Rashad Evans found his hand raised in the Octagon for the first time since January of 2012 after picking up a split decision victory against Dan Henderson at UFC 161. There were talks of Evans heading for retirement coming into the bout, but a win should quell those talks for the time being. But was it enough to truly justify Evans as a serious contender once more?

The answer should be no. Especially not as long as Jon Jones is running the show at 205 pounds. The former teammates met once before at UFC 145 and Jones controlled the action like a puppet master controlling his toy. Evans looked lost and had no answers for anything the champ threw at him over the course of 25 minutes of action. He hasn’t done anything to make fans think a rematch would play out any differently.

Nor has Evans done much to make fans think he has the skill set to be a top contender at this point in his career. Yes, he was able to defeat a very dangerous opponent in Henderson, but during what part of Evans’ victory did anyone think the old “Suga” was back? Maybe when Evans clipped Henderson with a punch as the former Strikeforce champion was coming off the fence, but Evans failed to capitalize on the opening. In general, he failed to capitalize on much of anything in the Octagon at UFC 161.

He was coming off what can only be described as an ugly fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156. Evans, heavily favored going into the bout, decided he didn’t want to fight that night. Instead, he chose to play pattycake with Nogueira for the better part of 15 minutes. It wasn’t until the last few minutes began to tick by that apparently something clicked in his head that he was in a MMA fight, not a dance recital. The loss to Jones was predictable, but the Nogueira loss prompted questions about Evans losing the heart to keep fighting and led to suggestions that retirement might have been nearing for him.

Evans showed improvements in his game against Henderson, but it wasn’t enough to put him back in the mix. His takedowns weren’t as quick as we were used to seeing from him and he failed to get his hand speed going despite facing a 42-year-old man. That’s to be expected given that Evans is 33 years old and heading towards the final run in his MMA career, but this type of win shouldn’t propel Evans back into title contention, as Joe Rogan pointed out prior to the contest. Henderson is a big name and represents a dangerous opponent due to his defensive wrestling abilities and H-Bomb, but he’s also clearly on the decline and cannot be considered among the elite at 205 anymore.

“Suga” needed an emphatic victory to get the retirement monkeys off his back. That obviously didn’t happen at UFC 161. He took some of the pressure off himself by winning, but with a split decision that could’ve been argued either way, don’t expect Evans to be on any championship radars. If Evans can regain some of that speed and agility which made him into a world champion, he can be a handful for nearly anyone at 205 pounds or possibly at middleweight. But don’t hold your breath on the old “Suga” returning anytime soon.

Photo: Rashad Evans (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.