Sometimes, it’s just the way that it goes in this sport. Two top competitors, who by all accounts should be involved in a close fight, enter the Octagon. Two minutes later one of them is throwing his fists in the air, and roaring in celebration, while the other, being beckoned to sit on a stool, is asking “What happened? What did I get hit with?”
This was one of those times. Ex-champ Rashad Evans was composed after the fight, saying “He just caught me with a good punch. I have no excuses.” But ‘Suga’ Rashad went on to admit what we all know – that he’s riding the lowest point of his career.
A quick scan of his recent fights show a decision loss to Jon Jones for the belt back in 2013, then another decision loss against ‘Little Nog’ Nogueria in one of the most boring fights I’ve ever witnessed, followed by two wins against undersized and old opponents in Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. Next, we have a two-year hiatus due to several injuries concerning his knees. Then a surprising, and underwhelming loss to Ryan Bader in his return, and now this quick KO. You hear the phrase ‘a year to forget’. Well, Evans has had four years to forget, back to back.
There’s a lot to consider here regarding Evans. He has a lot of fans in this sport, myself included. We remember the days when he was undefeated and would dominate opponents with his wrestling, technical striking, and sheer athleticism. We want to see this Rashad again. But at the same time, a fan of literally any sport will be able to recall an athlete that was skillful and exciting who got injured, returned, and simply wasn’t the same. Sometimes injuries really are that bad.
I really hate seeing Evans lose. Hoping he evaluates where he goes from here with his team. Chins aren’t known to come back.
— Aljamain Sterling (@FunkMaster_UFC) April 17, 2016
Along with the physical toll of a two-year injury, comes the mental affectation. Having lost to Bader (a fighter who’s simplistic skill set I’m certain Rashad circa-2010 would have destroyed), Evans came in looking defensive against the powerful Teixeira, yet when pressed up against the cage, he didn’t circle away and return to the centre of the Octagon. He paid the price quickly. A mentally disciplined Evans would have known he needed to employ some neat footwork early on – to lead Teixeira on a dance around the Octagon. The second smart option would have been to grapple with Teixeira to wear him out, particularly his powerful arms – just as Jon Jones did in their title fight.
What he did not need to do was stand in the pocket with the Mike Tyson-emulating Teixeira, especially with his back to the cage. You don’t get a second chance with Glover Teixeira. Rashad’s non-committal nature regarding his future in the sport after the fight suggests his heart currently isn’t in it, and as Dana White always says- if a fighter is considering retirement, it’s perhaps best they do. You need 100% commitment of heart and mind in a sport so demanding as this one.
“The highest highs & the lowest lows”
An emotional Rashad Evans from last night….. pic.twitter.com/SWaDTZFX6p
— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) April 17, 2016
Compare Evans to a guy like Michael Bisping, who’s certainly suffered some tough losses. When Bisping loses, the first thing he always says is something like ‘I will be back, and I will fight for that belt again.’ Particularly his last loss, a destructive submission finish against now-champ Luke Rockhold, I thought Bisping was on his way out. But he has responded by rattling off 3 wins in a row. You NEED to believe in yourself, even when everyone else doesn’t. Rashad needs to remember what made him the champion, and needs to believe he can be that man again. Otherwise, he needs to retire and realise that he’s a great pundit, and I’ll be more than happy to watch him on UFC on Fox shows. But I’d rather he rediscovered greatness first.