Two former world champions trying to get back to the top of the heap squared off last night (June 15, 2013) as former UFC Light Heavyweight titleholder Rashad Evans took on former Pride and Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 161 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Both men had a lengthy feeling-out process early on, with neither gaining a big advantage. Evans wasn't playing patty cake this time around, keeping his hands up and looking to land short combinations while Henderson, as expected, looked for an opportunity to connect with his massive right hand.
Evans seemed to be slightly in control, utilizing better movement and throwing more often, but Henderson's power was the great equalizer, scoring with a stiff left jab of all things and stunning "Suga."
Henderson tried to follow up with a big swarm of blows but he couldn't find a home for the killshot.
Evans responded in the second round by turning up the aggression, throwing more combinations and avoiding the big "H-Bomb" from Henderson. He found success whenever Henderson was backed near the fence and had his escape routes cut off. Takedown attempt from Evans were very unsuccessful, but he did score with short knees in the clinch whenever he was able to get inside.
As the fight wore on, Henderson's conditioning really proved a factor as he just couldn't explode forward enough to find a home for that right hand. Instead, Evans was able to turn it up, mixing in combinations to break the lulls in the fight.
Evans stepped it up around the midway point of the third round, scoring with his punches, not throwing them as single shots and following up with strikes in succession. When he had Henderson reeling during an exchange, he stayed on him, even briefly dropping the veteran along the fence with a flash knockdown.
The workrate for Evans was enough to put him over the top and despite the ineffectiveness of his wrestling, "Suga" was able to walk away with a split decision victory.
For Dan Henderson, he just couldn't find a moment to really land that huge shot. What worked for him against Babalu, Fedor, Feijao and even Shogun just hasn't against both Evans and Machida in his last two fights. More mobile opponents are giving him fits and his lack of conditioning and inability to close the distance or set up his shots is failing him. Hendo had his best moment when he landed a stiff left jab, something he doesn't throw often. He's going to have to keep evolving and mix up his game if he wants to catch anyone by surprise.
The fact that his mouth was wide open and he was sucking air before the first round was over was very troubling.