Coming off of a disappointing loss to Jon Jones in 2012, Rashad Evans seemed to shoot himself in the foot at UFC 156, dropping a lackluster decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
With back-to-back losses, and given the recent rash of fighters released from the UFC, one would think Evans would be fully aware that the pressure to perform in his next bout is actually critical.
In an interview with UFC Tonight on Fuel TV, Evans conceded that there was some pressure, alluding to the recent releases of some notable fighters, but just as quickly he seemed to wave it off.
“I’m not worried about losing my job,” Evans said. “I’ve put in a lot of good fights in the UFC and I’m confident that I’m not going to lose my next fight, but there is a bit of pressure as an athlete. You need to perform.”
Considering who his next opponent is, it seems there should be more than “a bit” of pressure.
Evans is facing the heavy-handed, ultra-competitive and incredibly experienced Dan Henderson—a man who no doubt is looking to get right back into the title hunt and knows a highlight reel-worthy stoppage of Evans would probably do the trick.
Of course, some of Evans' attitude can rightly be attributed to staying positive. Worrying isn’t going to help a fighter while in camp. The best fighters in the world have managed to deal with worry and anxiety by keeping those things at arm's length and letting their fighting decide their future.
But it would also seem that for a fighter who has suffered back-to-back losses, Evans should be proceeding with more than a bit of caution in assuming any footing he currently enjoys in the UFC is solid enough to withstand a third loss in a row.
Perhaps it is just the face and the dialogue he is giving the media, and behind closed doors he is working like a madman to make sure he defeats Henderson at UFC 161.
On paper, this is a very winnable fight for him. Evans defeated a similar fighter in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson—a heavy-handed fighter who relies mainly on his fists and little else.
But Henderson is incredibly hungry and has fought most of the bouts in the later years of his career like a man who hears the clock ticking, making him a terribly dangerous opponent for anyone in the division.
Perhaps it would be best for Evans if he fights like he is hearing the same clock because if he turns in another subpar performance like he did at UFC 156, there is a very good chance that he will lose.
Given how the UFC seems to be of the mind of sending strong messages to its fighters, releasing a 0-3 Evans would be akin to carving it in stone.
“Perform or else.”