In the wake of his loss to Jon Jones at UFC 145, many people have begun to raise the question: What is the next challenge for former UFC light-heavyweight champion, “Suga” Rashad Evans?
Should he take some time off? Should he try another weight class, perhaps middleweight? When will he fight again?
So Evans lost to Jones, but, let’s take a quick look at the facts here. Jones is considered to be the new “Superman” of the UFC, who is supposed to simply run through all of his opponents with ease.
However, veteran competitor Evans did not allow that to happen when they met in the Octagon. Despite suffering a unanimous decision loss to Jones, Evans gave the young champion a very tough run for his money. Evans was the first opponent to take Jones a full five-rounds in the UFC, and easily presented Jones with the most challenging fight of his career.
In fact, Evans was the first opponent that Jones has not been able to finish via KO, TKO, or submission since January 2009. Many fans feel that Jones should have been more aggressive in an attempt to earn a finish in the fight. But the fact that Jones fought a more conservative fight is a direct testament to Evans’ toughness and veteran skill set.
In the end, Evans appeared tired, but not wounded from the fight, and he clearly did not have the appearance of previously defeated Jones’ opponents.
So despite putting up a competitive fight against arguably one of the most talented and diverse fighters in the UFC, we’re now discussing Evans potentially abandoning his weight class to explore other options? Really? During his entire professional MMA career, Evans has never been the type to back down from a challenge, or an opponent. In spite of this recent loss, I don’t anticipate that he will begin now.
Of course, a lot of the recent Evans rhetoric is due to the hype of the new kid on the block, Jones. He’s the perfect poster child for the UFC, and fans have jumped on the Jones bandwagon at record pace and numbers.
At this stage of his young career, Jones is almost considered to be invincible, which may actually serve as a deterrent for some of the fighters in the light-heavyweight division. But, I think that we may be writing off Evans a little quickly here.
Every great MMA fighter has their share of losses, especially when they have a professional fight career that spans over 12 years, like Evans. During his career, Evans has 20 professional MMA fights, and boasts a record of 17-2-1 (and if including the fight that took place as part of the Ultimate Fighter 2 competition, his record is 22-2-1).
There aren’t many fighters that have 20 total professional level MMA fights with only two losses. Therefore, Evans’ record alone makes a profound statement about his skill level, his devotion to the sport, and his warrior like mentality.
Not to make excuses for the loss, but Evans did also take this fight in the wake of a divorce from his wife, a cross-country move, and a change in trainers and training camps. Whether fans out there want to acknowledge it or not, that type of mental pressure can have a profound impact on a fighter’s training camp, as well as their overall mentality going into a big fight.
Nevertheless, in top class fashion, after the fight Evans was quoted as saying: “I got out-slicked. I have to give him respect. He’s a champion.”
So, what next for Evans? This writer for one, would love to see a Jones versus Evans rematch sometime in the near future. However, a match against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, or rematch with Lyoto Machida would be equally exciting for UFC fans, and would still prove to be a big-ticket draw.
If Evans were to make a decision at this stage of his career to change weight classes, then it would simply be because he wants to, and not because of any intimidation from Jones or any other fighter in the light-heavyweight division. Time and time again, we have seen Evans stand up to so-called bullies in the UFC, such as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz, for example, so we know that he is not the type to evade a challenge.
I feels that Evans should continue to fight at whatever weight class that he feels to be the most comfortable, period. What weight class that may be is yet to be determined. However, it is almost certain that the decision will be made based on Evans’ comfort level, and not because of fan pressure, or due to any other competitors in the division.
So, again, what now for the former champion? I assume that nobody knows that for certain, except for Evans himself. But one thing is for sure, we will see him fight again. He will probably continue to put on great performances against top-ranked opponents, and he will always bring his fire and competitive spirit into the cage with him.
I believe that we will see Evans competing for a UFC title in the not so distant future. Before his career has concluded, this writer believes that we will once again witness Evans hoisting up a UFC title belt. Against what opponent and in what weight class, I just don’t know.