It wasn't always pretty, but Rashad Evans got the job done against Thiago Silva, and in the end, that's all that will matter.
Evans controlled much of the first two rounds with his wrestling as he was able to take down Silva nearly at will. Once the fight was on the ground, Evans had a difficult time controlling the action, but no fighter so far has been able to keep Silva on his back with wrestling, so that's nothing to complain about.
Silva did a great job of defending himself off his back, like a BJJ black belt should, but he couldn't really get any sustained offence going in the first two rounds.
The third round was a different story, as Evans seemed to have fatigued after expending so much energy to achieve all of the takedowns in the first two rounds.
As Evans slowed, Silva was able to land a few solid punches that rocked Evans badly.
It looked like UFC 98 all over again, with Evans backed up against the fence and taking a beating, just like he was against Lyoto Machida.
This time, Rashad was able to hold on.
If Silva had just a little bit more energy left, he might have been able to finish the fight, but Evans regained his composure, and held on to force the decision.
Some people might be a little less than impressed with the style of Evans' victory, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Over the past few fights, Evans had neglected his strong wrestling base in favor of striking. Facing a much higher calibre striker in Lyoto Machida seems to have forced him to re-evaluate how he approaches a fight.
In this fight, Evans used his wrestling very effectively, but more than just wrestling, Evans's wrestling has become more effective because he's started to set up his takedowns with strikes very effectively.
As Evans moved forward with strikes, Silva was forced to bring up his hands, whereupon Evans would shoot for a takedown. It is a serious improvement for Evans, and one that he'll likely need if he is going to stay competitive in the light-heavyweight division.
There was one other notable improvement for Evans, in that he was finally able to do well out of the gates.
Evans has become known as a little bit of a slow starter, but in this case, he was able to get his game under control early so that he didn't find himself in a position where he needed to win the last round by a large margin.
The fact that he seemed to fade a little bit at the end may be a bit of a negative, but I'm sure that he can do a little bit better if he just makes two more improvements by pacing himself, and being just a little more effective in securing and holding an advantageous position on the ground.
If he can do those two things, he'll still be able to win the rounds, but he won't get tired quite so quickly.
Aside from the technical improvements, though, the under-hyped nature of the bout has somehow made people forget a little bit about what was at stake.
Many have said that White would have made the match anyway, but it wouldn't have surprised me if he matched Jackson up against Forrest Griffin instead.
Evans wants the fight with Jackson, and the fight will probably earn him one of the biggest paydays of his career.
Even if Evans didn't want to admit it, earning the fight with Jackson was the most valuable prize that could have been gained. He earned it, and on the way made some real improvements as a fighter.
Junior Dos Santos and Paul Daley both scored big victories tonight, but count Evans as the biggest winner of what turned out be a night of extremely exciting fights.