Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans is still a viable contender in his sport thanks to a split decision victory over Dan Henderson recently. Rashad Evans basically won the final two rounds of the three round contest on two of the three judges score cards to squeeze out the win and thus the soon to be 34 year old mixed martial arts star is not ready for retirement. Still, Evans has not been the same fighter he was prior to the Jon Jones loss.

Rashad Evans was a very good high school wrestler at Niagara Wheatfield high and a junior college national champ at Niagara County Community College. Evans was good enough to earn a final two year scholarship to Div I Michigan State and had a respectable career there. It was Evans back ground as a grappler that allowed him to quickly rise through the ranks in mixed martial arts and eventually the UFC. Evans is no longer that fighter.

Rashad Evans picked up the nickname “sugar” somewhere along the way which apparently came from his quick hands and striking ability. In my opinion this is where the train started to go off the tracks.

Rashad Evans still holds the record for most take-downs at his weight and it was his wrestling ability that separated earned him from most UFC competitors and ultimately won him the championship belt. However, once Evans began to have success knocking lesser opponents out he did less and less wrestling in his matches.

Rashad Evans won the belt from Forest Griffin in 2008, putting the champ down with a right hand and pummeling him on the mat. However, in his very first title defense against Lyoto Machida Evans chose to stand up and “strike” with the black-belt and suffered a devastating knock-out.

Since the loss to Machida, Rashad Evans did work his way to another championship match against Jones, but again chose to stand and strike rather than force Jones to a ground battle. Only late in the final round did Evans take Jones down to the mat and have some success, but it was too little too late.

In his next match against underdog Antônio Rogério Nogueira again Evans chose to remain on his feet and he was upset after a very lackadaisical performance. After that loss Rashad Evan’s desire was publicly questioned by UFC kingpin Dana White. Even in his recent victory over Henderson Rashad rarely attempted a take-down and as a result got caught with a stiff jab in the first round that put him on his butt.

Wrestling is an extremely physical and challenging sport and the UFC matches are even longer than Div I college matches. It appears to this observer that Rashad Evans finds it easier to box rather than wrestle, but that’s not where Evans comes from. If he is ever to regain the form that he displayed on his way up then he must return to the mat. Evans must also attain the type of stamina that is necessary to use a ground game and wrestle his way back to a title. No doubt it’s a easier road for a younger man, but I believe it’s the road back to success for Rashad Evans.


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