Rashad Evans has a little bit of time to celebrate his win at UFC 161. He can't rest on his laurels too long, though, because he needs to get back to training and continue to build upon this positive result.
It wasn't pretty, but Evans got the job done against Dan Henderson on Saturday night, winning a split decision 29-28, 28-29, 29-28. UFC took to Twitter to congratulate Evans on his victory:
Rashad Evans @SugaRashadEvans turned up the intensity in the 3rd and was rewarded by 2 of the 3 judges as he gets the split decision victory— UFC (@ufc) June 16, 2013
Regardless of the win, there are probably plenty of fans who would have scored the fight for Henderson. While it's true that the bout was very evenly matched throughout, Evans was able to get the win with the strong way he finished the third round. Let's take a look at the round-by-round breakdown.
(Note: SS=Signature Strikes and TS=Total Strikes)
Evans started slowly but finished strong. In the end, that turned out to be the difference.
In terms of rankings, this one is an upset. Henderson came in as the third-ranked light heavyweight while Evans came in sixth, and that should have major implications on who will be in line for a title fight.
"I mean, anything's possible. You could lose this fight and then go on an eight-fight win streak," White told USA TODAY Sports. "But I would say, statistically, it'd be tough to come back from this loss (and fight for a title someday)."
Rashad can feel a little safer knowing there's still a shot at the light heavyweight title in the cards. Evans vs. Jon Jones could be an intriguing bout because the challenger was one of the few guys to actually take Jones the distance.
Bones is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and it's logical pair him up with a fighter who gave him a run for his money last time.
How many more fights should Rashad Evans have to win before earning another title shot?
The problem is, Evans looked far from convincing against Henderson. In terms of numbers and the overall narrative of the fight, he was the deserved winner. Unfortunately, he didn't distance himself enough from Henderson over the three rounds to make you think he's a vastly improved fighter from the one who lost to Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Lyoto Machida and Alexander Gustafsson have done more to earn a shot against Jones at this point.
That's why it's vital that he look as impressive as possible in his next fight. At 33 years old, he still has plenty of time to work his way up the ladder with a couple of victories. Realistically, that's only going to happen if he steps his game up from this win.
A split decision win isn't enough to catapult Evans to the top of the rankings and set him up with a rematch against Jones. As a result, he needs to choose his next opponent wisely and make sure to leave no doubt in the fans' minds as to whom the winner is.