- RASHAD EVANS: FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT

September 8, 2008
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by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com







Light
heavyweight contender Rashad Evans never intended to take Chuck “The Iceman”
Liddell to the ground. He’d seen Liddell destroy wrestlers who wanted to take
him down; counterpunch foes who chased him down.

 

“You
can’t be trying to take him down the whole time because he will knock you out,”
Evans said.

 

Of
course, he didn’t tell anybody this, particularly the media, whom he
steadfastly avoided in preparation for the fight. In a pre-fight conference
call for UFC 88, he brought out his acting chops and left a pretty strong
impression that he’d shoot for a takedown, and keep Liddell guessing about
where the fight would go. But that was the furthest thing from his mind.

 

“Yeah,
it was head games,” he confirmed in an exclusive interview with MMAWeekly.com. “I
wasn’t trying to take Chuck down. I mean, if I would have gotten him tired
enough then I was going to try to take him down, but I didn’t have any
intention of taking Chuck down. Matter of fact, I think I only did one takedown
attempt in practice.”

 

Evans
relied heavily on close friend and training partner Keith Jardine for advice.
At UFC 76, Jardine had stood with Liddell and beat him at his vaunted striking
game. Many pundits called it an off night for the former champ, but Evans knew
better. Liddell’s looping, power punch focus would leave cracks in his defense.
Whatever the consequences, Evans knew he could stand with The Iceman.

 

“The
best way to come at Chuck is you’ve got to come at Chuck,” he said. “You can’t
be trying to take him down the whole time because he will knock you out, and I
was like ‘if I’m going to lose this fight, I’m going to lose it on my feet, and
I’m willing to get knocked out for it.'”

 

Evans
hardly came straight at Liddell, preferring a game of feint and dodge as his
foe was forced to come forward. Liddell cut the cage off, but Evans always
found a way out. By the end of the first, he could tell his head games had
worked.

 

“He
was pissed,” he said. “He was highly pissed, man. He threw that kick at the end
of that round, almost took my head off. I was like, ok, I got him now.”

 

Evans
had waited patiently to assert himself throughout the first round. In the
second, however, he returned fire when Liddell cornered him, connecting with a
counter left hook in the midst of Liddell’s arcing punches.

 

Liddell
disengaged, realizing Evans could push back, though it didn’t stop him from
trying to cut off the cage again. By this time, Evans had seen first hand what
Jardine had been trying to tell him all along.

 

“Keith
said ‘you’re gonna get his timing, and there’s a point when you’re going to see
em’ coming,'” Evans said. “‘When you see it coming, get off first—don’t
sit there and wait.’ And that’s what I did. As soon as he had me against the
fence, you can always tell when he’s coming, so as soon as I see him make that
face, I just tried to bust off first.”

 

And
he did, uncorking a right hand that brought Liddell’s motor functions to a
screeching halt. Despite Evans’ reputation as a workman in the cage, he had
delivered another piece of fight footage that will forever play in the UFC’s
video library.

 

“I
did a lot of hard work to get to this point,” Evans said afterwards. “And it’s
not just me, I have my great teammates to help me get to this point, as well as
my coaches, Mike Winkeljohn and coach (Greg) Jackson. As a team, we all help
each other out. No man deserves the credit totally on his own, and I’m just
happy to have a great coaches and teammates to help me.”

 

Many
cynics predicted that Evans would not see a title shot against champ Forrest
Griffin, whatever the outcome of the fight, and before UFC president Dana White
announced he would, Evans might have been in that camp. "I’m a patient
man," he said at the post-fight podium. "I’m just enjoying the ride
and whatever happens, however long it takes, it takes.”

 

It
wouldn’t take long, though, as White subsequently informed the press that Evans
would get his shot at the light heavyweight belt, presumably at UFC 92 on Dec. 27
in Las Vegas.

 

With
the reversal of fortune, Evans looks to a quick return against Griffin, a
fighter he deeply respects. But he doesn’t intend on squandering the
opportunity he’s worked so hard to get.

 

“I
love Forrest Griffin, man,” Evans said. “Forrest Griffin is a fun, exciting
fighter. He works hard for everything he’s got. He deserves everything he’s
got. He’s definitely my kind of fighter, because if I beat Forrest, then I’m
the champ. But I’m excited to fight Forrest.”

 

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