Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010 | 12:33 a.m.
- Complete Coverage: UFC 108
- Live Blog: Evans takes decision win after wild third round
- Rashad Evans: No, this isn't happening again
- Paul Daley apologizes for overboard celebration, kind of
- UFC 108 Predictions
- Breaking down UFC 108: Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva
- Breaking down UFC 108: Paul Daley vs. Dustin Hazelett
- Fireside chat with UFC president Dana White
- Slideshow: UFC 108 arrivals at MGM Grand
- Change in opponent was deja vu for Martin Kampmann
- Rashad Evans says Rampage rivalry won't fade
The fight did have an eerily similar feel to it.
As Rashad Evans backed up to the cage with his arms up and his legs weak from a number of hard shots he had just taken from Thiago Silva during the last round of their bout on Saturday night, it appeared similar to the moments just before Lyoto Machida knocked him out in his last fight.
Even at the time, while trying to keep his composure and survive until the end of the round, the thought came to Evans.
"I was like, 'No, this isn't happening again,'" he said. "I just said, 'Keep your composure.' I was talking myself through it. Whenever I get rocked with a good shot, I like to talk to myself. Like, 'OK. I just got caught. My legs feel loose, but just tie up until I feel better.'"
Evans (19-1-1) ended up hanging on to win the fight by unanimous decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but it wasn't the glorious comeback victory he had hoped for.
In a fight that represented the first step forward after suffering the first loss of his professional career, Evans looked great for the first 12 minutes. It was clear from the start his strategy was to revert back to using his strong takedowns and ground-and-pound, a game plan he used often in the early parts of his career.
He looked so great, in fact, that Silva (14-2) became frustrated enough in the final round to resort to putting his hands down and sticking his face forward in an effort to bait the former champ into making a mistake.
However, the last three minutes nearly spoiled the entire night for Evans when Silva caught him with a right hand that had him visibly in trouble. Afterward, Evans admitted that the way the fight ended had left a small feeling of frustration.
"Overall, yeah," said Evans, when asked if he was happy with how the night turned out. "But for the most part, I wanted to go out there and be really impressive because I worked really hard this camp. I integrated a lot of stuff I normally don't do."
Evans may not have survived at all had Silva had any gas left in the tank.
After putting Evans in trouble with the initial shot midway through the third round, it appeared Silva needed only to keep the pressure on his opponent to steal the win.
Instead, Silva continued taunting Evans and eventually threw his hands up again in frustration as the final seconds of the fight ticked away.
On the surface, it looked as though Silva had made a bad mistake in not finishing Evans when he had the chance. However, after the fight Evans said he could see that Silva was exhausted from spending so much effort trying to stay off his back in the first two rounds.
"He was giving himself a chance to recover. That boy was tired," Evans said, referring to his opponent's taunts. "I felt it. I felt him breathing. After we got done with that exchange, I felt him breathing hard and that he was tired. He was trying to do everything he could to motivate himself."
UFC President Dana White said he saw the same thing from his ringside seat.
"I thought Rashad won the fight," White said. "He got hurt in the third round and I think Thiago could have finished him, but he was gassed out. He didn't put him away and I had Rashad winning the fight."
The win sets up a meeting between Evans and his rival, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. The two were supposed to fight last month after serving as opposing coaches on the tenth season of "The Ultimate Fighter." That fight was canceled when Jackson pulled out of the UFC to pursue an acting opportunity.
Jackson has since decided to return to fighting and will now face Evans later this year. White said the fight could happen in May.
When asked if he had the choice between settling his dispute with Jackson or fighting for his belt again, Evans said he would want one more fight before receiving the chance to win back his belt to work out any more kinks in his new/old style.
"Any time you get to fight for the belt, it's always a great opportunity," Evans said. "But at the same time, if I'm honest with myself, I need to have one more fight. I need to integrate everything that I've been working on to make it so that when I do get a title shot, nobody will ever beat me."
Perhaps the one good thing about Evans finding himself in a situation similar to the one he faced when he was knocked out by Machida was that it showed him he had grown from the experience and was able to survive it this time.
"If you bang your hand on a table, it doesn't hurt that much and it doesn't matter if it happens again," said Evans's training partner and close friend, James McSweeney. "But if you trip over and break your face on the floor, you're never going to do that again. I think that loss is a way of reminding him to never let that happen again."