The UFC 161 card took some major hits, but the show will go on. Headliners Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson joined co-headliners Stipe Miocic and Roy Nelson, as well as UFC Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright, in speaking to members of the media about next Saturday’s outing, which emanates live from Winnipeg, Manitoba, CA.

Originally, Evans and Henderson found themselves in the third spot on the main card, underneath a rematch of a 2005 classic between Mauricio “Shogun Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria and a UFC interim bantamweight championship bout between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland. However, when Barao suffered an injury, Wineland found himself off the card.

Worse yet, Nogueira suffered an injury, and when the UFC could not find a replacement, Rua found himself off the card. However, the UFC recognized the value that Evans and Henderson retained, and so it made perfect sense for them to headline..

“It was a pleasant surprise for the UFC to have faith in me to close out the show,” Evans said.

Evans suffered a disappointing loss to Nogueira at UFC 156, which followed his UFC 145 loss to UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, so it comes as no surprise that Evans would find his headlining status surprising, albeit pleasant. He gets to right the ship with a win over Henderson, but right now, he’ll focus on Henderson first and worry about a title shot when it comes.

“I’m not really honestly, the whole title shot is not on my mind. I just want to go and fight and whatever happens after that happens. I don’t really care.”

Henderson did not fight Jones, but he and Evans share a common foe in Lyoto Machida. Machida famously knocked Evans out and recently took a decision from Henderson at UFC 157. On the heels of that loss, Henderson still thinks about the fight that never happened after the knee injury that led to his removal from the UFC 151 card.

“Obviously, it was something that was supposed to happen last year and didn’t,” Henderson said, “I’d like to fight Jon Jones. I feel like I have unfinished business there, but I’m 100 percent focused on this fight.”

With a powerful right hand and a stellar wrestling game, Evans presents a threat to every fighter he encounters. Henderson also packs a solid wrestling game, as well as one of the most legendary right hands in the sport. Therefore, as much as Henderson may still want Jones, don’t think it means that he will overlook Evans.

“Rashad is extremely tough and dangerous,” Henderson said, “I need to make sure I’m focused.”

As much as anyone, Nelson and Miocic will come into their fight focused. Originally, Miocic looked to stand across the cage from Soa Palelei, but after the main event changed, the UFC replaced Palelei with Nelson, though Palelei remains on standby in case of an injury.

While Nelson makes no secret of his desire to keep the playing field level in MMA, fans may sometimes overlook the fact that he treats every fight like a major fight. Miocic might get overlooked by some because he comes off of a recent UFC on Fuel TV 5 loss to Stefan Struve, but Nelson remains focused solely on Miocic and the threat he brings to the Octagon come June 11.

“Anybody in the UFC is the top of the food chain,” Nelson said, “If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be in the UFC. That’s why none of the heavyweights can hold the belt for more than two fights at a time unless they’re fighting the same guys over and over. On any given day, I know I can beat anybody up and knock anybody out.”

Nelson truly believes that he wouldn’t stand across the cage from Miocic if the UFC didn’t consider the 9-1 prospect among the best in the world. Miocic knows he can achieve that status, starting with a win over Nelson, and fights like the one he awaits remind him of the ultimate goal he shares with the rest of his fellow heavyweights.

“It’s why I picked the fight” Miocic said,“We’re all trying to get to the top and that’s why we do what we do.”

Against Struve, Miocic found himself on the wrong end of an almost 85-inch reach, and while he brought it to Struve early, Struve found a way to dictate the action and overwhelm Miocic. Against Nelson, Miocic knows he carries a seven-inch reach advantage and plans to make the most of it in Winnipeg.

“I’ll try to not let him dictate what he wants to do. [I’ll] stay away from that right hand and do what I want to do.”

Photo: Rashad Evans (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.