Posts Tagged ‘Rashad Evans’

St-Pierre-Hendricks fight lives up to hype, St-Pierre defends title

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Johny Hendricks will take welterweight incumbent Georges St-Pierre for his belt at UFC 167 on Saturday. (Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Johny Hendricks will take on welterweight incumbent Georges St-Pierre for his belt at UFC 167 on Saturday. (Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Georges St-Pierre eked out a split decision over a very game Johny Hendricks Saturday at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Hendricks came out strong and scored damage with his powerful combinations early on, giving GSP some real trouble during interludes on its feet. The pair matched wits with their wrestling during some tactical scrambles and clinch battles on the fence.  SI.com scored the five-round thriller for Hendricks 49-47, with R3 a even 10-10.

Official Results:

Georges St. Pierre def. Johny Hendricks – Split Decision  – (48-47 H, 48-47 GSP, 48-47 GSP)

Rashad Evans def. Chael Sonnen – TKO (strikes) 4:05 R1 

Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald – Split Decision (29-28 L, 29-28 M, 29-28 L)

Tyrone Woodley def. Josh Koscheck — KO 4:38 R1

Ali Bagautinov def. Tim Elliott — Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Play-by-play and prelim results below:

UFC Welterweight Championship: Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

Hendricks (15-1) has some exciting tools that can take St-Pierre out tonight. The former OSU wrestler is a two-time NCAA Div I. champion at 165 pounds, and one of the greatest competitors that legendary OSU coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith said he’s had the pleasure of molding. Without much tutelage in this area, GSP’s natural talent and work ethic had made him a highly functional wrestler, but the 30-year Hendricks was at it 20 years before he even stepped into the cage. People forget that, as Hendricks is also a deadly KO machine who’s caught some top-shelf talent moving with love taps heading into his fighting prime.

The 32-year-old St-Pierre (24-2) is the longest reigning champion in the UFC welterweight division with 11 straight wins and eight consecutive title defenses on his docket. He’s highly proficient to above-average in nearly all areas and is a master, if not a slightly conservative tactician. He hasn’t lost since the Matt Serra fiasco in April 2007. Rumors have swirled this week that GSP will either retire after this bout (win or lose) or move up to middleweight to make way for protégé MacDonald (who won’t fight his mentor) to make a run for the 170-pound title. Your guess on that is as good as mine.

11:52 pm ET – We head into our main event. Here comes the hype for a big fight. This time around, it’s warranted. Hendricks is an intriguing challenger. His power punching, his stellar wrestling. GSP has his biggest challenge in quite a while. Great main event that I hope lives up to its potential.

11:55 pm ET – Lights out and challenger Hendricks snakes his way to the cage to what else? Some down-home country music. Hendricks just signed a big Reebok deal – two-years, mid six-figure, incentive-based regardless of what happens tonight, according to his management. His slogan is “Go beard or go home.”

11:58 pm ET – The champ is here and the crowd welcomes him heartily. Donning the full gi, his karate headband, GSP mean-mugs it to the cage. Looks like a man on a mission. Big ovation as he bows to the crowd and enter the Octagon. Let the butterflies ensue.

12:03 pm ET – Buffering in rare form tonight. Our referee is Mario “Stand ‘Em Up” Yamasaki. Hendricks gets pretty positive reaction; GSP can do no wrong. They meet center cage. Hendricks is grinning ear to ear. GSP has that concerned look of his. And we’re off.

R1 – St-Pierre with a measuring kick and leaps into a successful takedown out of the gate. Hendricks is locked into a guillotine, but escapes to his feet. They’re clinching and GSP goes to work with some body knees. Yamasaki separates them. Hendricks sees the TD attempt coming this time and lands an uppercut as GSP moves in. Another uppercut and GSP reacts by pushing Hendricks to fence. Still clinching, elbows from Hendricks and he moves to outside, trying now to take GSP down on fence. Hendricks gets a TD. GSP’s slightly nicked with a cut over his right eye from those close-quarter elbows. GSP wall-walks up and they separate. In clinch, hard knee from Hendricks, which backs GSP up. GSP with high kick that Hendricks partly defends. Another clinch and Hendricks barreling GSP’s thighs with knees. They separate again. :30 to go. Hendricks pumps a left twice and GSP backs out of range. Stellar first round. Hendricks 10-9

R2 – GSP trying to find range with kicks. Hendricks coming in with combos and backing him up. His left is pretty close each time. That left. Hendricks connects with uppercut, then another, GSP flustered, wobbling, in trouble. GSP clinches with Hendricks in a little bit of desperation. Then, referee Yamasaki separates them for no reason. Re-start and Hendricks is right back in with lefts. Hendricks drops levels and has GSP’s legs on fence, but no TD. GSP’s face reddening. Back to center cage. GSP fights back with a left hook, then another. Hendricks in again with uppercut and knee that just misses. GSP lands left hook, then a left superman punch. Right hook by Hendricks. Every time Hendricks moves in, GSP is affected. GSP lands the left on Hendricks, then a jab. Hendricks registers that they’re good hits with a head nod. GSP head kick lands but it’s soft. Hendricks looks loose, but a little tired. Hendricks in with two uppercuts, backing GSP out. It’s a dogfight, folks. GSP ducks Hendricks punch that GSP turns into clinch. Trade of knees to thighs and bell .Very close round. I have it even 10-10. Judges will be split on this one, no doubt.

R3 – Hendricks with right. GSP with low kick. Hendricks in with body knee. GSP left over top. Hendricks dodges a GSP combo. Hendricks pumps jab once; he’s starting to slow down a little bit. GSP is breathing heavy, but coming on a little stronger now. GSP with tagging left. Hendricks still coming in, but his punches aren’t as crisp. He’s lowering his head, too, as he lunges. Not a good sign. GSP right. Hendricks left hook. 2:10 to go. GSP has found range and starting to avoid Hendricks’ attacks. Hendricks jab. St. Pierre is starting to land more. Single punch exchanges now. Hendricks shoots, pushes GSP to fence. Completes TD and crowd explodes. Hendricks in GSP’s guard. 0:15 to go. GSP to his feet right at bell. GSP 10-9

R4 – Championship rounds, folks. Pawing until GSP throws a straight and Hendricks counters with a combo, uppercut included. It mostly misses. He’s headhunting, but seems to have some snap back. Hendricks grabs at the back of GSP’s neck and he falls to his back trying to back-pedal. Hendricks in GSP’s guard, pulling him to fence. Hendricks backs out and lets him stand (!) GSP’s face is now busted up, bleeding. Hendricks lands an uppercut. 2:00 to go. Hendricks with a right-right-left uppercut. Uppercut lands. GSP pushes Hendricks to fence for a shoot. Hendricks stuffs it and turns GSP around against fence. A battle for the TD. GSP fighting all the way and he reverses. Hendricks against fence, then another reverse. Hendricks on outside. Lands a knee. Nothing major. Bell. Hendricks 10-9

R5 – GSP cut under both eyes, but bleeding has been stopped during rounds. Hendricks starts round bobbing is head, singing to himself. Cool as a cucumber. They clinch quick and Hendricks is on one leg, the other entwined between GSP’s legs. He manages to stay standing. What balance. Both to fence, but they separate quick. Big right by GSP and he takes Hendricks down. This is huge. Hendricks nearly sneaks out, but is stopped on his knees. Hendricks on his feet, crouched, then pushes to standing, back to fence. Fight for control and TD. Hendricks reverses GSP. He looks stronger. Much more composed. GSP’s face is bloody again. 1:50 to go. Referee Yamasaki separates them. GSP with front teep kick. Another kick to side of Hendricks body. GSP has to know it’s oh-so close. Chants of “GSP.” 1:05 to go and GSP shoots for a single-leg. Fights to take him down. Completes it but Hendricks is back up fast and GSP can’t capitalize. Hendricks has GSP against fence, leaning in with his body weight. GSP goes for a weak Kimura, but he doesn’t have position. Hendricks 10-9/49-47

Official Result: Georges St. Pierre def. Johny Hendricks – Split Decision  – (48-47 H, 48-47 GSP, 48-47 GSP)

St. Pierre: “I couldn’t see out of one eye. He really messed me up. I need a vacation.”

And here’s our big bombshell from GSP: “I have to hang up my gloves for a bit. I have to step away, at least for a bit. I have some personal things to take care of. I have to go away [for] a little bit.” Rogan presses him to clarify but GSP just keeps saying he has to go away for a “little bit.”

Hendricks says he thought he won the bout, but GSP is a great guy. Hendricks: “He didn’t land anything strong on me.” Crowd boos with his comments. Hendricks is noticeably upset and for good reason. People believe he won and GSP’s “exit” is strange. We’re not sure what it means.

Light Heavyweight: Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans

What can we say about Chael Sonnen? The man with the mighty mouth is a cat with nine lives in MMA. After collecting back-to-back losses to champions Anderson Silva (July 2012) and Jon Jones (April), the one-time Olympic wrestling alternate resurrected his perpetual career with a rousing win over fading former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Sonnen (29-13-1) could have his hands full with Evans…

… if former UFC titleholder Evans (19-3-1) avoids Sonnen’s grinding wrestling and gets some of his old mojo going again. The man who iced Chuck Liddell and outboxed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has been missing of late. Evans’ last victory over Dan Henderson was a conservative one. When Evans is on and feeling loose, he’s light on his feet, ready for a shootout or a grappling battle and is a lot of fun to watch.

11:30 pm ET – We get a retrospective featuring UFC majority owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, UFC President Dana White and others. The images are moving; the words not so much.

11:35 pm ET – Sonnen is on his way to the cage to a country twang. His shirt says “RESPECT IS EARNED.” Lights out and Evans struts in next, looking very serious; eyeballing the Octagon. He better be serious tonight. He needs this win. Buffer with the intros; Sonnen gets a warm reception. Evans welcome is mixed. Our referee is Herb Dean.

R1 – Sonnen takes center cage immediately, then shoots. Evans pushed to fence and it’s a Greco Roman match quickly, a fight for underhooks and position. Evans on outside and tries to TD, but Sonnen stops. Still in clinch on fence, Sonnen trying to knee, Evans answering with body shots. Evans separates slightly and lands a right. More underhook pummeling. Evans gets a double-leg on fence. Evans has half guard. Sonnen is cradled on fence. Evans posts to knee and land a few shots. Sonnen is trapped but not in imminent danger – yet. Evans lands an elbow and Sonnen flips to his stomach, then again to his back. Evans to full mount, then takes Sonnen’s back. Evans wails away and finishes Sonnen who looks like the life was sucked out of him.

Official Result: Rashad Evans def. Chael Sonnen – TKO (strikes) 4:05 R1

Solid performance for Evans. Very poor performance for Sonnen. Pretty anti-climatic without Sonnen putting up much of a fight once it hit the ground and Evans landed the fight-turning elbow. You have to think all of Sonnen’s extra-curricular commentating (which is fantastic work!) just doesn’t allow him enough time to train. I’d much rather Sonnen retire, so he can concentrate on his true calling in this sport.

 Welterweight: Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

GSP protégé MacDonald (15-1) is on a five-fight win streak, with some impressive names on his mantel, B.J. Penn (December) and Jake Ellenberger (July) included. Both were decisions, and I’m figuring UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is pairing him against the all-out Lawler to kick the-24-year-old Canadian’s career into high gear for a title run.

The 31-year-old Lawler is a real crowd-pleaser: a decent wrestler turned dangerous boxer who could care less if the fight hits the ground. Lawler starched Koscheck in the first round at his UFC return in February and followed up that explosive win with a head-kick KO of the less foreboding Bobby Voelker. MacDonald is not particularly popular outside the Canadian contingent, so you’ve got to think that there’s a healthy part of the crowd itching for another Lawler special.

10:56 – Lawler enters, a small grin on his face. Very calm. This dude loves to scrap. MacDonald follows, getting a surprisingly strong pop from the crowd. Buffer with the intros and Lawler is shaking his head like he was born to do this. MacDonald looks confident, hands on waist. Mario Yamasaki is our ref.

R1 – Lawler with two hard front-leg kicks. High left kick attempt. Crowd chants “Rory” off the bat. MacDonald with a low kick.  Lawler moving in, missing by inches with haymakers. Lawler lands with front leg kick again. Lawler blocks a right body kick from Mac. Trade of body kicks that don’t land. Kick-o-rama. Pensive pace – both looking for a big hit. 2:00 to go. Lawler with body kick. Mac isn’t checking much. Lawler misses with another haymaker. Crowd getting a little restless.  Mac lands weak teep kick. More Lawler body kicks. Not much to write home about.  “Rory” chants start again. Crowd wants something big; neither fighter has yet to deliver. Lawler with Head kick; Mac grabs his leg, but can’t do anything to capitalize at bell. Lawler 10-9

R2 – Lawler with body kick out of gate and MacDonald takes his first shot. Lawler on one leg, hops back and escapes. Impressive balance. This is not the fight people expected. Slow. Plodding. Headhunting. Lawler with right kick; follow up with right body kick. Lawler is winning on volume. Lawler with head movement, blocking MacDonald right. MacDonald drops levels fast and secures a TD on fence; trying to pass guard. MacDonald to his feet, allows Lawler to backdoor out, but Mac stalls Lawler on his knees, holding onto his head. MacDonald trying to maneuver to Lawler’s back, but Lawler gets guard and is actually landing hard shots from his back. MacDonald posts to his knees and tries to elbow. Misses and bell. MacDonald 10-9 takes this one with TD and ground control.

R3 – Lawler tags with a right, then an uppercut. Lawler kicks, MacDonald catches his leg and gets a TD. Mac in Lawler’s guard. Stand-up. Lawler with a left and Mac shoots; scramble to ground and Lawler takes top, trying to unload some ground-and-pound, It settles with Mac on his back; Lawler in his guard. Re-stand and Mac is bleeding bad from his nose. Lawler with a left. An eye poke  with Lawler right and ref stops it to check on Mac. Re-start. Mac grabs Lawler leg kick; Lawler defends again beautifully. Lawler drops Mac with left uppercut, tries to finish with follow-ups. Lawler into side control. 1:40 to go. Lawler has this if ref doesn’t stupidly re-stand. Mac recovers guard, but Lawler is swinging to finish. Lawler trying to pass to mount and Mac stops him. Mac goes for an armbar. Back to his feet; Mac looking wobbly. Lawler with right and Mac answer with a TD to half. Mac trying to finish, but Lawler mostly defends. It was a 10-8 round before Mac went for the all-or-nothing finish. Lawler 10-9/29-28

Official Result: Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald – Split Decision (29-28 L, 29-28 M, 29-28 L)

Lawler and MacDonald arm-in-arm after fight. Lawler can’t stop smiling. He doesn’t have a graze on him. Lawler makes UFC rankings at #10. No argument here. He is on the rise, for sure.

Welterweight: Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

Koscheck (19-7) has been on the downslide with two consecutive losses in the Octagon to tonight’s main eventer Hendricks (May 2012) and Robbie Lawler (February), who we’ll see later during the night. Lawler starched the 2001 NCAA Div. I wrestling champ with his trademark power punching. Unfortunately for Kos, Woodley possesses the same potential to stop him with his hands – if he lets them go.

In addition, “T-Wood” has enough collegiate wrestling skills to keep up with Kos. However, Woodley (11-2) is still finding his legs in the division and is 1-1 since joining the UFC ranks, with a scary 36-second KO over Jay Hieron in February (Yes!) and a tepid split decision loss to Jake Shields in May (Meh).

Big ramifications for both in this bout – the UFC’s welterweight division is always close quarters and any given guy is one or two losses away from the exit door. Another interesting side story must be Kos praying Hendricks gets the job done tonight; Kos has lost twice to GSP (one being a title bout) soundly, and it’s a tough, tough climb back to the top in this situation.

10:41 pm ET – “T-Wood” enters to some rap. He looks like he’s put on some more muscle; he’s huge. Koscheck struts in afterward to a mixed response. Fans never forget TUF 1. Herb Dean is our referee.

R1 – Woodley connects right away with an overhand, then barrels in with knees. Koscheck is wobbled a little to cage and touches his hand to canvas to stop the knee attack. It becomes a wrestling battle on the fence quick and stalls. Boos and referee Dean re-starts it center. Kos looks composed again. Wood lands another right and a kick, but Kos counters with a kick that backs Wood up. Wood with a barrage of rights that sends Kos to the canvas, head banging on ground. Koscheck takes some follow-up leather, but recovers enough to grab onto Wood’s body for his dear life. Wood is in Kos’ guard, pulls him to fence. Ref Dean with a questionable re-start. Kos is bleeding from his left ear; face swelling. Woodley with a huge counter right and another as Kos goes down; follow-up punches, but Kos’ hands are at his sides and it’s over.

Official Result: Tyrone Woodley def. Josh Koscheck — KO 4:38 R1

Woodley had Koscheck’s number from the get-go, giving the TUF vet an uphill battle he eventually lost. Great win for Woodley, who’ll stick around for a bit longer. Koscheck’s future is less certain with three losses in a row.

Flyweight: Ali Bagautinov vs. Tim Elliott

Dagestan’s Bagautinov (11-2) is a mixed bag of talent, with both a Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling background and a gold medal in Combat Sambo (2012). On top of that, Bagautinov took out his last opponent, Marcus Vinicius, with punches in his Octagon debut in September.

Elliott (10-3-1) rides in on two unanimous decision victories over Jared Papazian (December) and Louis Gaudinot (August). Both are making their first appearances on a UFC main card, on its 20th anniversary card, no less. That should speak volumes as to what UFC brass expects from them.

R1 - Bag gets the best of the feel-out exchanges, just missing with an uppercut. Elliott is the pursuer, until Bag clinches at 3:45. They separate quickly.  More circling. Elliott shoots; no go.  Bag with a punch, knee; Elliott is hurt and tries to grab a single-leg. Bag won’t have it and Elliott re-sets again. More circling. Bag gets a takedown. Elliott springs to his feet, pushing forward with swings that aren’t close. 1:00 to go. Bag is clearly the more skilled striker. He ties up the round with a clinch on the cage, then a right and a knee that lands and sends Elliott to his back as the bell sound. Bag 10-9

R2 – Bag with TD right into an Elliott guillotine. It’s a close one, but Bag escapes is out and now on his back, Elliott in his guard. (Stats say Elliott has landed 40 strikes to Bag 26, but Bag’s are much more effective.) Bag escapes and it’s back to its feet, Elliott center-canvas and stalking. Elliott with inside kick, but not much else being thrown. Bag lands a right; Elliott shoots and it’s a wild scramble with Bag on top, but then to his feet quick. Bell. Bag 10-9 for more effective striking, but nice try on Elliott’s guillotine attempt.

R3 – Elliott is chasing, but Bag lands a body kick, then another at 3:30.  Elliott with a left that lands, but the punch has no heat. Bag swings and misses again.  Bag connects with two right overhands. This punch is working for him, so he’s keeps at it. The pace isn’t that fast. 1:30 to go. Elliott is another shot that Bag easily thwarts. Another Bag right. 1:00 to go. Elliott stuffs Bag TD.  He has to find a fight-ending punch. Bag lands a hard combo and Elliott slams Bag at bell but too little too late. Bag 10-9/30-27 

Official Result: Ali Bagautinov def. Tim Elliott — Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

10:36 pm ET — UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn in the house. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also made it to the show tonight — he’s a huge martial arts fan with the Arnold Classic hosting many disciplines in Columbus, Ohio every year.

Here’s  your prelim results:

  • Donald Cerrone def. Evan Dunham – Submission (Triangle Choke) 3:49 R2 – Cerrone was on fire tonight, had Dunham in trouble early with a knee. He continued his dominance into round two, going for and nearly found an oma plata before finishing it with an inescapable triangle choke he maneuvered off the fence. Dunham had nothing for him.
  • Thales Leites def. Ed Herman  – Unanimous Decision (30-27 all) – Leites scored early in each set with takedowns and fished for finishes against a mostly-defending Herman.
  • Rick Story def. Brian Ebersole – Unanimous Decision (30-27 all) – Story lit Ebersole up a few times on its feet and looked very sharp. Of course, Story has faced much stiffer competition in the past, so take it with a grain of salt.
  • Erik Perez def. Edwin Figueroa – Unanimous Decision (30-27 all) – evenly matched, but not particularly compelling bout.
  • Jason High def. Anthony Lapsley – Unanimous Decision (29-28 all)
  • Sergio Pettis def. Will Campuzano – Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)  – decent UFC debut for the younger brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
  • Gian Villante def. Cody Donovan – TKO (punches) 1:22 R2

                                                                                                                                                                              —  Loretta Hunt


  • Published On Nov 16, 2013
  • UFC 161 Predictions: Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson

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    Light heavyweight Rashad Evans (left) will fight Dan Henderson in Winnipeg. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Light heavyweight Rashad Evans (left) will fight Dan Henderson in Winnipeg. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    SI.com analyst Jeff Wagenheim provides his predictions for UFC 161, which takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET).

    Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson

    OK, let’s see. I’m already on record with a main event pick in our Crash Course feature. Think anyone would notice if I go the other way here? It’s that close of a fight, that tough for me to call. I would not be surprised to see a Henderson right hand lay out Evans, Bisping-style. I would not be surprised to see Evans beat Henderson to the punch for three rounds, and wouldn’t even be shocked if Rashad became the first to finish “Hendo.” But I’m going to stick to my eenie-meenie-miney-mo pick, which I based on Evans’ recent history of a low flame on the fire that drives fighters. Henderson by decision.

    Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic

    Just what “Big Country” wants: an opponent who’s a standup specialist, one who’s more polished at fisticuffs than he is, one who’ll make the same thud when he hits the canvas that Roy’s past foes have. Nelson by TKO.

    Ryan Jimmo vs. Igor Pokrajac

    After having his 17-fight win streak snapped in his last fight, Jimmo will be eager to get back on track. And he’s just the freight train to do that, especially against a guy who”ll stand and bang with him. Jimmo by TKO.

    Alexis Davis vs. Rosi Sexton

    Davis is on a mission to move up in the women’s bantamweight division, and to do that she needs to move this fight down to the mat. Once she gets there, she’ll know what to do. Davis by submission.

    Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan

    Both guys have had their ups and downs, but Barry has been doing it against a higher level of competition. That will make a difference. Barry by decision.

    – Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Jun 14, 2013
  • UFC 161 will not be a disappointment says UFC’s Tom Wright

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    Rashad Evans fights at UFC 161

    Rashad Evans (left) returns to the Octagan at UFC 161 for the first time since his loss to Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156. (Eric Jamison/AP)

    More than 800 miles separate the Canadian cities of Winnipeg and Calgary. Regardless, UFC’s director of operations for Canada, Tom Wright, assured the press Tuesday afternoon UFC 161 in Winnipeg would be far and away from last summer’s Calgary card — a card UFC boss Dana White famously said, “sucked.” Like it’s Calgary counterpart, Winnipeg’s UFC 161, scheduled for June 15, has been beset by injuries, including injuries to Renan Barao and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, that forced the cancellation of two headline bouts.

    “Injuries are part of any sport and they’re certainly part of this sport,” Wright said. “But when you take a look at this you’ll see the 161 card has two Ultimate Fighter champions, you’ve got two former Strikeforce champions, you’ve got a former light heavyweight champion in Rashad [Evans] and a former Pride champion. . . Winnipeg, Manitoba is not going to be disappointed.”

    Other quick hits from the call:

    · Evans will be returning to the Octagon for the first time since his listless unanimous decision loss to Nogueira last February at UFC 156. Earlier this year, the 33-year-old Evans talked about worries of being cut by the UFC with another bad outing. But now, it seems, Evans is only looking forward. “You definitely want to get the monkey off your back when you stink up the joint,” Evans said. “I’m going to go out there and put on a show but not only to shut all the naysayers up but for myself. I felt like I let myself down more than anything and I can live with disappointing anyone else but I can’t live with disappointing myself.”

    · Evans’s opponent in the main event, Dan Henderson, is also seeking redemption. Henderson dropped a split decision to Brazilian Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 last February. It’s a loss that obviously still irks Henderson. “I know I didn’t perform to my best and I could have done some things differently, but it’s hard to fight a guy that doesn’t really want to fight you.” But Machida, Henderson admits, isn’t the only fight from the past that irritates him. He said he still has “unfinished business” with Jon Jones. Henderson and Jones were scheduled to fight last September before a knee injury forced Henderson to withdraw. UFC matchmakers then leapfrogged Henderson and paired Jones with Chael Sonnen.

    · After dropping Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 last April with his trademark knockout punch, fifth-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson jumped atop the Octagon and rubbed his hands around his ample belly in celebration. When asked about his “everyman” physique, Nelson didn’t mince words. “People who tend to be in our sport tend to abuse PEDs or performance-enhancing drugs, so that’s the reason why I probably don’t look like the typical UFC fighter,” he said. Nelson accepted a bout with Stipe Miocic on short notice after he said Daniel Cormier declined to fight him.

    – Melissa Segura


  • Published On Jun 04, 2013
  • At UFC 156, Rashad Evans is looking for a win … and for what’s been lost

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    Rashad Evans

    Former light-heavyweight champ Rashad Evans will fight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-main event of UFC 156. [Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images]

    LAS VEGAS — Rashad Evans will be looking for a defining win on Saturday night. He’ll also be looking for something not so tangible, something that’s been lost.

    “The competitor has been brought back to life, the one who truly just loves to compete,” Evans told reporters on Thursday, two days before his UFC 156 co-main event fight against Antônio Rogério Nogueira at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. “So many times when you’re competing, you kind of fall out of love with it. It becomes like a song and dance, and you kind of get like, ‘Ah, yeah, gotta do this, gotta do that.’ To really love to compete, to really love every aspect of it, is a passion that a lot of people don’t have. I’ve found myself, within the last 11 months or so, just falling in love with competing again.”

    That period coincides with a time during which the 33-year-old “Suga Rashad” has settled in with a new team of training partners, the Blackzilians in south Florida, after an acrimonious and very public departure from his longtime home, the Jackson-Winkeljohn gym in Albuquerque. And the change of camps is related, of course, to the former light heavyweight champion’s most recent fight, last April’s loss to the division’s reigning king, teammate-turned-mortal enemy Jon Jones. While this weekend’s fight could have major implications for his career — there’s talk that Rashad could be next in line to face middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and a rematch with Jones is also a possibility — the aspect that most stirs up Evans (17-2-1) is that he and Nogueira (20-5) will simply be competing against each other. Nothing more.

    “I felt like last time with Jones I got too distracted by everything else that was going on, the whole back story,” said Evans, referring to the teammates’ split over one man grabbing the belt that the other wanted as well, and their departure from a shared pledge to put team first and never fight each other. “It kind of took away from the fight for me. I thought it did the same thing for him as well. I don’t think he was at his best that day, either.

    “It took away what competing is about. It kind of scarred me in a way that made me mot want to compete anymore. I was like, ‘This is not about fighting.’ It’s just about a bunch of b.s. It’s not what I love about fighting. What I love about fighting is the actual fight, the feeling that I get when I walk into the cage and I see the mat and I see all the blood and all the sweat and everything else that everybody laid out. And when they say go, that feeling, that’s what I like about fighting.”

    -Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Feb 02, 2013
  • Experts’ Predictions for UFC 156

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    Jose Aldo

    Two of SI.com’s three experts believe Jose Aldo (above) will defeat Frankie Edgar on Saturday. (Andrew Richardson/Icon SMI)

    SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt and Jeff Wagenheim provide their predictions for UFC 156 on Saturday in Las Vegas. 

    Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar

    HUNT: This is one of those rare occasions where I’m glad a fighter was cajoled into something he didn’t want to do. After a stellar run at lightweight, the smaller Edgar makes his featherweight debut against the explosive Brazilian champ, who will finally have an opponent who can match his speed and skill. Trilogy potential here. Aldo by decision.

    DOYLE: This is the toughest pick I’ve had to make in seven years covering MMA. I’ve changed my mind 100 times and might change it 100 more before fight time. As of now, I think Aldo’s kicks will be enough to keep Edgar from getting his offense fully untracked. Aldo via decision. 

    WAGENHEIM: Anyone have a coin I can borrow to flip? Too many variables here for the math to make any sense to me, so let me try to keep it simple: Aldo has won 14 straight fights, while Edgar has lost two in a row. So obviously the answer is… well, “The Answer” is Frankie. Why? Because he always has an adjustment, an answer, for anything thrown at him. So look for him to weather an early storm (been there, done that) and settle into a rhythm and a pace that gradually makes him the lead in this dance. Edgar by decision.

    Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogério Nogueira

    HUNT: Speed and nimbler footwork will give Evans the edge against the more plodding Nogueira. Evans by TKO.

    DOYLE: “Li’l Nog” has always been just a cut below the championship level, and he isn’t getting any younger. Evans is going to be motivated in his first fight since losing to Jon Jones. I smell 30-27 across the board. Evans via decision.

    WAGENHEIM: “Little Nog” is coming off a win, but beating Tito Ortiz does not mean what it used to. On the other hand, losing to Phil Davis and Ryan Bader speaks volumes. Nogueira is a solid light heavy, but Rashad is simply too quick, too slick, too good for him to contend with. Where a victory here will lead “Suga Rashad” is uncertain, but that’s a question for another day. Evans by KO.

    Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva

    HUNT: This is a career re-builder for Overeem, whose reputation took the hit everyone anticipated when he was flagged for steroid use last summer. With a brutally bloody battering from Cain Velasquez still in the back of his mind, the 6-foot-4, 285-pound “Big Foot” won’t be overshadowed by Overeem’s stature, but he will be bullied on its feet and from his back. Overeem by TKO.

    DOYLE: I’m calling an upset here. Overeem has been out a year and his win streak is frankly a bit of a hype. Silva seems to perform best when he’s counted out. “Bigfoot” tags a rusty Overeem and scores the early finish. Silva via TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: Overeem might be rusty after being idle since December 2011, and “Bigfoot” might have what it takes to step up. Silva is coming off an upset of rising heavyweight Travis Browne, and the two losses that preceded it were to the iron of the division, Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier. But “The Reem” has too much riding on this. Overeem by KO.

    Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia

    HUNT: BJJ black belt Maia’s work ethic is top-tier in and he constantly pushes himself out of his comfort zone to even out his skill set. This isn’t necessarily a bad matchup for him — Fitch is a wrestler and Maia is a shark on the canvas — but if Fitch pushes this one to the fence and lingers there, he can eat crucial time and ride out a decision. Fitch by decision.

    DOYLE: Fitch has never been known to take easy fights. This is no different. Maia’s undergone a career rebirth at welterweight, but ultimately, Fitch’s wrestling and submission defense will be too much for the jiu-jitsu specialist. Fitch by decision.

    WAGENHEIM: Wouldn’t it be a cool turnabout if the crowd were to boo as the fighters come out of their corners and trade punches, then let out one of those bloodthirsty cheers as soon as they take the contest to the mat? After all, it is in the grappling (usually a dirty word for cageside fans) where the magic will happen. Fitch by decision.

    Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall

    HUNT:  A rebound fight for Benavidez, the faster, more assertive, and most importantly, more marketable fighter of the pair coming off a split decision loss against champion Johnson. Benavidez by submission.

    DOYLE: McCall’s had a nice run at flyweight, but Benavidez is simply a notch above. I see a dominant win for Benavidez, the type that demands a shot at Demetrious Johnson’s title. Benavidez via submission.

    WAGENHEIM: I must admit I was surprised to see Demetrious Johnson beat Benavidez, who I thought was going to own the new UFC flyweight division. Now Joseph faces a guy “Mighty Mouse” had to fight twice on the way to the championship. All roads lead to rematch, no? Benavidez by decision.


  • Published On Jan 31, 2013
  • Intense staredown between Jon Jones, Rashad Evans at UFC 145 weigh-ins

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    ATLANTA — The well documented animosity between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans had seemed to abate during the week leading up to Saturday’s UFC light heavyweight title fight.

    Then came Friday’s weigh-ins at the Fox Theatre, where the two estranged friends and former training partners stepped on the scale — then came together for an intense staredown worthy of one of the biggest grudge matches in the promotion’s 19-year history.


    With the 4,678-seat erstwhile movie palace nearly filled to capacity, Evans (204 pounds) and Jones (205) both came in under the division limit. Both fighters drew mixed reactions from a crowd that seemed evenly divided in their support.

    “It’s been a bit different because of the media and everything, but at the same time, I enjoyed the process,” Evans told UFC commentator Joe Rogan. “It is a lot of emotion involved, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to stepping in the cage and fighting Jones.”

    “It’s a gigantic fight. I’m excited to be here, baby,” Jones said, amid an uncommon chorus of boos. “I’m ready to tear some heart out.”

    Every fighter made weight Friday except for John Makdessi, who came in three pounds over the lightweight limit of 155 pounds and will forfeit 20 percent of his purse to opponent Anthony Njokuani.

    Yesterday, Evans had observed how a fight actually starts at the weigh-ins. “It’s really the last time you see your guy before you see him in the cage,” he said. “You get to see his energy, feel his energy.”

    If the hostility exuding from both fighters Friday is any indication, their light heavyweight title showdown Saturday at Philips Arena should be a cracker.

    (Watch the entire weigh-ins here.)

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Apr 20, 2012
  • Stephen Thompson looks to build on scintillating debut at UFC 145

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    Stephen Thompson won six world kickboxing titles and amassed a mark of 63-0 as an amateur and pro before joining the UFC. (Kevin C. Cox/Zuffa LLC)

    ATLANTA — Of the six preliminary fights airing on FX before Saturday’s UFC 145 pay-per-view telecast, none is more intriguing than Stephen Thompson’s meeting with veteran Matt Brown.

    A six-time world champion kickboxer, Thompson became an overnight sensation in February with a spectacular first-round knockout of Dan Stittgen in his UFC debut, a four-minute stoppage that earned the Simpsonville, S.C., native a $65,000 bonus for the Knockout of the Night.

    “There is a little pressure [to follow up] a four-minute knockout in your first UFC fight,” Thompson, 28, said at Thursday’s open workouts at Georgia State University. “But you’re fighting better guys now. Matt Brown has been in the fight game for a very long time. He’s got a lot of experience. So I’m not expecting to go out and knock this guy out. If it happens, it happens.”

    The 32-year-old Brown felt his knockout of Chris Cope on the same card as Thompson’s debut was more deserving the bonus, making no secret of it. Ultimately, he asked to face Thompson — a request Dana White, no enemy to drama, was happy to grant.

    The media in Thompson’s native South Carolina have done their part to hype the fight. When Thompson appeared on a local radio station — “93.3 The Planet,” he recalled with a smile — Brown called into the station while his opponent was being interviewed on the air. (Brown confessed Thursday the radio station had orchestrated the dust-up by scheduling the call.)

    Thompson trained with Rashad Evans for a week in Florida while preparing for Saturday’s sophomore outing. The two first met when Thompson was flown to Albuquerque to help Evans prepare for his May 2009 fight with Lyoto Machida. They’ve kept up a good relationship and Thompson has been training with him ever since.

    And though Evans is a 5-to-1 underdog against Jon Jones in Saturday’s main event, Thompson is bullish on the former champion’s upset chances.

    “The guy’s a monster man, he’s a beast,” Thompson said. “He’s so ready. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, he’s there. So I’m excited to see that one.”

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Apr 20, 2012
  • Georges St-Pierre discusses UFC 145, injury recovery, move to middleweight

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    Georges St-Pierre made an unscheduled visit to the UFC 145 open workouts Thursday at Georgia State University in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Zuffa LLC)

    ATLANTA — Georges St-Pierre is the UFC welterweight champion and widely regarded as the biggest draw in mixed martial arts, having attracted more than 750,000 pay-per-view buys to six different events over the past four years.

    But he’s also a fan. And no one is looking forward to Saturday’s light heavyweight title showdown between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans more.

    “As a fan of the sport, it’s definitely a fight I want to see,” St-Pierre said Thursday at the Georgia State University Sports Arena, where several fighters on Saturday’s card held open workouts for media and fans. “Both of these guys are incredibly talented. I believe that a mistake from one of these two guys will be fatal.”

    St-Pierre, who turns 31 next month, hasn’t fought since making his seventh consecutive defense of the UFC’s 170-pound title with a points victory over Jake Shields in April 2011. He pulled out of an October defense against Carlos Condit due to a knee injury suffered in training. Two months later, it was revealed St-Pierre would be sidelined 10 months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

    “I’m in good shape now, but I’m not in fighting shape,” said St-Pierre, who explained the graft in his knee needs more time to fuse before he moves on from light exercise. “In two months it’s going to 100 percent. I don’t want to mess it up. If I try to jump or go too fast, I will have to do it all over again.”

    St-Pierre spoke highly of rising welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald, who fights Che Mills in Saturday’s co-feature bout. The 22-year-old MacDonald, who trains alongside St-Pierre at Tristar Gym in Montreal, says he wants to be a world champion within two years — in the division St-Pierre currently rules.

    “I’m not interested in fighting him,” St-Pierre said, repeating himself multiple times. “There are a lot of welterweights. I don’t think we have to do it now. In two years, who knows? Maybe I will go to middleweight. Who knows what’s going to happen?”

    Ever the diplomat, St-Pierre abstained from predicting Saturday’s winner — but he said it won’t take long to see who’s in the driver’s seat.

    “After the first round, we will have a good idea of who will impose his dominance,” he said. “After the first round, we will see who will be the winner, who will be able to impose his game on the other guy.”

    – Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Apr 19, 2012
  • Jon Jones, Rashad Evans don’t seem to hate each other as much as advertised

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    Jon Jones (left) and Rashad Evans (right) addressed the media Wednesday at a press event promoting their UFC title fight. (Kevin C. Cox/Zuffa LLC)

    ATLANTA — For two fighters that are supposedly friends turned enemies, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans didn’t show much animosity when sharing a stage Wednesday.

    Maybe they were just being civil. Or maybe the stifled smiles and occasional bursts of laughter hinted at something else — maybe the two don’t really hate each other after all.

    For all intents and purposes, they have to this week. The former training partners’ bitter breakup and ongoing feud is the lifeblood of UFC 145 and one of the most anticipated championship bouts in years. But for all of the hype surrounding the pair’s dislike for one another, Jones and Evans didn’t exude much hatred when faced with the task of an intimate face-to-face meeting at the UFC 145 pre-fight press conference.

    At first, the question-and-answer session carried a solemn tone, with the fighters avoiding eye contact and putting on stoic faces while the other spoke. But by the end, much like a five-round title fight, their defenses had weakened and the two were letting smiles and jokes slip.

    There’s no denying that there are some hard feelings between Jones and Evans. The fighters have had to rehash the story of their feud countless times the past few weeks (and a few more on Wednesday). But after talking about it so much, the two agreed that the raw feelings that were once there have subsided a little bit.

    Jones called the persistent discussion “therapeutic” and said that Saturday’s main event “will be like the last counseling session.”

    Evans echoed his former partner’s sentiment, hinting that their relationship might not be in the tatters that it’s made out to be.

    “We’ve talked about this to death,” he said. “When you talk about something over and over, you lose a little bit of the emotion behind it … we’ve been going back and forth, saying this, saying that. It’s been a long process. We both are just tired.”

    The two even went as far as to acknowledge the possibility of rekindling their friendship after UFC 145. After all, the octagon has seen many fighters put aside their differences to hug it out after a bloody battle.

    “Who knows what God wants for us in the future,” Jones said. “I was watching an Ali documentary, When We Were Kings, and it was so cool to see the guys who fought each other and hated each other were able to talk about the fight and laugh and say, ‘Oh, you got me with that one!’ and ‘You hit me hard with that one.’ So who knows what God wants for us.”

    At one point, Evans was asked how much Jones has learned from him outside the octagon in conducting himself as a man. Evans downplayed the question initially, but couldn’t resist a friendly jab at the end of his answer — much like the ribbing you’d expect from two former partners.

    “I can’t really answer that question — but I do know he wore a suit just like mine,” said Evans with a know-it-all smile.

    With the ice broken and Evans laughing, Jones also let his guard down, possibly conveying his true feelings for his former teammate.

    “To clear that up,” said Jones, “I think Rashad’s swagger is through the roof. Look at the guy, that’s why I didn’t put a coat jacket on (today), I’m not going to try and compete with Rashad in dressing. He’s a wonderful dresser. He just is.”

    The light-hearted affair continued when Jones, 24, compared the 32-year-old Evans to his manager, who is similar in age, but little else.

    “I’m very insulted,” Evans said in mock seriousness. “You cannot physically compare me to to Malki Kawa. Don’t ever do nothing like that again. That’s just disrespectful right there.”

    “My bad,” laughed Jones. “I was out of line.”

    Needless to say, the press conference wasn’t exactly hostile. But that doesn’t mean either fighter will give any less on Saturday. There’s nothing fake about their desire to win. In this rare case, bragging rights might actually mean more to Jones and Evans than the championship belt itself. But just because the two desperately want to beat the other doesn’t mean they hate each other, as we might have been led to believe.

    “Let’s be honest here, it’s a fight,” Evans said. “When people fight, they don’t like each other. It makes it easier for people to root for somebody. You can never divorce the entertainment side of it and you’ve got to understand this is a sport and this is entertainment.

    “People are not buying this because they want to see two guys who like each other and only have nice things to say about each other. They want to see two guys who don’t like each other.”

    Which is why Jones and Evans will enter the octagon as enemies Saturday. There’s no other way to bill the event.

    While the tale of the Jones-Evans split has been told endlessly, the truth has always been a little too murky for anyone to decipher. Jones blames Evans, Evans blames Jones, and we’re left wondering what’s really true.

    What we do know is that the pair had a falling out, leading to a feud — temporary or not — that will be resolved this weekend.

    “Somewhere in the middle lies the truth,” Evans said, “And the truth doesn’t really matter.”

    – Matt Dollinger


  • Published On Apr 18, 2012
  • Getting to know … Jon Jones

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    Jon Jones went from prospect to contender to champion to the pound-for-pound short list within a 12-month span. (Hector Acevedo/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    This time last year, Jon Jones was a 23-year-old prospect with fewer than four years training in mixed martial arts. Over the past 12 months, the Rochester, N.Y., native captured the UFC light heavyweight title — becoming the youngest champion in the organization’s history — while soaring up most outlets’ pound-for-pound ratings. (He’s No. 2 on SI.com’s list.) SI.com caught up with Jones, who makes his third defense of the 205-pound title Saturday against Rashad Evans at UFC 145 in Atlanta.

    Who is your all-time favorite fighter in boxing or MMA?

    Anderson Silva and Muhammad Ali. Both of them.

    When was your first fight?

    I was around nine years old. I lived in Rochester, N.Y., and I was at my elementary school outside hanging out. I think we were drawing on the ground with chalk. And this kid, he said something about my mom. And at the time when you’re a kid — especially in the neighborhood where I grew up — when someone says something about your mama, it’s on. I said, “Come over and say that to my face!” The kid came across the street, said it to my face, and then he lifted me up in the air, slammed me on the ground, hit my head on the concrete and I just kind of blacked out from there. I don’t think I won that one.

    Did you have fear in that moment?

    I don’t remember being afraid, I just remember feeling out of control. It was a terrible feeling, and it’s a feeling I’ll probably never feel again — and don’t want to feel again.

    When did you realize MMA was something you could make a living with?

    After my second pro fight [against Carlos Eduardo in 2008]. I got paid $1,200. At the time, that was life-changing for me.

    Who is the toughest opponent you’ve ever fought?

    It depends on what mood I’m in. It varies. A lot of times it’s Stephan Bonner.

    What was your favorite subject in school?

    Lunch.

    What’s on your iPod?

    Actually I don’t have an iPod right now. I don’t listen to music while training.

    What is your favorite movie?

    300.

    What’s one misconception about MMA fighters?

    That we are aggressive and violent and not civil. In reality it’s the complete opposite. We’re men of great integrity. I think we’re some of the most disciplined athletes there are.

    What would you be doing if you weren’t fighting?

    I’d be law enforcement in upstate New York.

    What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

    Eating unhealthy. I love greasy fast food. It’s not good for me, but I love it.

    Favorite meal when you’re out of training?

    Probably a Wendy’s triple stack hamburger with cheese.

    What would you change in MMA?

    Nothing. I love the sport as it is.

    When is the last time you cried?

    Recently. Doing the Primetime show for this fight. They asked me about my sister [who died of brain cancer when Jones was 12], and it brought tears to my eyes to think about how beautiful she was and how much I missed her.

    What’s the biggest thing that’s changed for you since becoming champion?

    More Twitter followers.

    Name three people you’d like to have dinner with (living or dead).

    I would invite Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson.

    What advice would you give to young fighters coming up?

    Remain extremely passionate and have patience — but mainly to be extremely passionate. A lot of people want to be successful, but a lot of people don’t really want to put in that work and really be obsessive over success and obsessive over what they need to do to better themselves. We all know exactly what we need to do. You know where you [stink]. Work on it.

    Favorite place to vacation?

    Brazil. Rio de Janeiro.

    What is your dream venue for a fight?

    Madison Square Garden.

    What sports do you watch outside of MMA?

    Football.

    Tell us something no one knows about you?

    [Thinks for nearly a minute.] I’m not saying.

    When’s it’s all over, how do you want to be remembered?

    I want to be remembered as a great champion. I want to be remembered as someone who inspired the people around me to better themselves. I want to make people reach for their goals and to look at themselves in the highest regard possible. I want people to be cocky in a good way. I want people to be extremely confident, because you only have yourself.

    What’s your prediction for Saturday night?

    Mark my words, I’ll finish the fight before the third round.

    – As told to Bryan Armen Graham


  • Published On Apr 17, 2012


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