According a report from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans is likely to make his debut in the middleweight division at UFC 209 on March 4. Though nothing is official just yet, his opponent for this middleweight debut is expected to be Australia’s Daniel Kelly.
Per sources, not official yet but UFC has targeted Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly at middleweight for UFC 209 on March 4 in Las Vegas.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 1, 2017
Evans’ middleweight debut, of course, was originally expected to occur at the landmark UFC 205 in New York City, when he was supposed to take on Strikeforce veteran Tim Kennedy. Regrettably, he was pulled from this fight at the last minute after an issue with a brain MRI. Evans and Kennedy were then rescheduled for a scrap at UFC 206 in Toronto, but unfortunately, Evans was forced out of the bout based on the same issue that pushed him off the New York card.
With Evans’ removal from this Toronto card, Kennedy was rebooked for a fight with former welterweight contender Kelvin Gastelum. Kennedy would lose this fight and subsequently retire, meaning that the UFC would have to find another opponent for Evan’s long-awaited debut.
Apparently, that search has led them to Kelly.
As a far lesser known name than Evans, Kelly is admittedly a bit of a head-scratcher in this regard. That said, the 39-year-old judo specialist is on a nice, three-fight win-streak, and is certainly ready for a step up in competition as a result.
After being knocked out by Sam Alvey in just 49 seconds in May of 2015, the Australian has rebounded with a decision defeat of Steve Montgomery, a knockout of Antonio Carlos Jr., and most recently, a decision defeat of Chris Camozzi. These wins elevated his UFC record to 5-1, and his overall record to 12-1.
Evans, meanwhile, owns an overall record of 19-5-1. After losing a decision to Jon Jones in his last bid to capture light heavyweight gold, he gave up another decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. He then bounced back with defeats of Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, but has lost his two most recent bouts to Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira.
What do you think of Daniel Kelly as the opponent for Rashad Evans’ middleweight debut? Sound off, PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/1/2017.