In front of a sold-out crowd at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the former Ultimate Fighter Season 2 winner battled the 42-year-old veteran in a three-round contest that saw Evans snap a back-to-back losing streak (the first of his nearly decade-long career).
After his losses to Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, at UFC 145 and UFC 156 respectively, Evans’ career was in a tailspin. With his win over Henderson, he once again finds himself on the path gold, albeit with some reservations about his performance against the future Hall-of-Famer.
Coming off of two losses, it takes a little bit of a hit on your confidence,” said a contrite Evans at the UFC 161 post-fight press conference. “Trying to work back mentally to get your game where you want to, get your timing down, believing in your shot, believing in your punches, stuff like that, this wasn't my best performance by far, but it's something to start from.”
UFC president Dana White mirrored Evans’ sentiments, as he spoke about the importance of the fight.
“(It) was a good night for Rashad because Rashad needed to get his head back in the game physically, mentally, emotionally, everything,” said White. “Obviously he looked good physically. He's in the best shape I've ever seen him in. (He) came out and fought a tough guy in Dan Henderson.
“Tonight was a good confidence booster for him hopefully and he starts to let his hands go more. Hopefully tonight was a step in the right direction for him.”
In fact, Evans has finished just one opponent (a TKO victory over Tito Ortiz at UFC 133) since defeating Forrest Griffin via TKO for the light heavyweight title in late 2008.
It’s popular opinion that, even in victory, Evans has looked less than stellar since his brief championship run in the late 2000’s. His wins over Thiago Silva, Quinton Jackson, Phil Davis and even Dan Henderson left plenty to be desired, as not one of those fights have stuck in the collective conscious of MMA diehards.
In fairness to the 33-year-old veteran, the fight against Henderson did offer glimpses of greatness. Evans managed flashes of wicked combination punching and slick head movement, but once again, he was unable to earn a stoppage victory – something that in the heavier ranks of the 205-pound division is expected from time to time.
Whether or not Evans has found his old form is largely irrelevant to the more immediate concern… winning. With his win over Henderson, Evans now finds himself right back in the discussion for top-level competition. And for this team “Blackzillian” member, quality fights is what he’s all about.
“There's a lot of guys coming in new (at light heavyweight),” said Evans. “There's a lot of guys that are pretty tough, so it doesn't really matter who I fight next.”
Evans was questioned on Saturday night about a possible move to middleweight, and although that’s not something he rules out, Evans believes he still has unfinished business to take care of at 205 pounds.
“205 is my home. If an opportunity comes at me at 185 and it's a good opportunity (I'd consider it), but for the most part, I feel good at 205,” proclaimed Evans, right before jumping to the topic of former teammate and current nemesis Jon Jones.
“It's hard for me to leave the 205 weight class. I would love to get a shot at Jon Jones again,” he stated. “I would love to get back to where I was and where I can be as far as being spectacular every single fight, but the landscaping has changed. It's tough.
“I'm gonna have to make some adjustments to my game if I'm gonna be dominant.”
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