Dan-HendersonOne of the featured attractions on UFC 192’s main card is a highly relevant light heavyweight contest between former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad “Suga” Evans and Ryan “Darth” Bader. The winner of this fight may be next in line to face the winner of Daniel Cormier versus Alexander Gustafsson.   Rashad Evans (19-3-1 MMA, 14-3-1 UFC, -160 favorite) The 36-year old Evans is unquestionably one of the greatest light-heavyweights of all time. He has recorded victories over some of the greatest fighters of his era, including Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Forrest Griffin, Rampage Jackson, Phil Davis, and Dan Henderson. Unfortunately for Rashad, he is coming off a near two-year layoff due to two knee surgeries to repair a torn ACL. Prior to the injury, Evans was set to face Daniel Cormier in a fight that was supposed to determine the next challenger for then-champion Jon Jones. At the time, Evans had just gotten his groove back after losing to Jones in a light heavyweight title matchup in 2012. The loss took him a long time to get over and he was not there mentally for his next matchup, a shocking upset loss to Antonio Rogerio Noguiera. However, he rebounded nicely in the second and third rounds against Dan Henderson in his next fight and then proceeded to obliterate Chael Sonnen in his most recent contest in November of 2013. While he is one of the smaller light heavyweights on the UFC roster, he makes up for it with his speed, technique, and athleticism. Evans has some of the best MMA wrestling in the sport and is exceptional at transitioning from striking to grappling. His striking sets up his takedowns quite well and his blast double-leg takedown is one of the best in the sport. From top position, Evans is an adept passer and has a nasty mounted crucifix and ground and pound. As for Rashad’s striking, he has quick and powerful hands and puts his combinations together reasonably well. However, he is at his best when he is mixing up all the elements of mixed martial arts and not relying solely on his striking. Evans does have knockout power in his hands and feet, but also has a somewhat shaky chin. That may be something to watch out for in this matchup. This fight will largely depend on how much Rashad has left in the tank after his knee injuries and subsequent layoff. Further, he just turned 36 years old, so his time as a top competitor in this sport is limited.   Ryan Bader (19-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC, +140 underdog) Bader burst onto the UFC scene as a competitor on season eight of The Ultimate Fighter, which he ultimately won in impressive fashion. During the show he showcased his solid wrestling and big power in his right hand. The Power MMA fighter comes from a strong collegiate wrestling background, as he was a two-time NCAA Division 1 All-American at Arizona State University. His blast double-leg is exceptionally good, though he also runs the pipe nicely on a single-leg as well. Bader does not have much of a jiu jitsu game, as he does not pass well and outside of a few chokes, is not a big submission threat. Further, his submission defense has been shaky in the past. Bader’s striking basically revolves around his right hand, which packs a lot of power. He uses his jab and left hook to set it up but he does not do a very good job of disguising it. Further, he is very rigid and stiff inside the Octagon. He lacks the fluidity that you see in high-level strikers. He tends to struggle badly when he is unable to take his opponent down and is forced to stand with a superior stand-up artist. Further, his chin is questionable at best, as he has been knocked out or dropped on several occasions. Strength and conditioning is another strong aspect of Bader’s game, as his chain wrestling can often wear down and ultimately break his opponents.   Thoughts This prediction is a lot tougher because of Evans’ long layoff, injury, and advanced age. If this fight happened prior to Evans’s injury I would be extremely confident in Rashad getting his hand raised in convincing fashion. I believe he is better in just about every facet of mixed martial arts. His striking is fluid and he puts his combinations together well, while Bader is quite stiff and robotic with his stand-up. Rashad is also much better at transitioning from striking to wrestling and vice versa. Further, Rashad’s top control and ground game are much better. Evans has a nasty mounted crucifix, passes well, and throws nasty ground and pound. Both fighters have power and are capable of scoring a knockout here, but Rashad’s speed and athleticism should allow him to land first. Again, this is all assuming Rashad somewhat resembles the fighter he was two years ago. If Evans has serious cage rust or has suffered a severe decline than this is probably Bader’s fight to lose. However, from what I have seen and heard from Evans’ camp, he is in good shape for this fight and he should get his hand raised on Saturday night. I think Rashad will catch Bader at some point in the first two rounds with a big right hand and finish him off on the ground for a technical knockout victory.   The Prediction: Rashad Evans defeats Ryan Bader by technical knockout (punches, round 2)


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