Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight roost-ruler, Rashad Evans, is set to collide with heavy-handed Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Glover Teixeira, this Saturday (April 16, 2016) at UFC on FOX 19 inside Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Evans is at a crossroads in his career. In his last bout, Evans returned from a two-year layoff opposite Ryan Bader. While Bader has definitely improved and looked better than ever, it was equally noteworthy of how flat Evans looked, failing to pull the trigger in some important moments and generally showed little sense of urgency.
After that loss, this bout is quite important. It's Evans' chance to shift the blame of that loss to ring rust and recover his position in the top five. More than that, it's a must-win bout for Evans if he hopes to make another title run before his career is up.
Let's take a look at the former champion's skill set:
Evans has developed a solid style of boxing that relies heavily on both his speed and the threat of the takedown. Since Evans' athleticism and wrestling background are perhaps his two best traits, it's a very sensible style of striking for "Suga."
For the most part, Evans' primary threats are the takedown and right hand. However, he does a nice job of setting up both, commonly pumping out his jab and hook. While there's usually a right hand coming behind those punches before long, he'll also occasionally commit hard to his left hook and cover a fair amount of distance.
If there's a main criticism of Evans' offense, it's that he sometimes paws and feints too often. This is particularly accurate if his opponent is willing to reach out and hand fight with him -- which both Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones did to great success -- as Evans has few distance options if his lead hand is nullified. In that situation, he either begins lunging in with the right hand or simply stops throwing much at all.
Evans has a very quick and powerful overhand right. While on the edge of his punching range, Evans does a nice feinting with both his hands and sudden level changes. This allows him to catch his opponent off guard with a blast double, but it also allows him to surprise his opponent with a swift overhand after a couple of feeler jabs (GIF).
It wouldn't be right to discuss Evans' overhand without mentioning perhaps the most famous moment of his career. In the second round of his fight with recently the recently dethroned Chuck Liddell, Evans reacted to Liddell's pressure with an overhand while "The Iceman" looked for an uppercut. Both men were on target, but Evans' speed won out, sending his opponent down to the canvas in devastating fashion (GIF).
For the most part, Evans' skill set has remained the same over the years but has just improved over time. However, one area in which Evans really developed his game further in the last three years is his clinch work. This was first on display opposite Tito Ortiz, as Evans cut at his opponent with elbows and worked with body with punches. He also did a very nice job of controlling his opponent's guard with his left hand -- which makes it more difficult for him to defend and fire back -- and then attacking with his right (GIF).
Dirty boxing was also a major part of Evans' game plan opposite Dan Henderson. Though "Hendo" was able to stop Evans' shot from inside the clinch, "Suga" was able to work his opponent over from the inside and exhaust him. Once more, Evans made good use of his right hand while framing with his left (GIF).
Beyond his boxing, Evans has a solid if underutilized kicking attack. When he suddenly fires off a fast high kicks, it's generally effective. Overall, it's simply a fact of the sport that any wrestler who can kick high is dangerous, as the threat of the takedown forces opponent's to lower hands more often than not (GIF).
Additionally, Evans can kick hard to the body and legs, but he doesn't do it consistently. This was an issue in his last bout, as the most successful strikes Evans landed were to his opponent's legs, as Bader was circling and moving a lot. Despite knocking his opponent's stance around and clearly being effective with his low kicks, Evans did not commit to them and allowed Bader to continue controlling the fight.
Defensively, Evans has always had one major issue. While he moves his head well on the outside, he commonly keeps his head still as he moves inside with punches. This flaw was exposed in violent fashion by Lyoto Machida, who slammed home his left hand repeatedly as Evans looked to work inside.
Evans was a fairly successful collegiate wrestler, but he's been known as one of the better MMA wrestlers in the sport for some time. This is largely thanks to his smart striking style, which sets up his takedowns brilliantly.
Evans is all about the blast double leg. So long as he manages to smoothly get in on his opponent's hips, it's basically a guarantee that Evans can run through his opponent and take him to the mat.
To that end, Evans' ability to blend his striking and wrestling is very important. Thanks to his low, coiled stance, much of the time that Evans pushes forward he's in good position to strike or run through his double leg. If he notices his opponent's guard is particularly high or his foe is leaning back, Evans can change things up and fire off his double leg (GIF).
One of the most perfectly executed takedowns in the sport's history came in Evans' bout with "Rampage" Jackson. Jackson made a career of keeping a tight guard around his face, blocking his opponent's blows, and then returning with some vicious hooks, which capitalized on many fighter's habits of staying in range after throwing their combinations.
Against Evans, however, it left him very open to the takedown. At one point in the fight, Evans used a pair of wide hooks to force Jackson's guard up high before fluidly ducking under his opponent's counter hook and blasting through his opponent.
It simply doesn't get much better than that (GIF).
In addition, Evans can switch up his takedown game when necessary. He's a strong cage wrestler as well, using punches to distract his opponent before dropping down into a double leg (GIF).
In Evans' bout with Phil Davis, he was opposite a larger and more decorated wrestler. However, the veteran was able to use his more rounded striking game and experience to still score takedowns. Taking advantage of Davis' fairly robotic striking, Evans would catch kicks and trip his opponent to the mat.
Defensively, Evans has never been an easy man to take down. While that's not an impossible task, holding Evans down seems to be. While some skilled wrestlers -- like Ryan Bader -- have managed to briefly drag Evans to the mat, "Suga" excels at quickly wall-walking before his opponent can establish position or do any real damage.
Though Evans is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he's yet to display any of that offensively. He's a decent guard passer with some violent ground strikes when allowed to posture up, but Evans has yet to attempt a single submission in his decade of fighting in the UFC.
So yeah, there's not a lot to analyze here.
Similarly, Evans is rarely forced to defend submissions. That alone is definitely a positive sign of his skill, but it also helps that Evans is rarely grappling on the mat with submission aces. There simply aren't many men in the Light Heavyweight division who really have a dangerous guard game.
Evans has been competing at the highest level since his 2007 draw with Tito Ortiz. This fight is not an exception, as Teixeira has a fairly strong claim to being a member of the top five and is on a winning streak. In order for Evans to continue receiving tough fights and stay -- even loosely -- in the title hunt, the veteran needs an impressive victory in this match up.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.