On Monday, former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 38. It’s been a stellar career for “Suga,” one fight fans can look back at below.
Brad Imes – November 5, 2005 – The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Result – Evans W3 (split)
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.
Sean Salmon – January 25, 2007 – UFC Fight Night (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
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.
Tito Ortiz – July 7, 2007 – UFC 73 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
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 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
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.
Forrest Griffin – December 27, 2008 – UFC 92 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
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.
Lyoto Machida – May 23, 2009 – UFC 98 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
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?
Thiago Silva – January 2, 2010 – UFC 108 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Result – Evans W3
The answer to the above question came in January 2010, and while his bout with Thiago Silva wasn’t an easy one, it was precisely the one he needed. Going back to his roots and rediscovering his wrestling game, Evans controlled the majority of the bout. But in the third round, he had to dig deep and survive a chin check from the Brazilian powerhouse, who looked to be one clean shot away from finishing Evans before “Suga” cleared his head and completed the three round victory. Next up was “Rampage” Jackson.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – May 29, 2010 – UFC 114 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Result – Evans W3
“Rampage” vs Rashad was a fight years in the making and after the two coached against each other on The Ultimate Fighter, they finally got the chance to throw hands in a highly-anticipated clash of former world champions and heated rivals. It was a clear decision win for Evans, though he did taste some thunder from Jackson late en route to the final horn. The fight earned Evans a shot at Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s title, but an injury forced “Suga” from the bout, with the title fight – and the title – ultimately going to Evans’ then-teammate Jon Jones.
Phil Davis – January 28, 2012 – UFC on FOX (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Result – Evans W5
As he awaited his crack at Jones, Evans defeated Tito Ortiz in their rematch and then squared off with unbeaten phenom Phil Davis. In this clash of former Division I wrestlers, it was Evans’ mat game that was superior on this night in Chicago, as Evans scored a shutout five-round decision over Mr. Wonderful.
Chael Sonnen – November 16, 2013 – UFC 167 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Result – Evans TKO1
At the time, no one knew that this would be Evans’ final career win, but since it was, it wasn’t a bad one to have, as Evans looked in top form in scoring a first-round stoppage of Sonnen, who was coming off a big victory over Rua leading up to this meeting on the UFC 167 card in Las Vegas.