Rashad Evans remains a fixture in the 205-pound title hunt. | File Photo
Rashad Evans (17-2-1, 12-2-1 UFC) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (20-5, 3-2 UFC)
The Matchup: After a lopsided decision loss to Jon Jones at UFC 145, there does not seem to be much left for Evans to do at 205 pounds as long as his former training partner has the title. As an undersized light heavyweight, a move to 185 pounds could prove to be both prudent and lucrative for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 2 winner. For now, a potential showdown with Anderson Silva will have to wait, as the former titleholder squares off with Nogueira.
“Minotoro” has not been seen since UFC 140, when he blasted Tito Ortiz with a knee to the body and finished the hall of famer with punches and elbows to the ribs on the ground to halt a two-fight skid. Now 36 years old, the former Pride Fighting Championships standout’s best days are probably behind him, but he reminds a solid gatekeeper in the division.
The problem for Nogueira here is that he is facing an opponent who still possesses serious title aspirations, either at light heavyweight or middleweight. The Brazilian remains confident in his ability to execute submissions from his crafty guard, but he was clearly outwrestled in previous losses to Phil Davis and Ryan Bader. Like those two, Evans has the ability to plant Nogueira on his back, but his blend of movement, speed and balance on the feet makes Davis and Bader look robotic by comparison. While Nogueira made Davis and Bader work hard for their takedowns, Evans speed and ability to land quick combinations should make implementing his wrestling that much easier. While Nogueira is competent at sweeping and returning to his feet after being taken down, he still finds himself losing rounds against persistent wrestlers.
Evans is not generally a high-volume striker on the feet, but he will not have to be versus Nogueira, who often allows his opponents time to find a rhythm as he waits for countering opportunities. This will not work against the faster Evans, as the Blackzilians member should be able to move in and out of danger against the southpaw. Evans might want to mix in kicks to the body, as Davis had some success there early in his meeting with Nogueira.
Nogueira’s best chance is to be the aggressor and work his solid boxing before forcing tie-ups, where he can land punishing knees to the body. Evans will not be a stationary target, however, and his one-shot knockout potential will give his adversary pause.
The Pick: If Evans finds the right opening, he could end this via knockout or technical knockout early. Otherwise, he blends striking and takedowns to take a dominant decision.
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