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Evans vs. Henderson – Emphatic stoppage or tactical chess match?
Two of the biggest names in the sport. Both former champions. Both coming off losses that left them stung and desperate to launch themselves back into the title hunt.
Dan Henderson could excuse his split decision loss to Lyoto Machida in February based on the 15 months he’d spent out of the Octagon due to injury. He went into that fight on a four fight win streak which included a knockout of Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce and a Fight of the Year win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Plus he’s Dan Henderson - icon of MMA.
Rashad Evans' frustrating stand-up duel three weeks earlier in which he and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira - an intimidating legend not unlike Machida - struggled to find their range, has left him chomping at the bit to get back inside the Octagon. Prior to that loss Evans had challenged for the title against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and remains one of the best athletes in the division. The fact that his next test - after back-to-back losses - is a man of Henderson's calibre testifies to the quality Evans has previously brought to the Octagon in wins over former champions such as Chuck Liddell, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin.
Evans, nine years Henderson's junior, should be the one capable of making the bigger improvements. He’s younger, more athletic, faster and arguably more rounded skillwise. At 5/6 he’s a very slight favourite over Henderson who can be backed at 10/11 with Paddy Power.
If Evans' mind is in the right place and he finds the desire to get another title shot he’s an excellent bet at that price. However, he will likely need to play a more tactical game. Hitting and moving, keeping out of way of the equaliser that is Henderson’s famed right hand, will be a crucial part of Evans' tactics.
He only has two submission wins on his record, earned in his first two professional fights, and Henderson has never been stopped due to strikes. Evans to win on points at 11/10 is the bet to make.
Henderson also only has two submission wins on his record, again both very early in his career. He does have 13 knockouts though and if he is going to win this fight that looks to be the most likely outcome. Henderson to win by knockout is well priced at 12/5. Evans - after his last outing - will want to impress so he might feel the need to take some risks. If he gets caught by Henderson then this fight could end very quickly. It’s difficult to know when that might happen but Henderson to win in round 3 at 16/1 is big enough to warrant a small punt.
Evans’ youth, athleticism and motivation should give him the edge in this fight. However, with Henderson’s knockout power and the way Evans fought in his last fight this is about as even a contest as you can get.