UFC champion; it’s an exclusive club. As such, any time a former champion fights, it’s something to watch. So why is it that Rashad Evans’ next walk to the Octagon at UFC 205 feels so completely underwhelming?
Look no further than his recent record. MMA is very much a sport of “what have you done for me lately?” Looking at what has gone down lately for Evans, well, none of it is particularly good. His last two fights resulted in one-sided losses, none so depressing as his knockout defeat at the hands of Glover Teixeira. Before that, he had a couple of wins — over middleweights, basically, in the form of Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson. Maybe that’s why he feels dropping down to middleweight at this point in his career is the right decision.
Book-ending those two wins are two more losses, to Jon Jones and “Little Nog.” The Jones loss is excusable; who hasn’t lost to Jones? The Nogueira loss? Less so. That’s a Nogueira in the twilight of his career, scarred from many, many wars. An ex-champ, struggling to beat a fighter who arguably stayed in the game too long? Shouldn’t happen.
Nogueira and Evans have one thing in common, however: difficulty even making it to the cage. Over the past three years, Rashad Evans has fought exactly twice. Both outings, as noted, were losses. That’s a depressing stat for a fighter who once held light heavyweight gold, for a fighter who knocked out “The Iceman Chuck Liddell in 2008, and bested his arch rival “Rampage” Jackson back in 2010.
2012 is where the fun stopped, however. By that point, Evans had won and lost the belt, worked his way back to another shot, lost to Jones, and well, it’s been mostly downhill from there. Which is why, when he drops down to face Tim Kennedy at UFC 205, it may very well be his last dance.
There’s a multitude of reasons. For starters, Evans’ best days are clearly behind him. Some fighters accept that, some hold out in the hopes of a Dan Henderson-like final shot at glory. Yet in Evans’ case, he simply doesn’t have the fan support to jump into a title shot opportunity the way “Hendo” did.
Then there’s money. Money’s always a factor in fighting, unless you’re Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey or a handful of others in the exclusive MMA millionaire club. In Evans’ case, he has done well enough appearing on FOX Sports broadcasts that he should be able to transition into post-fighting life just fine. Hopefully, money isn’t an issue.
Then there’s the allure of fighting, which to be honest, may have worn off in Evans’ case, given how infrequently he has made it to the Octagon. Of course, he’s fighting a guy in a similar situation. Kennedy hasn’t been seen in the cage since his controversial loss to Yoel Romero in September 2014. Over two years have passed since he has competed. It almost feels like a battle of who shakes off ring rust better.
Yet even if he wins against a virtually dormant Kennedy, is there much point to Evans continuing to compete? A win at UFC 205 and he’s nowhere near the title picture. In his later 30s, he has been plagued by injury, and his best days are almost certainly behind him. He has more going on than just fighting, given his hosting duties, and there isn’t really a marquee, non-title fight out there waiting for him. Those already happened in the form of Liddell and Jackson.
But should Rashad Evans walk away after UFC 205? Honestly, it’s hard to think of a better swan song at this point. The biggest stage in UFC history, likely the biggest card in UFC history. A chance to come back and win one last time, then ride off into the sunset.
Frankly, it’s as good of an ending as he can hope for. All things considered, he should take it.