The story of Tito Ortiz’s last five fights may be one of a fighter hitting rock bottom before finding a way to score the huge underdog victory, but Rashad Evans’ story is much more rooted in success. As we take a quick rundown of his last five we’ll see career defining wins, a first career loss and a rivalry that reaches a satisfying climax. A win over Ortiz in their UFC 133 rematch will see Rashad put in a position to reclaim the belt that once sat around his waist.
Win (KO) – Chuck Liddell – UFC 88
Rashad came up short of victory in his first shot at jumping up in competition, drawing with Tito Ortiz at UFC 73. His next chance to break through came against Chuck Liddell. Liddell was riding high coming off his great win over Wanderlei Silva.
For the opening round Rashad looked to move around and make Chuck chase. In the round Evans was much more conservative in his output landing 7 of 17 strikes while Chuck connected on 7 of 30. It still felt very much like a fight that was up in the air heading into the second round. After making Liddell continue to chase Evans unloaded with a right hand that ended the night. It was one of the most violent and shocking knockouts in UFC history and cemented Rashad’s place in UFC lore.
While the final shot is the most memorable moment in the fight, the fact that Liddell went 3 for 20 in the second round to bring his total strikes to 10 of 50 showed Rashad’s ability to stick to his gameplan of working his defense and allowing openings to present themselves. It was classic counterstriking.
Win (TKO) – Forrest Griffin – UFC 92
Griffin entered the bout as the UFC light heavyweight champ, having taken the title away from Quinton Jackson.
The first two rounds were a battle of Rashad trying to get in and out with speed and heavy hooks while Griffin tried to jab and throw low kicks to maintain distance and wear down the challenger. It was a steady pattern and saw much of the usual output difference between Rashad and his opponent as Rashad threw less strikes but landed at a higher rate (48% to Griffin’s 34%) over the duration of the bout.
The third round saw Forrest throw a kick and end up on his back. From there Rashad took over, landing elbows and heavy punches, passing guard and continuing to flurry until Griffin went out and Steve Mazzagatti was forced to call a halt to the bout.
The win landed Rashad his first UFC championship but did him no favors in the popularity department as he bumped off his second consecutive fan favorite fighter in a row.
Loss (KO) – Lyoto Machida – UFC 98
The 205 pound championship has proven over time to be as much of a curse as a blessing as it has changed hands six times since Chuck Liddell with only two successful defenses. The pattern continued as Rashad met his match in Machida.
While Evans’ game is predicated on movement and timing, no one plays it better than Machida. Evans would only land 5 of 26 strikes over the duration of the bout while Machida went 37 of 58 to dominate the less than two rounds the fight lasted.
Evans dropped the belt in spectacular fashion as he was KO’ed against the fence, crumpled into a disturbing heap in a moment likely to be remembered for as long as his legendary knockout of Liddell two fights prior. While it was likely a case of an opponent who just had the exact perfect style to offset what Evans does, it was so one-sided as to make some question if Rashad could ever recover.
Win (Decision) – Thiago Silva – UFC 108
A rash of injuries forced this fight into the main event slot as Evans looked to get his career back on track after the Machida loss.
In against a man who was clearly a more dangerous striker, Evans was hesitant to fully engage on the feet and reverted to his wrestling game for the fight time in years. Rashad would only land a handful of strikes during the fight, but landing 8 takedowns over the course of the bout.
The third round was an issue though as Silva cracked Rashad with a strike that sent him reeling. Thiago opened up with a flurry of strikes that appeared to have Rashad on the verge of being stopped before Silva’s gas tank hit empty and he just couldn’t push the finish any more and allowed Rashad to get to the scorecards to take a 29-28 win across the board.
Win (Decision) – Quinton Jackson – UFC 114
Jackson and Evans had a long history, dating back to Jackson defeating Rashad’s friend and training partner Keith Jardine. The win over Jardine was supposed to land Rampage a shot at Evans’ title, but an injury scrapped that fight and opened the door for Machida to take the belt. A stint coaching against each other on The Ultimate Fighter followed by Jackson’s brief “retirement” from the UFC made this a fight quite a long time in the making.
Evans shocked everyone by sending Jackson to the mat with basically the first punch he landed. He also scored with a big takedown early in the round and clearly won the frame. The second round saw less action but still it was Evans controlling the fight’s placement and pace as he appeared to be up two rounds.
In the third Jackson landed a heavy punch that dropped Rashad but Evans was able to recover during the following onslaught and ended up getting a takedown and doing damage from the top to actually win a round where he was in significant trouble early. It was a 30-27 win on the Bloody Elbow scorecard and the official cards read 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27 all for Evans.
Since the Rampage fight it’s been a lot of watching and waiting as injuries and decisions to wait for his title shot have seen Evans on the sidelines for a year and a half. Tito Ortiz should serve as a tune-up fight if common logic on the fight prevails and we could be looking at Evans again fighting for the light heavyweight title before 2011 ends if things break right.
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