Could this be the end of the road for Rashad Evans?
The former UFC light heavyweight champion attempted to jumpstart his career after losing his last two fights at 205 pound by dropping down to 185 pounds for the first time in his 13-year career. The result of the weight cut was not what Evans would have hoped for as he dropped a split decision to Daniel Kelly on the main card of UFC 209.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion was unable to utilize his speed, wrestling and power — advantages he possessed during his rise to light heavyweight prominence almost a decade ago — but fought a spirited bout against his Australian opponent.
It was a long road for Evans after being unable to get medically cleared to fight at UFC 205 and UFC 206. The 37 year old was finally granted the opportunity to make his middleweight debut at UFC 209 but he was unable to make the most of it.
Evans looked excellent from a physical standpoint but it was evident that he had some rust to shake off after being away from the Octagon for the past year. Kelly entered the fight as a +170 underdog according to Sportsbook Review but certainly didn’t fight like one.
The first round was a relatively tentative one between the two fighters as Kelly showed some surprising defensive awareness by avoiding Evans’ right hand while landing his left. The second frame was more of the same as Evans lacked head movement and was unsuccessful with his takedown attempts. He struggled often with pulling the trigger and was a far cry from the man who knocked out Chuck Liddell several years ago.
Evans found a home for the jab and the right hand in the third while mixing it up with the occasional body kick. But he got started a bit too late for the judges. There was an interesting moment late in the third round when Evans attempted a takedown and tore Kelly’s shorts. After a brief pause, the two spent the final half minute winging punches at each other until the final bell sounded.
In the end, Kelly took home the decision with scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. With his third consecutive loss, Evans will have to re-evaluate his career and make some tough decisions as it is evident that he won’t be able to compete with the upper level of the division with a performance like the one he had tonight.