Rashad Evans desperately needed a victory Saturday at UFC 161 if he wanted to remain anywhere near contention in the loaded light heavyweight division.
He got it, barely, by winning a lackluster split decision victory over Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 161 before a sold-out crowd at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
It was a desultory end to an uneven main card, but it kept Evans' hopes alive of fighting his way back into title contention.
After losing a title bout to bitter rival Jon Jones and a decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Evans was desperate for a win.
He got it by using his advantages in lateral movement and quickness to outbox Henderson.
Evans got knocked down by a Henderson jab in the first round, but Henderson rarely fired the knockout right hand that has been dubbed the "H Bomb."
Henderson followed Evans around the cage with the right cocked, not throwing nearly enough punches to win.
Evans seemed to have more energy left in the third round, and it was that burst which led him to the win.
"I had to [come on in the third] after he dropped me in the first," Evans said after ending the first losing streak of his career and moving his record to 23-3-1. "I knew I had the second, but I had to come on in the third."
He did, though he was hardly fighting with fury or passion. Neither man seemed to fight with a great deal of energy, so there were few dramatic moments.
The bout followed a horrific co-main event, in which heavyweight Roy Nelson was completely gassed in the first round and staggered to the finish while losing a wide unanimous decision to Stipe Miocic.
That took a lot of buzz out of the crowd, and neither Evans nor Henderson did much to bring the crowd back into it.
It was the second loss in a row for Henderson, who dropped a decision to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 in February.
"This I can swallow easier than the last one," Henderson said of the loss to Evans. "Rashad's a tough guy. He stood and fought me. He did a great job tonight. I can't say that for the last guy."
Evans was constantly aware of Henderson's power and shot for several takedowns as a way to neutralize it. He was only 1-for-10 in takedowns, but it was enough to keep Henderson off balance. Henderson didn't even attempt a takedown despite being a two-time Olympic wrestler
He said he felt Henderson's power several times in the match.
Evans said he thought "the referee kicked me," after being knocked down by a Henderson jab in the first.
"It was surprising," Evans said of Henderson's power. "The punches I thought would have the power didn't. But the ones I didn't expect [to be that hard] had it."
His ability to take those punches led him to a critical victory, one that kept alive his career as a contender.
More UFC content from Yahoo! Sports
• Jon Jones to battle Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165
• Lackluster win for Ryan Jimmo
• Stipe Miocic upends Roy Nelson in decision
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation