Few pegged Rashad Evans’ main-event status

ATLANTA – On Rich Franklin's first day as a coach on Season 2 of "The Ultimate Fighter," he looked at Rashad Evans and immediately had a candidate to name the weakest link.

But a couple of days later, Franklin saw something during a workout from the one-time Michigan State University wrestler that convinced him that Evans was better than his first impression.

And so, when the former UFC middleweight champion and fellow coach Matt Hughes were divvying up the teams, Franklin tabbed Evans, causing Hughes to shoot him a sideways glance in surprise, for Hughes had also viewed Evans skeptically.

Three years later, Evans (11-0-1) has made Franklin look good as a talent evaluator. He's one of the few main-event fighters on the UFC roster with no losses and will meet Chuck Liddell (21-5) on Saturday at Philips Arena in a key light heavyweight bout at UFC 88.

Fighting Liddell in a UFC main event is like playing the final round with Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open. It doesn't get any bigger.

"Rashad has really made himself into a quality fighter," said Franklin, who faces Matt Hamill on Saturday.

Evans is a different fighter from the one who fought Tito Ortiz to a draw in Sacramento, Calif., at UFC 73 on July 7, 2007.

Prior to that fight, a different side of the normally soft-spoken Evans emerged. He was trash talking throughout the promotion and got nose-to-nose with Ortiz at the final pre-fight news conference.

While it made good theater, it was out of character for Evans. Whether it made him change his fight plan, he's not saying, but he concedes he wound up falling for Ortiz's tactics.

"I got caught up in all the b.s. and that's just not me," Evans said. "It was a mistake for me to do that. Tito was out there talking and doing his thing, as he usually does, and I felt like I had to match it."

Ortiz won two of the three rounds on all three scorecards, but the fight was a draw because Ortiz was docked a point in the second round for grabbing the cage repeatedly.

That, Evans coach Greg Jackson said, was probably the most significant factor in the outcome of the bout. Jackson, who believes Evans should have won the fight anyway, said things would have been different had Ortiz not grabbed the cage to prevent being taken down.

"It wasn't just one time that he did it," Jackson said. "The whole fight changed because of that. If Rashad takes him down, we wouldn't be standing here today talking about the decision, believe me."

Getting Liddell to the floor may be just as difficult for Evans, though one can be reasonably certain that Liddell won't hang onto the cage.

Liddell's takedown defense is legendary, so good that nearly every one of his fights is a stand-up slugfest where he can take advantage of his extraordinary one-punch power.

"Getting Chuck off his feet is never an easy task," Jackson conceded.

Evans' game plan likely isn't based solely upon putting Liddell on his back. That's like a pitcher deciding to try to blow fastballs past Albert Pujols all day.

Making Liddell think, and not allowing him to stand and trade, is probably one of the keys for Evans.

"Honestly, I think the most significant thing for me to do is to impose my will on Chuck," Evans said. "I have to keep him guessing. I have to go out there and not try to do too much and just do what I normally do in practice."

Evans, though, is hardly a one-dimensional fighter. He earned the nickname "Sugar Rashad" from training partner Mike Whitehead, who dubbed him that because he said Evans was boxing like the great Sugar Ray Robinson one day in practice.

That's high praise to be compared to Robinson, the finest boxer who ever lived. But Jackson said Evans' striking skills have progressed rapidly and are not appreciated by enough people.

He has become one of the game's most complete fighters while working with Jackson and doesn't have a discernible weakness.

"I think he's had an overall improvement and he's gotten better in all aspects of his game," Jackson said. "He showed the improvement in different aspects in different fights. His ground ability against Jason Lambert, his knockout and kickboxing improvement against Sean Salmon, and to me, even though a lot of people didn't think it was a great fight, he showed a lot in his ability to work through pain in that fight with (Michael) Bisping.

"He hit a wall and really had to push himself through it. He's improved mentally and with his technique, as well. Rashad has a lot of ways to win fights, which is why he is so dangerous."

And though Liddell is hounded by questions about fighting for the title, he has tortured his body to get ready for the Evans challenge.

In his last outing, a dramatic win over Wanderlei Silva, Liddell was fairly certain that Silva wasn't going to do anything but stand and trade. He's not sure what to expect from Evans.

"The more ways a guy has to win, the more dangerous he is," Liddell said. "It's a mistake to think he's just a wrestler. He's got a lot of skills and I'm going in there expecting a real difficult fight. I'd be fooling myself to expect anything else."

Kevin Iole is the national boxing/MMA writer for Yahoo! Sports. This story originally appeared on Yahoo! Sports and is syndicated on MMAjunkie.com as part of a content-partnership deal between the two sites.

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QBALL on Sep 06, 2008 at 10:22 am ET
I have to say I didn't like Rashad at first but have become a fan now. He was too cocky before.

haglnuts on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:09 pm ET

availj78 on Sep 06, 2008 at 10:26 am ET
Chuck by Knock out 1st RD

Tubekid on Sep 06, 2008 at 10:28 am ET
I'd agree. I like Rashad he was cocky but now he seems alot more humble. Still confident which you need to be.

2 fights with major implications tonight.

Chuck vs Rashad

Kampmann vs Mardquart

If Kampmann beats Mardquart it will be hard to argue he doesn't deserve a title shot or atleast on the verge of one. Mardquart held his own against A. Silva. Kampmann will be on a 10 fight winning streak withwins over Nate the Great, Leites, Mcfedries, Jorge Rivera

dsynergy on Sep 06, 2008 at 10:54 am ET
Mardquart held his own against A. Silva.

Although Marquardt is a stud, getting TKO'd in the first round isn't holding your own.  I think if Palhares gets past Henderson, who at least won a round against Silva, he's next in line for a title shot.  Kampmann won't get the next shot unless he really beats the brakes off of Nate the Great.

Tubekid on Sep 06, 2008 at 5:58 pm ET
If you watch that fight again Mardquart wasn't really rocked enough for the ref to stop it

rhymeister on Sep 07, 2008 at 2:40 am ET
Funny, I never got cocky at all from Rashad, he's always seemed like a humble guy to me.

king_nate08 on Sep 06, 2008 at 10:54 am ET
Ive been visiting this site 8 times a day for a very long time but id have to say that tooly you are the first person who has angered me enough to post!!!!!!!!!!! wow!!!!!!!

bk on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:20 am ET
I keep refreshing this site just to see how long it really takes to get banned!  I've never seen anything here that justifies it more than this garbage!

drdunk on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:02 am ET
I am rooting for Chuck but I totally respect the fact that Rashad has improved/evolved as a fighter much more than most of us ever thought he would.  He deserves this chance.

pettibone311 on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:24 am ET
Chuck by KO...OR if Rashad Evans fights  like Keith Jardine did, and chuck performs the same as he did in that fight, than Rashad by Unanimous Decision

broncoschamp on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:29 am ET
i think this is gonna be a surprising fight because everyone expects chuck to just walk over rashaad and get a tile shot and i think thats what danna white wants but i think rashad is gonna go out there with the same game plan as keith did but mix it up a little more maybe wear chuck down a little the take the decision its gonna be a great fight either way it goes because there two different fighters and people wonder how is rashad gonna come out in this fight but i think rashad is gonna surprise people with his striking like he did brad imes and all those other fighters he really couldnt takedown

bk on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:37 am ET
I don't see Rashad having the power to KO Chuck.  Even if he stands & does better than people expect, I don't think it will be enough to put Chuck out.  I also think that Chuck learned from his loss to Jardine & he expects Rashad to do the same so he will come with a better gameplan.

KnuckleHead on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:32 am ET
I have Chuck by TKO in the 2nd. But, I would not be surprised if Rashad pulled out the upset by split decision.

Lance_Uppercut on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:37 am ET
Whats with the racist comments? Go put your trenchboat back on and turn on cannibal corpse and post somewhere else 

JoeyB14 on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:44 am ET
Wow enouph with the racist comments, I have to say I also like Chuck in this fight, Chuck  Lidell second round KO!

anonwhocares on Sep 06, 2008 at 11:50 am ET
I think tooly is secretly Joe Rogans buddy  Ari Shariff

THEWIKWAKDJ on Sep 06, 2008 at 12:05 pm ET
Rashad by decision....

MMAuthority on Sep 06, 2008 at 12:23 pm ET
LOL... what the hell is going on in this thread ?????

I'll leave this one alone...

Tooly is a douche bag wanna be...

atomicmike on Sep 06, 2008 at 1:03 pm ET
I second that motion. I think he was just trying to cause a stir. Some people out there get their jollies by upsetting others & just by trying to be as ugly as possible. I guess they think it makes them cool or something??? Who knows??

TonyTone on Sep 06, 2008 at 12:26 pm ET
if rashad use his wrestling skill he has a chance. i think that rashad has a good chance of winning do to the fact that i have always said chuck punches are to wide. he throws at a fast rate but he can be countered at anytime. thats just my say.

MMAuthority on Sep 06, 2008 at 1:26 pm ET
Chuck leaves himself vunerable to a traditional boxers straight counter punch. Has nothing to do how wide his shots are.. He has a solid chin so that style works for him. He has been tagged with some incredibly hard shots and not gone out from them.. The Page fight was the first time he has ever been put out from punches. And it wasnt the first punch that did it either. It was the follow ups on the ground that did it. But we also saw how fast he woke back up and tried to recover from it.

Chuck has incredible recovery time in a fight.

His punches are wide indeed. His real kryptonite is only a skilled solid boxer "with power" ala Page.. Page's stance & movement mimic that of a top trained boxer. His throwing posture & reflexes are honed from boxing. His hand speed, and snap come from boxing. He throws straight punches in bunches. Very seldom do you see Page going wide with his shots. 

Thats Chucks only real weakness, is that he leaves himself open in the center during exchanges. Everyone knows better than to throw a body uppercut from that angle. They also know not to turn away from your opponent when throwing it too. He got caught coming away from the punch. He made a terrible mistake and paid the price for it..

But wrestling wont help Rashad in this fight. Chuck is not going to be held down and lay'ed on for 3 rounds.. He will get back up and force Rashad to abandon that gameplan all together...      

MullaJW on Sep 06, 2008 at 1:59 pm ET
"Chuck leaves himself vunerable to a traditional boxers straight counter punch. Has nothing to do how wide his shots are.. He has a solid chin so that style works for him."

"His punches are wide indeed."

"Thats Chucks only real weakness, is that he leaves himself open in the center during exchanges."

Not sure if you are agreeing with his statement or not?

MMAuthority on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:23 pm ET
ooppss I missed the "agree" part..


I agree that his weakness is skilled boxers. But the way he throws his punches isnt neccessarily the cause for that weakness. It's his stance and the way he counters that leaves the holes open. When he stands his hands are semi cocked and halfway down. When he is back peddaling, he has a tendancy to drop his off hand to throw the counter with force. Thats where the hole opens up.. not because of how he throws his punches on offense.. It's his back peddaling that leaves all the holes in his armor..      


Rashad4Prez on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:12 pm ET
"But wrestling wont help Rashad in this fight. Chuck is not going to be held down and lay'ed on for 3 rounds.. He will get back up and force Rashad to abandon that gameplan all together..." 

Rashad (and Greg Jackson) know that wrestling won't win this fight.  Rashad knew that going into the fight against Salmon.  Sean was just as skilled in wrestling as Rashad and probably stronger.  Rashad played it like a wrestling match while setting up those high kicks.  Watch that match again and you'll see Rashad was waiting for an opening.  Rashad improves by leaps and bounds with every fight.  I can't wait to see what he's done with his striking tonight!  I predict Evans by unanimous decision.  I also predict he will take the belt from Forrest and go on to defend it against Anderson Silva!  Mark my words! 

THEWIKWAKDJ on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:15 pm ET
I  second that.

MMAuthority on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:28 pm ET
LOL.. lets not get carried away with beating Chuck, Forrest & of all people A. Silva..

No matter what Greg Jackson trains Rashad to do.. That wont help him with his power. Rashad has no power in his hands. Not saying he is weak, he just doesnt possess that one hitter quitter type of punch. He has pity patty hands. He is quick and flashy but no substance behind them. When in the history of Rashads fights have you seen anything that would remotely lead you to believe that he is a skilled stand up fighter ???

Dont say Salmon because Salmon was garbage and that hole was there for Jason Thacker to put him out with !!!!!

Rashad wont risk a high kick on Chuck because Chuck is not Salmon.. period.. If he starts trying to be a karate master Chuck will come in fast and hard and drop him while he is off balance... now you my friend need to mark those words .....


MMACrossfire on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:32 pm ET
MMAuthority - I will be very interested to see what kind of plan Jackson and Evans come up with.

MMAuthority on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:49 pm ET
MMACrossfire - I am too..

My guess at this point would be a lot of in and out combo's and a lot of circling. Rashad has said they have the same reach @ 75" but I tend to disagree with that. I always thought Chuck to have a longer reach than 75.. I could be wrong though. I think it would be some type of speed plan with distance. Looking for points and holding off on the takedown attempts for later in the rounds. No need to waste energy early on in the rounds gambling against Chuck like that. If it were my fighter, thats the plan I would go with..

Look for pot shots and utilize the speed that Rashad has rather than tieing him trying to wrestle with him.

But I have a good feeling we'll be seeing some kicks coming from Chuck to throw Rashad off too. Once he gets tagged a few in the leg.. he wont be as jumpy on his shots looking for the TD. After seeing what Forrest was able to do to Jackson with minor leg kicks.. It's a great plan against a wrestler, especially one that you dont fear his standup. I dont think Rashad has enough to put Chuck down (outside of an off balance counter that catches Chuck on a slip or something). Catching a garbage Salmon (who happens to be the same hieght as Rashad or slightly shorter) is one thing, but catching a 6'2" Chuck with it in the head is going to be hard for such a short fighter like Rashad who is closer to 5'9"- 5'10" (regardless of what he is "listed" at)..


CactusPete on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:00 pm ET
it should be an interesting fight for sure, really comes down to both fighters game plan and how well they execute, but mostly if Rashad can rise to the occasion. I just re-watched the Chuck vs Wandy fight last night and if Chuck fights with that kind of intensity I don't think Rashad will be able to beat him...if however Chuck isn't taking Rashad as seriously as he should (as may have been the case with Jardine) then it's anyone's game with Chuck the apparent favorite.

TonyTone on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:18 pm ET
Well i am saying that all his wins were my KO or TKO and 1 sub. and that was what 10yrs ago. Chuck is one of the baddest man alive in that cage but know one is saying anything about mr. Evans who has fought some top notch guys. All I keep hearing is if chuck win title this title that. What about Rashad, He should be in the top 10 and one fight away from a title shot. or even a title shot. Forest Griffin Vs. Rashad Evans TUF 1 vs TUF 2 for the UFC LWH championship. This will show you that this guy are the new breed.

Rashad KO 2nd chuck say goodbye and retires.

haglnuts on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:24 pm ET
Wow TonyTone -  you clearly did not see the Wanderlei/Chuck fight. Chuck looked incredible and back on point. Old Chuck is back, and retirement is the last thing on his mind at this point. Chuck has made a career putting away great wrestlers and I doubt Rashad will be any different.

MMACrossfire on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:29 pm ET
haglnuts - Or... maybe NEW Chuck is here.  :)  You're right, he looked good in that Wande fight.  He couldn't put him away, sorta like GSP trying to put away Fitch.  But it was a great fight, especially for big fans of the striking game.  (I tell you, I was really happy to see Wande come back and win his next fight.)

TheHouseRoyceBuilt on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:22 pm ET
Chuck is a tall order for any wrestler. His takedown defense is legendary. Chuck wins it by T.K.O. in the 2nd. Traditional boxing is the best way to counter his style, but unfortunately for Evans he's no boxer.

TonyTone on Sep 06, 2008 at 2:36 pm ET
haglnuts I seen the fight plenty of time and there styles are very similar. that why the match up was so good. the retirement part was a joke. All i am saying is that sooner or later he will be crushed in a fight if he does not line up his punches. and Anderson Silva fighter that has quick crisp punches lined up to take out any man that comes fowarded. That all. Rashad 2nd round KO.

MMACrossfire on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:26 pm ET
TonyTone - Next time, try clicking the "Reply" button in the post you're responding to.  It's a lot easier reading a response to a post when it is nested under the post.  Like this post... nested right under yours.

Regarding Chuck, no doubt one day his number will be up.  I don't think Rashad has it, but hey.  Never know.  I'd be jazzed if Rashad somehow finds a way to beat Chuck, but I sure don't expect it tonight.  I am expecting Chuck to make short work of Rashad.  But I said the same thing when Serra faced GSP the first time.  (In fact, I didn't even buy that whole event because I was so sure that GSP would moyda Serra.)

CanadianFightFan on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:29 pm ET
Who is Tool? and what did he  say?

Looking forward to a great fight tonite!!  I think Chuck stands and wins, looking forward to seeing hendo go down!!  Palarus (bad spellyng i know) looks like a monster!!  Should be fun to watch,  would rather see BatMan's fight than Brown, but we know how the ufc loves to push the "tuff" guys!

MMACrossfire on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:30 pm ET
CanadianFightFan - I guess we both missed the excitement.  Some troll, I guess, writing stuff unfit for human eyes.

MMAuthority on Sep 06, 2008 at 4:58 pm ET
It was some closet case with repressed **** erotic tendancies being racist towards blacks..

I just think personally he likes to wear womens panties and type on the internet for the sake of having someone to chat with I guess... ???   

stainlesssteel on Sep 06, 2008 at 6:12 pm ET
Rashad's a marvelous fighter but I think he gets exposed to the big time tonight. Chuck shows him there's a huge difference between an up and coming fighter and the elite fighters at the very top of the chain.

Matt Serra got his exposure against GSP. Joe Stevenson got doused by BJ Penn and Rashad takes his punishment tonight against Chuck Liddell.

and thank you junkie staff for the well justified ban. hope you ban his ip address too so he has to use the public library for that crap.

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