The direction of the UFC’s light heavyweight division took a significant turn nearly five years ago, as an injury to Rashad Evans took him out of a fight with then-Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in early 2011, opening the door for Jon Jones.
After returning to action from a long layoff this fall, Evans is now looking for the matchup that never came to fruition, with this week’s UFC Tonight program reporting that Evans is seeking a fight with Rua in March 2016. It’s not yet known if Rua would be able to fight that quickly, as he’s recovering from shoulder surgery, with his management saying he can’t even think about a fight booking until the end of this month.
With Evans out of that fight in 2011, Rua would drop the title to Jones in a – somewhat shockingly at the time – one-sided loss. Since then, he’s gone 4-5 in nine appearances, getting stopped in three of those losses. He kept his career alive in August at UFC 190, as he edged out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira for a decision victory.
Evans has fared a bit better since the two of them were supposed to meet; he added wins over Tito Ortiz and Phil Davis before suffering his own loss to Jones, and suffered a bad loss to the aforementioned Nogueira before getting back on track with wins over Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. Injury kept him out all of 2014 and almost all of 2015, and he dropped a decision to Ryan Bader at UFC 192 in October in his return.
Penick’s Analysis: If Shogun can fight by March, a bout with Evans in Brazil would be a good addition to the UFC 197 card. Neither is anywhere close to a title fight right now, and though it’s a fight that comes five years too late, it would be a matchup where each could keep themselves alive in the veritable “mix” of the light heavyweight field. That Evans is feeling healthy enough for an early 2016 return is a good sign given how long his layoff was, so whether it’s Rua or a different matchup, it will be good for him to get back in to try bouncing back from the Bader fight.
[Rashad Evans art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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