Check out the seven defining moments of UFC 133 headliner Rashad Evans' career...
From his emergence in 2005 as the winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s second season and his title-winning effort over Forrest Griffin in December of 2008, to his losing of the crown to Lyoto Machida and subsequent comeback wins over Thiago Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rashad Evans has certainly had an interesting UFC career thus far.
Brad Imes – November 5, 2005 – The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale
Result – Evans W3
A natural 205-pounder, Evans bulked up to heavyweight for season two of The Ultimate Fighter, and proceeded to roll through Tom Murphy, Mike Whitehead, and Keith Jardine on the way to the finale against Brad Imes. Yes, 6 foot 7 Brad Imes. Despite Evans success on the show against the big boys, asking him to chop down Imes seemed a bit much to ask. But Evans pulled it off, and he didn’t do it with a conservative strategy – he went at Imes, took his lumps, and gave plenty of ‘em back. It was a rousing three round war punctuated by a late knockdown by Evans that secured his split decision win. More importantly, it gave an early glimpse of the New York native’s championship heart.
WATCH FIGHT REPLAY
Sean Salmon – January 25, 2007 – UFC Fight Night
Result – Evans KO2
With three straight decision wins (Imes, Sam Hoger, Stephan Bonnar), Evans was starting to get criticism for not finishing fights. A lot of that talk died down after he knocked out solid 205-pounder Jason Lambert in two rounds at UFC 63 in September of 2006, but it wasn’t until his fight with Sean Salmon four months later that Evans put those criticisms to rest, and he did it in an unforgettable fashion. After a slow first round in which Salmon appeared to have the upper hand much of the way through, Evans re-adjusted in round two, and landed with a crushing right kick to the head that sent Salmon down and out. That kick will be in UFC highlight reels forever, and sent a message to the rest of the light heavyweight division that Evans didn’t need to take you down to take you out. WATCH FIGHT REPLAY
Tito Ortiz – July 7, 2007 – UFC 73
Result – Draw 3
This was Evans’ true coming out party, as he faced one of the sport’s superstars as a featured fighter on a UFC pay-per-view card, and finally, people got to see a little more of Evans’ affable personality. It was a media blitz that Evans handled like a pro.
“Before I kinda felt out of place,” admitted Evans. “I was a shy guy and I played that role a lot. But now, I’m used to it, and this is every day for me. I’ve got to do a lot of interviews, a lot of people ask me questions, and want to take pictures or have me sign something, so I kinda got used to it, but at the same time, I don’t let my head get big about it.”
Yet while Evans got through the pre-fight buildup unscathed, once in the Octagon with the former light heavyweight champ, the enormity of the situation started to sink in on him and he allowed Ortiz to get out to an early lead. By the end of the fight though, it was Evans in total control, with many believing that if it had been a championship fight of five rounds, Evans would have scored the stoppage. But after three rounds, the judges ruled the fight a draw, with a point deduction from Ortiz for grabbing the fence costing the ‘Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ the victory. It was a blemish on Evans’ record, but also a valuable lesson about performing on the big stage.
Chuck Liddell – September 6, 2008 – UFC 88
Result – Evans KO2
A month after Evans’ November 2007 win over Michael Bisping in the main event of UFC 78, Chuck Liddell broke a two fight losing streak with a big victory over longtime nemesis Wanderlei Silva. The victory re-established Liddell in the 205-pound pecking order, while Evans was still seen as the upstart who was about to be sent back down the ladder by “The Iceman” when the two stepped into the Octagon at UFC 88. But Evans, now showing his fight-ending power combined with his world-class fighting IQ, frustrated Liddell throughout the first round with his movement and rapid-fire flurries, and when Liddell got over aggressive in round two, Evans closed the show with a single punch.
“My intention when I threw the punch was to throw it as fast as I can,” he recalled. “And I threw it, it went through, and I was gonna follow up with the left hook, but he was already going down. And after the left hook went by, I was like ‘oh no, he fell down. I’ve gotta hurry up and finish him.’ But it seemed like it took forever for me to come out of that left hook to turn around and get on him.”
Referee Herb Dean stopped the fight. The crowd at Philips Arena in Atlanta was stunned.
“It was so quiet in there, I could hear a pin drop,” said Evans. “The fight was over, Herb Dean had stopped it, and I was in shock because everybody was so quiet.” WATCH FIGHT REPLAY
Forrest Griffin – December 27, 2008 – UFC 92
Result – Evans TKO 3
Rashad Evans wasn’t going to sneak up on anybody anymore. When he took on Forrest Griffin for the UFC light heavyweight crown at UFC 92, everyone knew just how dangerous, just how good, the former Michigan State Spartan was.
And being prepared for him still didn’t matter. After a slow two rounds as he looked to find his way inside Griffin’s reach, Evans erupted in the third. Grounding the soon to be ex-champion and pounding away until the fight was over. Rashad Evans was a world champion. WATCH FIGHT REPLAY
Lyoto Machida – May 23, 2009 – UFC 98
Result – Machida KO2
In this sport, odds are that you won’t get out with a perfect record, and on May 23, 2009, Evans found that out the hard way against Lyoto Machida, who implemented a perfect fight plan en route to a second round knockout win. It was not only Evans’ first loss, but it was really the first time anyone had seen him rocked and hurt. How would he respond to that first defeat? WATCH FIGHT REPLAY
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – May 29, 2010 – UFC 114
Result – Evans W3
The answer to the above question came in January of 2010 when Evans survived some late fight fireworks to decision Brazilian power-puncher Thiago Silva, and while it wasn’t an easy one, it was precisely the one he needed as he went back to his roots and rediscovered his wrestling game. He carried the momentum from that victory into his bout against heated rival and fellow Ultimate Fighter 10 coach Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and again he had to shake off some thunder to score another big decision win and put himself right in line for a shot at the 205-pound title. But he won’t get one without a win over Davis next month, a pressure-laden task that he thrives on, making this UFC 133 bout a must see.