One thing that was interesting about the cancellation of UFC 151 was to hear Jon Jones’s comments about the differences between Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. Jones contrasted them differently and opined that training for the two was remarkably different, mainly because Sonnen fights out of a southpaw stance. If Jones wanted to fight someone similar to Henderson, he remarked, he’d have preferred to fight Rashad Evans because they’re fairly similar stylistically. It was an interesting comment to make at the time that bears further scrutiny, especially considering the two meet in the main event of UFC 161 this weekend.
Fight Breakdown: I’m going to describe a fighter for you. Fights out of an orthodox stance, loves a power punching game and has strong takedowns and takedown defense that’s been declining over the years. Doesn’t show a strong submission game, hasn’t tapped anyone since the beginning of their career, but wins either via strikes or decision. Uses a grinding top game, as well, and has managed to be an elite level talent at light heavyweight despite being sized like a middleweight. Who am I describing?
You could go Rashad Evans or Dan Henderson and be correct. This is one of those really crazy fights where both fighters are nearly identical in style and ability. But it’s in their application where it’ll be different and that’s where the fight gets interesting.
Henderson has the better pedigree when it comes to wrestling, easily. A two time Olympic team member, Henderson has turned into a slugger later in his career. He’s got big time power in his hands and has gone from being a wrestler with good boxing to a power boxer who uses his wrestling to stay off his back. He favors that big overhand right, using movement to set it up, and contains underrated power in his left as well. His takedown defense has slowly decreased over the years, part of which has been hidden since he hasn’t faced a true takedown threat since Jake Shields, but he makes up for it because of how hard he hits.
Fighters don’t want to get close because that “H-Bomb” puts the lights out on nearly anyone.
Look for him to look for that big right early and throw it often. He’s going to use his footwork to get Rashad moving to that side, use the clinch to throw and keep it standing at all costs. He’s never been known for getting off his back (Shields held him down for four rounds) and against Evans he won’t be getting up if taken down. Evans is very hittable and has an oddly good chin. He can take a big shot but he’s easy to get rocked and wobbly; Henderson needs to get him wobbly and from there Evans can be finished. He needs to make this a brawl and bring that out in Evans.
Evans uses a similar power boxing game but he uses his hands to set up his takedowns. Evans needs to avoid anything standing and commit to the takedown game. He half heartedly committed to it against Little Nog and that’s how he lost the fight; Evans has to put his head on Henderson’s chest and commit to taking him down like this is an amateur wrestling contest. Evans has been wobbled enough by guys with less power; Henderson can knock him out even worse than Machida did.
Look for him to go for the takedown early, to avoid dealing with that power, and to grind this out as a top position fight. Evans needs the win to be relevant.
Why it matters: A loss here and you’re irrelevant in the division. That’s why this fight matters. Evans loses and it’s three in a row; Henderson would have his second loss and coupled with his age he’s probably done as a relevant contender as well. This is must win; the loser probably has to go to 185 to reinvent themselves.