Evans bounced back from consecutive defeats to Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira with a split decision victory over former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson in the UFC 161 headliner on Saturday at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. All three judges struck 29-28 scores, two of them siding with the more active and aggressive Evans (18-3-1, 13-3-1 UFC).
Henderson (29-10, 6-4 UFC) had his chance in the first round, where he staggered the Blackzilians representative with a stinging left jab and follow-up right uppercut. However, Evans regained his wits and recovered enough to fire back with some offense of his own.
“I didn’t know what hit me,” he said. “I thought the ref kicked me or something. I asked my corner, and they told me he caught me with a shot. I said, ‘No s---?’ It was surprising. Some punches I thought would have power didn’t, and ones I didn’t [think would have power] did.”
Evans slowly but surely turned the corner in round two, and the 33-year-old Niagara Falls, N.Y., native entered the third with renewed purpose and some newfound confidence. He sent the iron-chinned Henderson into a backpedal with a rapid-fire combination against the cage, and from there, he stifled the two-time Olympian in the clinch, never allowing him to unleash his howitzer of a right hand.
“Only fools rush in with Dan Henderson,” Evans said. “When he’s hurt, he can still hit you with a good shot.”
Henderson, who turns 43 in August, has suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in more than five years.
“There’s nobody to blame but myself,” he said. “That third round, I slowed down. I should have been more active. He didn’t hurt me at all, though. This [loss] I can swallow a little easier than last one [to Lyoto Machida]. [Evans] stood there and fought me. I can’t say that for the last guy I fought.”
Nelson (19-8, 6-4 UFC), who entered the cage on the strength of three consecutive first-round knockouts, stumbled out of the gate and never recovered. Miocic lit into him with two-, three- and four-punch volleys, wobbled him more than once with his right cross and snuck in leg kicks and knees for good measure. At the conclusion of the first five minutes, Nelson was a winded and spent force.
Miocic followed his game plan to perfection, steering clear of the former International Fight League champion’s famed overhand right. The combinations kept flowing and Nelson became less and less of a factor as the talented Ohioan dragged him into the deep.
Jimmo moved to 2-1 in the UFC.
Pokrajac (25-10) was a step slower against the Canadian, and it cost him. Jimmo backed up crisp, accurate strikes with clinches and takedowns, working mild but effective ground-and-pound from inside the Croatian’s guard. The 31-year-old Blackzilians representative staggered Pokrajac with a right cross in the second round and blitzed him with follow-up punches but when the finish failed to materialize, he returned to the comfort and familiarity of the clinch.
Davis utilized her size advantage and considerable grappling skills throughout the 15-minute encounter. She went after Sexton with a triangle choke in the first round and transitioned to her back in the second, nearly finishing it with punches and hammerfists in the closing seconds. Sexton (13-3, 0-1 UFC) made her move in round three, where she scrambled into top position on the weary Canadian and attacked her with ground-and-pound. It was not enough in the eyes of the judges.
“I’ve seen a lot of her fights, and she’s pretty tough in submissions,” Davis said. “She’s tougher than I thought. I’m a little tired right now.”
Jordan (15-4, 3-1 UFC) unleashed a series of right uppercuts on his fellow Louisianan, driving him to the ground in full retreat. Barry covered up at the base of the cage, only to absorb a fight-ending volley of savage left hands from the former Louisiana State University fullback.
“He’s a friend, but this is our job and we had to go to work,” Jordan said. “It just sucks that one of us had to lose. He was trying to load up and throw another kick on me, and I tried to beat him to the kick. I caught him with the first [uppercut] and just kept going.”More UFC 161 » • UFC 161 Prelims: Shields Traps Woodley in Clinch, Takes Split Decision
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