Rashad Evans didn’t come away with the result he wanted in his middleweight debut. But after losing a decision which could have gone either way against Daniel Kelly at UFC 209, the former UFC light heavyweight champion still believes that 185 pounds is the place to be.
“I love 205 and I had some great fights at 205,” Evans said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I think that 185 is definitely where I need to be. I feel like once I get into my rhythm, I can do some things there.”
Evans, who has long been one of the sport’s most studious practitioners, readily admits the bout on March 4 in Las Vegas wasn’t his career’s finest performance. But, no disrespect to Kelly, Evans feels this was as much due to his recent inactivity as any other factor — he had precisely one minute, 48 seconds of Octagon time in the 17 months prior to the Kelly fight.
“I felt like just getting into the good competitive rhythm, being out here more than one time a year, my performance will be 10 times better,” Evans said. “It’s really, really hard to compete with these guys who are competing every few months versus competing not at all. It’s just a big rhythm of being in the Octagon, the feel of it, feeling comfortable in the cage, and when you feel comfortable in the cage, it allows you to just fight and not second guess or contemplate your next move, and you’re just in feel mode, and that’s what I need to do. I need to go back out there and fight as soon as possible.”
Of course, Kelly played a role in this as well. Evans said Kelly took an unorthodox approach to his footwork for a lefty, and in trying to find a counter, Evans gave off the impression that Kelly was stalking him, which may have swayed the judges in otherwise tight rounds.
“He was tougher because he was difficult,” Evans said. “He was not a typical southpaw. Typically speaking with a southpaw, you’ll circle to their right, my left, but with Daniel he was kind of tricky because if I just circled to the way I was supposed to, he had this little tricky foot sweep he would do. I would have to back out and then circle where he couldn’t trip my foot but then he was putting so much pressure on it would seem like I was running.”
Evans, who suffered his third loss in a row against Kelly, wasn’t about to blame his defeat on his weight cut, which was difficult but not terrible.
“At 205 I had a different kind of rhythm, but at 185 it was different all together,” Evans said.
“I felt like dips in the energy and I was like, wow, the weight cut is more real than it is at 205. But I was surprised that I felt the way I did. I thought I’d be completely drained on Thursday. I had a bit of energy. It had its good moments and bad moments.”