “I wouldn’t say I was hurt, but I would definitely say [Evans] wobbled me,” Jones said. “There was one point where I got hit and tried to side-shuffle, and I stumbled.” – ESPN: UFC news.

          There you go my friend. From the giraffe`s own mouth. Wobbled AND stumbled.

          If Evans gives more for Jones to think about with take – down attempts in the first 2 to 3 rounds, this ends up being an extremely close fight.

        • Untitled says:

          He didn’t look ‘wobbled’ at all. He probably just said that as a way of getting into Evans head some more. Like when Rashad is sitting at home thinking about the fight, he can torture himself with the thought “damn, if only I capitalized when he was wobbled!” lol.. I am, like many a huge fan of Jones getting his ass kicked! But believe me, it ain’t going to happen anytime soon.

        • slacker says:

          No, he is telling the exact truth. He was hurt when Evans kicked him in the head near the end of the 1st. It was pretty obvious from his rubber legged footwork when he backed up – Rogan even remarked that he could see it in his eyes. And at the start of the 3rd, he wobbled him with the overhand right; at first Jones backed straight up and appeared okay. But then when he moved to the side, he stumbled because he was still a bit dazed.

  11. Whoa says:

    1.) Rashad’s speed is obselete when faced with a striker as quick as Anderson especially at middleweight…

    2.) Yes, Rampage and Thiago both have very heavy hands, but they in now way come close to the striking level of Anderson or Lyoto for that matter…

    • Ninja Oreo Dollop says:

      Speed, depends on who he is fighting. Vitor would light him up if they kept it standing but if your on your back your not going anywhere.

      Rampage and Thiago have more punching power than Lyoto.

    • Mike Hawk says:

      His speed matched with his strength and wrestling would make a fight with Anderson a lot more interesting than some people would think. He has 2 losses for a reason the guy wins, winning is what his job is after all.

  12. sean says:

    he gos for jones again !

  13. dwayne says:

    back to greg jacksons camp n let jones help him out while he moves down to middleweight

  14. jbeamazing says:

    he will just beat everyone and lose to jones again in 2 year if jones doesn’t go to heavy weight by then

  15. Pijan says:

    The last thing we need is another fighter dropping divisions. Let’s not forget Rashad started at HW, while he wasn’t a big HW, he still could fit the bill. He’s home at LHW, he’d be too big for a MW. That said, do what I was raised to always do, get back up, dust yourself off, get back on track. Evans is already pretty dominant in the LHW division, he can beat Jones, he just needs to come back with a better strategy. There are still a lot of fights for him a LHW, a lot of fights fans still want to see. And I’m not totally convinced Silva is that weak against a wrestler. We’ll find out Silva-Sonnen II cause I guarantee you Silva won’t be looking for a submission this time around.

  16. Donnybrook says:

    Two words… Middle Weight!

  17. A.James says:

    185 lacks the talent that the other divisions boast. It’ll definitely be easier for him. A lot of guys made the drop because it’s easier. Itll be a name to get keep Silva in the game.

  18. fox says:

    He go to middle weight no different he beat contenders and lose to the champ stay in lhw if he loses again then drop to mw he can’t cut it in hw at the top level with his glass jaw he started out as a hw but remember he was beating bottom dwellers dudes who you don’t hear about nomore

  19. Mike McMack says:

    I think 185 would be a tough cut for Rashad but if he could do it right and not let it screw his cardio he’d be a beast in that division.

  20. Myles cutmore says:

    I think middleweight is a good idea he could beat many fighters in MW and I think him and silva would be a great fight an a winnable fight for him if he gets it to the ground and if he stays in LW he will prob lose to hendo if they fought I could see him Winning against Sho gun and this whole Jon jones going to HW HA!!!!!!! He’s too pin he will get tossed around but he could use his wrestling and reach too his advantage so either way it would be interesting

  21. gzawilliam says:

    Hold on? rashad won a few rounds in that fight? are you kidding? he could not of won a single round in that fight. not even the first one. if the judges thought so they are stupid

  22. McLovin says:

    Bellator.

  23. Jay says:

    I really don’t care which option he chooses, I just want to see him back. As for needing to aquire new skills, what other skills are here for him to aquire? He is one of the most well rounded fighters in UFC. I think it is unfair to judge his skills based on the Jones fight because anyone who knows Rashad knows that was not his usual style. He didn’t try very hard to take Jones down and wasn’t really aggessive on is feet. Middleweight isn’t a bad idea, he only cuts 10lbs or so to fight at LHW which is alot less than most. If Dan Henderson who fights HW,LHW, and MW can do it I believe he can too. Either way, I hope Rashad comes back better, just like he did after his loss to Machida.

  24. Next game plan for his fight with Jones: Stick and dodge

  25. maurice says:

    lol at the ppl who says shad is too big for mw. if the dude didnt weight train he could probably fight at ww. and im not joking about that either.

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