UFC's Rashad Evans: 5 Things We Learned from UFC on Fox 2
From an excitement perspective, the UFC on Fox 2 main card left much to be desired.
Demian Maia snoozed his way to a decision loss to Chris Weidman. The Bisping/Sonnen decision was partially ruined by a judge who, according to Dana White on Twitter, "should never be allowed to watch a fight again!!!"
Rashad Evans then completely outclassed an overwhelmed Phil Davis on his way to a 50-45 unanimous decision and a date with UFC champion Jon Jones.
Rashad has been quite the polarizing figure since he has waged war against Jon Jones. Twice he has had to prove that he still deserves to be the No. 1 light heavyweight contender, and he has done so in dominating fashion.
This most recent fight has taught me a few things about Rashad and has answered some lingering questions about his abilities as a fighter.
He Can Handle a Reach Disadvantage
How will Rashad Evans deal with the size and reach advantage of Jon Jones?
How often is this question mentioned when analyzing a possible bout between the two. We saw a preview of that on Saturday night at UFC on Fox 2.
In Phil Davis, Evans faced an opponent who not only had a strong wrestling base, but also possessed a three-inch height and four-inch reach advantage. Evans passed the test with flying colors. His fluid style and constant head movement aided him in getting past the long arms of Davis.
By the third round, Evans was landing punches at will, and it was apparent that Phil Davis lacked the striking ability necessary to use his 79-inch reach to his advantage.
Evans will give up an additional five inches to Jon Jones, but he has proven that he has the talent to close the gap and to avoid the distancing that Jones used against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
He’s Quite the Wrestler
Rashad Evans is a good wrestler, no one disputes that. What he demonstrated on Saturday is just how far his wrestling has come along.
Prior to Saturday night, Phil Davis had dominated his opponents with superior wrestling ability. Evans made the former NCAA Division I champion look very “junior varsity.”
Evans stuffed Davis’ takedown attempts, secured his own takedowns and dominated from top position. Rounds 1 and 2 both ended with Evans securing side control and locking up a crucifix for which Davis, outside of bucking like a rodeo bull, had no answer.
In his August bout against Tito Ortiz, Evans’ wrestling and ability to fend off two submission attempts by Ortiz showcased his rapidly evolving ground arsenal.
He Struggles to Finish Fights
Rashad Evans’ record of 17-1-1 is certainly nothing to point fingers at.
What stands out is that of his 19 fights, 10 of them have gone to the judges. Evans always looks to mix up his attacks, yet his fight endgame is fairly simplistic. He looks to land the right hand, or he tries to take the fight to the ground and get the stoppage via ground-and-pound.
Even with that, he’s accumulated only six career knockouts—two in his last seven wins. For someone with such gifted wrestling ability, his two submission wins—the last one coming in 2004—is also a bit disappointing.
With MMA judges being the fickle bunch that they are, having over 50 percent of your fights decided by decision is a very dangerous risk.
Though Rashad Evans completely dominated "Mr. Wonderful," Davis never looked in any danger of being finished—aside from the crucifix in Round 1.
He Has Endurance
Saturday’s fight was the longest fight of Rashad Evans’ career.
Both of his championship fights ended before what were known as the “championship rounds.” (Previously, Rounds 4 and 5 were reserved for title fights, but now main event non-title fights can go five rounds at the UFC's discretion.)
By Round 5, Evans was still pushing the pace and keeping Phil Davis on the retreat. While he did show some fatigue in the final round—and who wouldn’t after 20 minutes in the ring—he still continued to throw some terrific shots at Davis as well as defend himself from some of Davis’ last-ditch attacks.
It’s likely that his long-awaited fight with Jon Jones could go the distance. This fight served as a good testament to Evans’ conditioning, and he should be proud of his performance.
Greg Jackson Was Holding Him Back
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I’ve always thought Rashad Evans was a good, not great, fighter.
Even when he defeated Forrest Griffin for the title—whom I thought never should’ve been champ anyway—I still thought he lacked a certain edge that would allow him to become a great fighter. I felt vindicated when he was blasted by Lyoto Machida in his very next fight.
Evans’ last two fights have made me realize that he had much more potential, but Jackson’s MMA had taken him as far as they could.
With a stable of over 30 fighters, there is only so much time that can be devoted to one fighter. It doesn’t help that one of the fighters is one of the biggest names in the sport—current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
Evans reiterated his displeasure with the Greg Jackson camp in an interview with MMAWeekly in September. Rashad Evans was clearly no longer the focus at Jackson’s MMA. Having watched Evans’ last two fights, he’s improved immensely.
Although he fought a washed-up Tito Ortiz and an inexperienced Phil Davis, it is abundantly clear that new coach Mike Van Arsdale has brought out the best in Evans. His stand-up and striking defense has improved, and his wrestling appears more aggressive and effective.
The test now will be: does Rashad 2.0 have the skills necessary to beat Jon 15.1?