Rashad Evans: 10 Fights That Make Sense for Evans' Return to the Octagon

Mark Pare@NEPats17Correspondent IIOctober 17, 2012

Rashad Evans: 10 Fights That Make Sense for Evans' Return to the Octagon

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    After suffering only his second career MMA loss to Jon Jones at UFC 145, Rashad Evans (17-2-1) sits in a spot where he must work his way back up to the top to get another title opportunity.

    The light heavyweight division is stacked with guys wanting a crack at Jones' championship and to get there, those men will likely have to go through Evans at some point.

    Some of the guys will make absolute sense based on Evans' ranking, and you will probably shake your head at a couple, but in the UFC, anything is possible.

    Remember, we just saw Anderson Silva face Stephan Bonnar. No offense to either athlete, but nobody saw this matchup coming.

    Anyway, Evans' journey to another title opportunity will take a little while, but he is likely to face guys in the top five or 10. However, there are other possibilities based on certain marketing factors.

Lyoto Machida

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    Lyoto Machida is left without a title shot at this point and there's some unfinished business to deal with on Evans' behalf.

    Machida defeated Evans for the UFC light heavyweight title back at UFC 98 and if Evans wants a boost in confidence after his second career loss, he can always go up and avenge his first.

    Of course, this one will have to wait until after the "in the works" Machida/Dan Henderson title eliminator fight.

    Speaking of Henderson...

Dan Henderson

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    If recent events are any indicator, it seems that the light heavyweight title picture will be in for a few changes for a little while .

    With Chael Sonnen getting the next shot at Jon Jones, Henderson is left without a title shot.  The former Strikeforce champ is "in the works" of finalizing a title eliminator fight with Lyoto Machida and if Evans decides to follow his trend of taking a little time off, it's possible the loser of the title eliminator could face Evans next, depending on time, of course.

    The fact is that yes, this fight (as well as the Machida fight) would make sense, but may get lost in time. However, as mentioned before, anything is possible in the UFC.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

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    A fight against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua could be great for both sides.

    For one thing, both are Top 5-ranked light heavyweights and they have never faced each other yet. Imagine the contest that these two could potentially have.

    The thing is, if Evans didn't get injured and have to take so much time off to heal, this fight probably would have happened already.

    A win could mean Evans faces the loser of Jones/Henderson to get himself a shot at the belt.

    Of course, Shogun does have a fight against Alexander Gustafsson in December, but a win could push Shogun into the picture to face Evans for a future title shot himself (as could Gustafsson, but more on him later).

Glover Teixeira

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    If Glover Teixeira can do to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson what he did to Fabio Maldonado, title talk is going to come into play (if it hasn't already).

    Teixeira is a monster on the ground, making Maldonado look like a rag doll when he got mount in the opening minute of the fight.

    Evans is another animal.

    Evans has a solid wrestling game that is complemented by a fast-paced, controlling style on the feet that allows him to deliver damage.

    Expect a fight between these two men to be a grind-out war of attrition on the ground. If Teixeira keeps looking impressive, he's only going to climb higher and as mentioned, if he takes care of Rampage, another former champion in Evans could be the next one on his list.

    The Rampage/Teixeira fight should be scheduled soon as Teixeira didn't take all that much damage in the Maldonado bout, and a win over a former champ should put him in line against another former champ.

Forrest Griffin

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    In a world where the UFC is putting together marquee names more than ever, one just became available and has a date for December to fill.

    That man is Forrest Griffin, and although Rashad Evans defeated him already at UFC 92 in December 2008, this would be a fight to help the UFC.

    Griffin can try and seek revenge for a loss and possibly get back into the title hunt with this fight.

Ryan Bader

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    Ryan Bader is coming off a loss to Lyoto Machida in August, but won two straight prior to that.

    Bader is looking for a way to climb the standings, and although it seems more than likely that he will face someone in the Top 10, the UFC probably won't stretch all the way up to pair these two together.

    The fight makes sense in marketing, the most obvious factor being that it is two former TUF season winners and overall, it could really be a fun fight to see.

    You have two NCAA Division I wrestlers faced off against one another, but both have that respectable striking game and know how to brawl, so this one could be a hard fight to predict.

Brandon Vera

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    Brandon Vera is coming off of a very impressive performance against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in August and is looking to take a step forward.

    Despite the good fight with Shogun, it doesn't take away the fact that Vera has only won one fight in his last five outings.

    James Te-Huna might have something to say on that one considering Te-Huna was supposed to face Vera in July, but Vera was pulled and put into his fight with Shogun.

    This is more of one that is a long shot, but if made, would make sense to have because both are coming off of losses and Evans could use a fight against Vera to make a statement.

    Depending on time, this could be a fight that gets inked for near the end of the year or early 2013 if it happens.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

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    It's been a while since we've seen "Lil Nog" inside the Octagon.

    He hasn't fought since defeating Tito Ortiz last December at UFC 140, although he was supposed to fight Alexander Gustafsson in April but pulled out due to a knee injury.

    Why not a match against Evans to get Nogueira fighting again? Both are highly regarded in the division and a match between them would make some sense of a clustered division.

Alexander Gustafsson

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    See, I told you we would get to him.

    Alexander Gustafsson is a beast of a man, riding a five-fight winning streak.

    If Gustafsson makes it six against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in December, the 6'5" Swede and Michigan State alum could go to war.

    It is a fight that makes sense, again, if the timing is right. Gustafsson can get that much closer to a title shot, but must not look past Shogun.

    On the Evans side, this is a fight that would allow Evans to break a hot streak of one of his opponents, and it would make a statement that he isn't ready to get away from title talks.

Vitor Belfort

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    Last but not least, how about another man that took Jon Jones into the championship rounds recently, Vitor Belfort?

    Belfort is more of a wild card at this point. He has fought five times since his return to the UFC: two catch weight fights, two title shots in two different weight classes and a middleweight tilt with Yoshihiro Akiyama.

    He did come out with three out of five victories, and he is always a threat in either the middleweight division or light heavyweight division, so facing Evans would be a good one to see.

    This would also be a battle of two former UFC light heavyweight champions and is another fight that would make more sense of the 205 division.

    What do you think?


    Who else should face Evans next?  Again, be respectful with your comments and stay on the topic of MMA.

    Mark Pare is a Featured Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter, and don't forget to check out his sportswriter page.