It almost seems like the norm in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for a champion to get a crack at the belt he lost immediately upon getting back into the win column. It happened when Randy Couture was knocked out by Chuck Liddell at UFC 52 and "The Natural" needed only to beat Mike Van Arsdale to rematch "The Iceman." Down at 170 pounds, when Matt Hughes coughed up the welterweight strap to B.J. Penn, a win over Renato Verissimo was all that was necessary to secure another title shot for the long-time champion.
The same should have been said for Rashad Evans. He was removed from the light heavyweight throne -- and from his consciousness -- nearly three years ago way back at UFC 98 when Lyoto Machida knocked him out.
Since then, it seems that Evans' life has been the subject of the newest Lemony Snicket book as injuries, reality television and just overall bad timing have kept him from trying to regain the most prized possession in mixed martial arts (MMA). Should he defeat Phil Davis tonight (Jan. 28) in the main event of UFC on Fox 2 -- and remain injury-free -- he'll take on Jon Jones, presumably at UFC 145.
It's been quite the journey for "Suga" since UFC 98.
After losing his title, Evans returned to his UFC roots when he signed up for a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). His opposing coach? None other than Quinton Jackson, who shared a tense faceoff with "Suga" after the UFC 96 main event. The season was the highest rated in the show's history thanks in part to Kimbo Slice's participation but also due to the rivalry between the two former light heavyweight champions. As is the norm for the reality TV show, the coaches were set to take each other on once the season ended but "Rampage" announced his abrupt retirement.
Evans instead took on Thiago Silva at UFC 108, an event so plagued by injury and terrible luck, it was thought to be cursed. The bad mojo surrounding the card very well could have acted as an omen for the next couple of years in Evans' career. He survived a last-round scare against the Brazilian and won the fight by decision. By this point, Jackson's brief "retirement" was over and he committed to taking on his TUF rival. At UFC 114, they finally collided and Evans used perfectly timed takedowns -- and one hell of an opening minute right hand -- to capture victory that night, ensuring a title shot against Mauricio Rua who had won the belt one event prior.
But "Shogun" was suffering from a knee injury and needed surgery. Evans opted to wait it out and nearly a year would pass before the Brazilian entered the Octagon again. Except it wasn't opposite "Suga." In a cruel twist of fate, the TUF 2 winner suffered his own injury while waiting for Rua to heal up from his. Unable to cash in his title shot, the opportunity instead went to his Greg Jackson camp teammate Jon Jones. Midway through the scheduled five-round championship fight, "Bones" became the youngest UFC champ in history.
This presented somewhat of a problem for the teammates. The main consensus among professional MMA fighters is that training partners are like family and in fighting simply isn't an option. In fact, Jones had gone on record saying that he would fake an injury in order to avoid fighting Evans, who he viewed as a brother. Interestingly enough, once "Bones" captured the title, his handlers announced a hand injury that required surgery. Evans, once again stuck on the outside looking in while his promised opponent was injured, decided not to make the same mistake twice. This time around, "Suga" decided to stay active and took a fight against Phil Davis for UFC 133.
That fight didn't take place. Why? You guessed it: injury. Davis bowed out and Tito Ortiz took his place on short notice in a rematch of their UFC 73 draw. "Suga" dominated his opponent and stopped "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" with a devastating knee to the body in the second round.
Jones, meanwhile, was miraculously spared surgery and has defended his belt against "Rampage" and Machida. It's expected he will make his third defense at UFC 145 in Atlanta, the same city where Evans jumped into the limelight at UFC 88. If Evans defeats Davis, he'll make another trip to the ATL for another career-defining fight.
That is assuming he suffers no injuries. And "Bones" stays healthy.
That shouldn't be too much to ask, right?