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Sunday, January 29, 2012
Fans won't be clamoring for Jones-Evans

By Franklin McNeil

CHICAGO -- The first hurdle has been cleared. Rashad Evans defeated Phil Davis easily Saturday night at United Center.

Evans had no difficulty getting the better of Davis while standing. This came as no surprise, being that Davis is too green in that area at this point in his career. But even on the ground, where Davis was expected to have an edge, Evans overwhelmed the action.

When the final horn sounded, it was clear that Evans had totally dominated a fighter who was far out of his league. The 50-45 scores each judge gave Evans didn’t accurately project the lopsidedness of the fight.

This was a mismatch in every way.

Evans deserved the decision, and in doing so gets his shot at reclaiming the light heavyweight title on April 21 in Atlanta. That’s where he will face current 205-pound champion and friend-turned-foe Jon Jones. The former training partners have had an ongoing feud since Jones claimed the title from Mauricio Rua in March 2011.

It’s their continuous war of words that makes Jones-Evans titillating. The verbal barbs will only continue flying as the fight date nears -- and that's a good thing, because based on the manner in which Evans won on Saturday, not many people will give him much of a shot against Jones.

Evans won easily, but didn’t overwhelm. He took Davis to a place the former Penn State All-American wrestler had never been inside the Octagon.

But Evans didn’t deliver a performance against a talented, but raw, fighter that will make fans clamor to see him against Jones.
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“I’m happy the fight is over. I’m happy I got the win, but I wanted to do better,” Evans said after improving to 17-1-1. “I wanted to put on a more spectacular win for the Chicago fans and the Fox [television] fans.

“I didn’t win the way I envisioned myself doing. But at the same time I got the job done. I can’t be too overly critical, because in the UFC wins are hard to come by.”

Watching Evans hold off Davis for 25 minutes, many onlookers couldn’t help but wonder if Dan Henderson should be next on Jones’ plate. Evans needed to erase any doubt that he offers the stiffest test yet for Jones, and he didn’t do that against Davis.

There is no doubt Evans felt the need to prove he is the true No. 1 contender. And he also felt the urge to not let his title shot slip away with a loss to Davis.

“I felt pressure,” Evans said. “It just sort of crept up on me.

“I woke up this morning and said, 'Man, I can’t lose this fight.' You never want to lose a fight. But that played in my mind a little more than usual.”

This isn’t to say Evans won’t be the toughest fight of Jones’ professional career. There has been word that Evans often got the better of Jones when the two trained at Jackson-Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Albuquerque, N.M. But Henderson still commands admiration from fight fans. His wrestling and power punching makes him a threat against anyone he faces in the cage.

Henderson doesn’t possess Jones’ athletic skills, nor would he offer the prefight hostility Evans delivers before each of his bouts. But it’s his finishing ability and give-everything fighting style that makes him a major attraction. Jones-Henderson would be a must-see.

Jones-Evans remains a high-profile fight, but after Saturday night’s performance by the former UFC 205-pound champion, it has lost a little of its luster.

Fortunately, Jones and Evans will remind everyone why we wanted to see them get it on. Trash-talking and true dislike will get fans eager again to watch these two settle their grudge.

The sooner Evans’ performance against Davis is forgotten, the better -- and Evans happens to agree.

“There’s so much that’s been said and so much that is going to be said that right now I want to just go back and enjoy this victory and think about the things I need to do to get ready for Jon Jones. I don’t want to put anything out there right now.

“I want to let tonight be tonight. I'll get my mouth going a little bit later on.”