Rashad Evans' MMA career is already full of accomplishments. He was the season two heavyweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), and later became the UFC light heavyweight champion. But now Evans seems interested in adding one more accolade to his resume - UFC middleweight champion. Now Evans is saying that he's strongly considering moving down to middleweight. He tweeted UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta shortly after Anderson Silva defeated Chael Sonnen for a second time at UFC 148, asking to face "The Spider."
Rashad Evans was undersized as a heavyweight participant of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) years ago yet managed to win the reality show competition. He subsequently moved down a class to light heavyweight and won the UFC world title there.
Despite his success, however, Evans doesn't have that large of a frame for light heavyweight either and is now considering a drop to middleweight. Not many gave Evans a chance at dethroning his former training partner and current 205 pound king Jon Jones when the two fought last April.
And though he lost a unanimous decision, Evans acquitted himself well in simply going the distance and withstanding some powerful shots from Jones. This all leaves Evans in an interesting, if difficult position. It is clear that Evans does not have much of a chance at becoming light heavyweight champion again as long as Jones is the title holder, but it is also clear that Evans is far from washed up as a fighter. Maybe he can't beat Jones, but Evans looked good enough to beat almost anyone else in the division.
Does a move to 185 for Evans make sense for him? Is it even possible, physically? Is it the right move for fans? And if Evans does make the move, should he face Anderson Silva right away?
Let's start with the last and easiest question - If Evans does move down to middleweight, barring injuries to other fighters, he should not get an automatic title shot against Anderson Silva. It isn't that such a match isn't immediately compelling, it is. Evans is a former champion from a higher weight class and his KO striking power, quickness and wrestling make him a threat against anyone.
But we've already seen Anderson Silva fight against a former light heavyweight champion (Forrest Griffin) and we don't need to again. Either Silva stays at middleweight and continues to fight whoever is next in line at 185 until he retires, or any future ventures outside of his weight need to be against other champions.
Georges St. Pierre, Jon Jones (and Junior Dos Santos?), we're looking at you.
As a former champion at a higher weight class, Evans should certainly have a quicker path to a middleweight title shot than your average ladder-climber. But it would be unfair to people like Chris Weidman (who is undefeated and has just beaten two other top 185 pound contenders in Demian Maia and Mark Munoz) if Evans got to leapfrog him to a title shot.
Also, there really is no upside for Silva personally to fighting Evans in particular. Sure, Evans is a great fighter, but he's coming off of a loss and isn't currently a title holder like Silva is.
Give Weidman the next shot at Anderson Silva, since they are each coming off of impressive finishes within a couple weeks of one another, and then give Evans the winner of Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch. The winner of the ensuing fight should then get the winner of Silva/Weidman.
That is, unless Anderson Silva can be compelled to challenge for the light heavyweight title or meet Georges St. Pierre in a catch weight bout. This writer, and many fight fans, would gladly take those two alternatives for Silva.
But, back to Rashad Evans. He says he will soon be doing a "test" weight cut to see if he can get down to 185 pounds and how he feels having done so. Assuming he does so and feels fine, middleweight might very well be a great choice for "Suga."
He can clearly still compete at light heavyweight, but who wants to play second fiddle? Evans would be an underdog against Anderson Silva should they eventually meet, but at least he hasn't already lost to him as he has to Jones.
Evans would likely have to change his body composition a good bit to make 185 pounds, but if he does it gradually, he could probably still feel good there. After all, his frame and height are certainly within the range of many middleweights and even some welterweights.
A move to middleweight for Evans seems physically possible and could present a fresh start and new opportunities for career advancement, so it seems like a great idea for him. In many ways, such a move would be just as exciting for fans as it would be for Evans.
We've seen Evans run the gamut of top light heavies for years (Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, Tito Ortiz, Quinton Jackson, Jon Jones, etc.) and it would be fun to watch him take on the unknown of top middleweight contenders. Evans could very well find new life at 185 pounds, but there's also no reason to assume that he'd steamroll through any and all competition with ease.
Evans' skill set (good wrestling, punching and kicking power) makes for a compelling contender at any weight class. But many of the physical characteristics that have contributed to his success at higher weight classes might not carry over to middleweight.
Evans is very quick and fast for a light heavyweight, will he still be against men twenty pounds lighter? Certainly, Evans has excellent pressure and strength in both grappling and striking, but would he feel just as heavy on the ground and hit just as hard if he lost that much muscle?
Evans, ever the cerebral fighter, has already made it clear he's considering all of these factors. We'll see what he decides but this writer is willing to bet that as long as Evans feels slightly better than death after his test cut, the chance to get back to a title shot more quickly at middleweight than at light heavyweight will gleam too brightly to not give it a try. If he does, fans will have a brand spanking new contender to be excited about.
What do you all say? What division do you want to see Rashad Evans in and who do you want to see him fight?
Elias Cepeda has covered boxing and MMA since 2005 and is a voting member of the Yahoo! Sports MMA Pound for Pound Rankings panel. Follow Elias on twitter @EliasCepeda