Rashad Evans just couldn’t get it done Saturday night.
Squaring off with former teammate and current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Evans was stifled in the UFC 145 main event, dropping a unanimous decision to “Bones” at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
“I just think I was flat when I came out,” Evans said at the post-fight press conference. “I had a great camp, but sometimes you don’t feel it. There were times in the fight when I felt like I could have done something, but I didn’t pull the trigger when I needed to. I’ll have to go back and see what I did wrong.”
Conversely, Jones seemed to have little trouble executing, especially in the second frame, when he battered Evans (Pictured, file photo) with standing elbows that rocked the former champion.
“I got out-slicked. I thought I would get him. I felt his timing was off, and it’s never off, so I felt he was nervous,” said Evans. “Then he started playing that hand game. When he touched me, I knew he’d go for an elbow. I wanted to time it and take him down, but he caught me every time.
“It was difficult. He was so long and it was just frustrating,” Evans continued. “Whenever he hit me with something, I couldn’t let him know how bad it hurt. He’s a talented kid, and he has gotten a lot better, like I thought he would. I have to give him respect. He’s a champion.”
Finding little encouragement in the standup, Evans attempted several takedowns on his larger opponent. Unfortunately for the Imperial Athletics representative, Jones stuffed each of his efforts and made him pay.
“To try to take him down is pretty hard to do,” said Evans. “If I got a shot, I would take it but wouldn’t force anything. I wasn’t creative enough. Once, I threw an inside leg kick, and he checked it with his knee. I couldn’t really bounce after that. I lost the springs in my shoes.”
Evans did manage to find success with isolated shots, but the 205-pound standout could not string together his offense consistently, a shortcoming that Evans says falls on his shoulders alone.
“I wanted to put more pressure on him, but didn’t I want to rush [into] those long knees,” said Evans. “I tried to attack when he least expected, but I didn’t throw enough combinations. That was the story of the night for me, not getting off first. I didn’t follow up. I have no one to blame but myself.
“I started playing a game, and I knew better than to play it,” he continued. “What threw me off was his front kick. I originally planned to go to the body first and work my way up [to Jones’ head], but I was never able to do that.”
While obviously disappointed in the immediate hours following his failed title bid, Evans believes it will take some time for him to fully assess his feelings regarding both the defeat and his opponent.
“It takes a while for it to sink in. I still gotta go home and probably cry a little bit,” said Evans. “You never know what can happen in the future. We were friends before, but we’ll probably be competing against each other again, so we’ll have to keep it on that level.”
Regardless of whether he is able to rekindle his friendship with Jones, Evans is still determined to rise once again to the top of the UFC light heavyweight ranks.
“Since I’ve gotten older, I handle setbacks better. Things can always be worse, even when you think you’re at rock bottom,” said Evans. “I can take that and say, ‘Even though I lost today, I can come back and try to be champion again.’”