The Eric B. & Rakim lyrics that read, “it’s been a long time,” come to mind when thinking about Rashad Evans. At UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz, Evans will finally make his way back into the Octagon. Lingering injuries have kept either him or his signed opponents from competing over the last 14 months and the experience has been nothing less than frustrating for the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
What could make the time away all the more frustrating is the turmoil within the Jackson’s MMA camp, wherein Evans used to train with the likes of current champion and friend-turned-foe Jon Jones. After he was forced to drop out of his title shot against then-champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, fate would have he and Jones – who defeated Rua at UFC 128 – scheduled to meet in the Octagon, but a Jones injury scratched that fight.
Then Phil Davis gets to nod to face Rashad… but not so fast. Davis gets hurt in preparation and Evans gets yet another opponent in Tito Ortiz.
Luckily, Ortiz isn’t hurt and UFC 133 is just days away. Time to get used to the grind again.
“I’m very interested to get back in the cage,” Evans said recently. “It’s been a long 14 months, a lot of up and downs inside and also out of the cage. So I’m looking to getting there and just get used to competing again. It’s been a long time. I love to compete and being out for 14 months, it was hard for me to do. I had no idea I was going to be out this long, but, you know, things happen and the circumstances arise. So, I’m just happy to get back in there and I’m happy that Tito Ortiz took the fight and I got a chance to fight.”
And against Ortiz, Evans will face someone he’s tested before. The two originally met way back at UFC 73: Stacked and fought to a draw – which can be a disappointment for any fighter looking for a win. Had it not been for a point deduction caused by him repeatedly grabbing the fence in the second round, Ortiz would have walked away from ARCO Arena that night as the owner of Rashad Evans’ first loss.
The fight took place in 2007, which in MMA years means it was a century ago. Things have changed and fighters, as well as the game, have evolved to where four years ago is considered a much different time.
Does this mean Evans has nothing to worry about when it comes to facing the seasoned veteran in Ortiz? Of course, not.
If anything, timing has made Ortiz an even more dangerous adversary because he’s coming off one of the biggest wins in his career with a submission of Ryan Bader at UFC 132: Cruz vs. Faber. The momentum off that win could smash its way into Philly at UFC 133 and Evans is well-aware of it.
“I think he’s going to try to come out a little bit aggressive,” Evans said. “He’s believing in himself a little more. He’s got his win a couple months ago so he’s still riding off that momentum, but he’s feeling good. His (body is) feeling good, so he said.
“I expect to see Tito Ortiz reenergized and ready to (get) in there and put up a good fight.”
In Evans’ eyes, his opponent’s progression since the last time they met has come in his striking. From fight to fight, Evans has noticed Ortiz’s movement and combos become sharper, but it isn’t a big concern for the TUF Season 2 winner. Apparently, the biggest concern for Evans is himself and what he does in the Octagon on Aug. 6.
If he takes care of “number one,” everything else will work itself out – even Ortiz.
“I still think Tito’s definitely got a lot better in striking,” Evans said of his opponent for Saturday night’s main event. “But I’m not really worried about his striking, to be honest. I think for the most part what I need to worry about is just my own execution. And as long as I’m aware of my own execution, it doesn’t matter what Tito Ortiz does.”
But one has to wonder if Rashad Evans is tainted at all from his first fight with Ortiz. After all, if Tito didn’t grab the cage as much as he did in the second round, the outcome would have been different – and not in the good way. Going into UFC 133, the question remains: does Rashad Evans have anything left to prove since the last time these two met?
According to him, not really. He’ll just go in there and do work, like he’s always done.
“No, it’s nothing personal,” he said. “And because I’ve (been) out for so long, I want to go out and just really feel good in there and take my time and be patient and not try to rush for things. Just trying to see where the fight goes. I don’t have in my mind where I want to take the fight yet. So I just want to go in there and see what Tito Ortiz is doing, where the fight’s going to go, and then take it where I want it to go.”
After over a year out of the Octagon, Rashad Evans’ time has come and Tito Ortiz will be there to welcome him back to the competitive cage.
But lets try to keep our hands off the fence this time, guys.
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