UFC 161 Aftermath: Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson are what we thought they were

Esther Lin

To paraphrase the line that will follow former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green to his grave, Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson are what we thought they were.

The light heavyweight showdown at UFC 161, originally scheduled to be the co-feature bout, was bumped up to the main event at Winnipeg's MTS Centre when headliner of Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland fell out.

If the fight had remained a co-feature, the result, with Evans rallying past a slow first round to claim a split decision, would have seemed reasonable enough.

But moving the bout up to main-event status increased the hype on the fight and framed it as a battle of two former champions who were looking to stay in the hunt for a bout against tilteholder Jon Jones.

Since the match went about as expected -- a coin flip of a fight going in which led to a coin flip of a decision -- it's going to be hard for the winner to be sold as a title contender again any time soon.

Particularly since Evans isn't really inclined to explore opportunities elsewhere.

"The thing is, 205 is my home," Evans said. "If an opportunity comes at me at 185 and it's a good opportunity [he'd take it], but for the most part, I feel good at 205 and it's hard for me to leave the 205 weight class."

UFC president Dana White, naturally, was looking on the bright side of Evans' performance, as he shook off a two-fight losing streak.

"Tonight was a good night for Rashad because Rashad needed to get his head back in the game," said UFC president Dana White. "Obviously he looked good physically - he's in the best shape I've ever seen him in. He came out and fought a tough guy in Dan Henderson who can turn a fight in one punch. Rashad got hurt with a jab by Dan Henderson. That's how hard he hits. ... Tonight was a good confidence-booster for him, hopefully. The old Rashad used to let his hands go, throw kicks, and hopefully tonight was a step in the right direction for him."

And besides, White added in the post-news conference scrum, he's not sure Evans could drop to 185 if he wanted.

"I don't know if Rashad can make '85, you know what I mean? Rashad looked, he was pretty lean for this fight. He was 206 today and he was ripped. He was in the best shape I've seen him in a long time. He'd still have to cut weight to get down to '85. Then Dan, I don't know what Dan wants to do."

Ah yes, Henderson. He's also in a tough spot. Since returning from knee surgery, Hendo has come a single round away on one judge's scorecard from scoring consecutive wins over former UFC light heavyweight champions. Instead, he's got a pair of split-decision losses on his record.

That razor-thin margin of error has him going back to the drawing board.

"There's nobody to blame but myself," the former Pride and Strikeforce champ said. "That third round I slowed down, I should have got a little bit more active. ... I thought I hurt him in the first and second rounds, I thought I had those rounds."

As for Evans, he wants a shot at Jones, but he's also a realist about how the division has shifted.

"I'd love to get a shot at Jon Jones again," he said. "I'd love to get back to where I was and where I can be as far as going out there and being spectacular every single fight. But it's pretty tough. You have a lot of guys here who are very talented - it's a different landscape. I've got to make some adjustments to my game if I'm going to be dominant."

UFC 161 quotes

"Did you ever watch a Burger King commercial? It's all handsome guys, skinny, and good-looking girls. Do you think Burger King wants people to think that that's what you look like if you eat Burger King? That's the last thing Burger King wants: "If you eat Burger King, you'll look like f---- this guy with the mullet and the gut. Not even Burger King wants that stamp." -- Dana White, on Roy Nelson's sponsor aspirations.

"I'm so tired I can barely speak. The adrenaline dump I got when Bruce Buffer said my name was awesome. I wanted to finish the fight in the first round. I landed some big elbows standing, but she's tough and so hard to finish on the ground."-- Alexis Davis summarizes her UFC debut experience.

"It sucked. S---- fight. Sucked all the life out of that place, I almost went home." -- White, making his opinion clear on Jake Shields' split-decision win over Tyron Woodley.

Good call

To Herb Dean, who once again proved why he's the best referee in the business during the Alexis Davis-Rosi Sexton fight. Toward the end of the second round, Davis rained down uncontested punches on Sexton, who was lying face down and covering up. Dean warned Sexton in the closing seconds that he was going to stop the fight if she didn't show something. But he also knew that Sexton is a durable, tough-to-finish veteran. So he let Sexton finish the round, and she went the distance before losing a decision.

Bad call

Like a leaky faucet, UFC 161 featured a steady drip of little bad calls here and there. Starting with the opening match of the night, where Dustin Pague was ripped off of a victory against Yves Jabouin. It almost seemed like the Quebec commission was flown into Manitoba just to give Montreal's Jabouin the nod, the second time in his past three wins he's gotten a questionable split decision in Canada. Hopefully the UFC gives Pague, who has two split-decision losses on his current three-fight losing streak, another chance. Then there was Yves Lavigne, who had an itchy trigger finger in the first round of the Ryan Jimmo-Igor Pokrajac fight, ordering frequent restarts in the first round, which kept the light heavyweight fight from gaining any momentum and set the tone. There was more over the course of the night, but you get the point.

Stock up: James Krause

The cries were predictable when James Krause was signed to a UFC deal: Why should this guy get signed when so many fighters are being cut? But Krause, who was eliminated in the fight-in round of "TUF: Live," went out and proved why Zuffa will make exceptions and sign the right fighters when such signings make sense, even in an era of cuts. Krause's impressive submission win over the super-tough Sam Stout put an emphatic stamp on the UFC's decision to bring him on board. The bout marked the first time Stout, a bonus-producing machine of a fighter, had been finished since Kenny Florian stopped him in 2006. It was Krause's eighth consecutive victory and earned him both Submission and Fight of the Night. Still questioning the decision to sign him?

Stock down: Roy Nelson

"Big Country" gambled when he accepted a short-notice fight with Stipe Miocic in the last bout of his contract. He had three straight first-round knockouts and calculated that with four straight impressive victories, he'd have leverage during a time Bellator is demonstrating it will selectively pay big bucks for fighters who can produce television ratings. Instead, Nelson looked like an out-of-shape fighter in his loss to Stipe Miocic. Nelson ran the significant strikes total absorbed without being knocked out in his UFC career to 437, setting a UFC heavyweight record. While he demonstrated yet again that he's nearly impossible to stop, the fight also shattered the illusion he's a potential title contender, and with that illusion went a lot of money.

Fight I'd like to see next: Evans vs. Glover Teixeira

With Jon Jones slated to fight Alexander Gustafsson, the pickings are slims for Evans in terms of a light heavyweight bout which makes sense. Hypothetically, they could market the rematch that never happened with Machida. But a more consequential bout would be Evans vs. Teixeira. The latter is in need of a big-name opponent top put himself over the top, after he's mowed through all the lesser competition. Evans, for his part, needs to prove himself worthy of a rematch with Jones that few are pining to see at the moment. He could no better state his case than by taking out the guy most consider the next in line after Gustafsson.

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