Rashad Evans Looking to Silence Critics and Avoid UFC Release Against Hendo

Jordy McElroy@https://twitter.com/JordyMcElroyCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2013

Rashad Evans - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
Rashad Evans - Esther Lin/MMAFighting

For the first time in his UFC career, Rashad Evans finds himself on the chopping block.

The former UFC light heavyweight champ is coming off back-to-back losses to Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

With the UFC laying down the hammer on so many jobs, Evans could find himself looking for work elsewhere if he loses a third consecutive fight. He is slated to take on MMA legend Dan Henderson at UFC 161 in a bout that could determine his UFC future.

Said Evans in a recent interview with ESPN.com:

It's good to get in there with somebody like Dan and answer a lot of critics and to show everybody that I am still one of the best guys in the weight class.

This is the type of fight that keeps you up at night, because you want to do well. My back is against the wall. And this is when I perform at my best. My manager Bill Robinson always says, 'You're either one fight away from getting a title shot and becoming champion or you're two losses away from being cut from UFC.'

It all started with the loss to Jones.

Evans' messy falling out with Jones and former trainer Greg Jackson led to one of the most emotional grudge matches in MMA history. Every fight is important, but there was something about Evans' beef with Jones that carried even more weight than the UFC title.

It was the must-win fight that Evans still managed to lose.

Jones walked away with the unanimous decision and the UFC title. Evans admitted to MMAJunkie.com that he considered retiring after the loss.

In the end, he decided to keep competing, and at UFC 156, he was stunned once again in a surprising upset loss to Nogueira. While Nogueira deserves credit for an incredible performance, it's tough to dismiss the fact that Evans looked unenthused and sluggish throughout the bout.

At only 33 years of age, Evans believes his problems stem from a serious case of burnout.

I must admit I did get to a point where I wasn't having fun and went through the motions. And that's where I am right now. When I started fighting I enjoyed everything part of it: I enjoyed training so much, I enjoyed learning. But lately it had gotten to the point where it was something that I had to do, it'd become somewhat monotonous.

A win over Henderson would go a long way in helping Evans get his career back on track.

Before losing a controversial split decision to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157, Henderson was riding a four-fight win streak and was listed as the No. 1 contender for the UFC title.

Has the ship finally sailed on Evans' career, or will he defeat Henderson and reemerge as a UFC light heavyweight title contender?