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UFC 88: Evans is going down and he’s going down early

Rashad Evans is the heavyweight winner of the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter;” he has a strong pedigree as a former college wrestler; he trains with one of the best camps in the world at Greg Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M.; and he’s undefeated with an 11-0-1 record.

He’s also going to lose in brutal fashion this weekend at UFC 88 against Chuck Liddell via first round TKO.

Evans fans will be up in arms when they read this but I’m not suggesting he’s not a good fighter. I’m simply making the case that he doesn’t have what it takes to defeat the former UFC light heavyweight champion.

Style-wise, Evans is tailor made for Liddell. During Liddell’s seven fight win streak that lasted from 2004-2006, he was matched up primarily against ground-based fighters that couldn’t pressure him in the standup. Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and Jeremy Horn are all capable on their feet but they are all clearly better when it comes to the ground. Liddell not only handled them, but he handled them with relative ease.

Evans might be a good wrestler, but he’s not a great one. It’s also important to note that Liddell wrestled in college as well and while I am sure he hasn’t kept up with his mat skills, his wrestling-base was a big reason why he was able to perfect a sprawl that has made him nearly impervious to takedowns.

During Liddell’s big run, many experts felt the way to beat him was to get him off his feet and to put him on his back; that the way to end his reign of dominance was to expose his jiu-jitsu. Many fighters tried to take him down and many failed. Even if you look beyond Liddell’s two-year win streak and look at his entire career, he has only been submitted just once and that was way back at UFC 19 in 1999 vs. Horn.

Couture, Quinton Jackson, and Keith Jardine have shown us that the way to beat Liddell isn’t by trying to take him off his feet, it’s by pressuring him in the pocket and literally beating him to the punch. Personally, I am not sold on Evans’ striking. One well-timed, well-placed highlight reel high kick against Sean Salmon does not make you a lethal striker. Evans’ standup has improved, but not to the extent that he’s ready to trade shot-for-shot with Liddell.

And I’ve heard all the stories: Evans has worked harder than ever for this fight and is going to look leaner than we’ve ever seen him. Having a more impressive physique isn’t going to compensate for the reach disadvantage he’ll have when it comes to the standup. And Liddell showed us vs. Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79 last December what happens when you have shorter arms than him and try to slug it out.

What’s going to happen is that if Evans attempts to take Liddell down, he will find that his wrestling is not high-caliber enough to solve “The Iceman’s” sprawl. Liddell will keep it standing and at some point Evans will have no choice but to engage in the striking aspect of the fight. At that point, he will come up on the short end of the stick and find himself helplessly staring up at the lights towards the end of the first round courtesy of a Liddell overhand right.

It’s going to be Chuck Liddell circa 2006.

  • moses says:

    Has everyone lost it?

  • P says:

    You must have read my mind.

  • rob says:

    could not agree more Sam – and just to reitterate Rashad Evans is NOT a bad fighter – this is just a terrible match-up, and will not be able to outpoint Chuck a la Keith Jardine

  • Sergio Hernandez says:

    I think everyone who knows the fight game and Liddell’s and Evans’ respective strengths and weaknesses have come to this conclusion.

    You are spot on in your analysis, Sam; this match was tailor made to make Liddell look good.

  • B-Rad says:

    Exactly my thoughts…Coming from the best camp, and the camp of the last guy to defeat Liddell isn’t going to help him. He doesn’t have the unorthodox unpredictable style that Jardine has. Liddell is going to win back his LHW title in the next 2-3 fights tops.

  • The betting lines are a bit strange to me on this fight but I also WANT Chuck to win. Not saying thats were I am laying my money.

    If Chuck loses….. how far down the ladder does he fall?

  • Doesn’t being younger and faster separate Evans from the bunch of wrestler/grapplers that Liddell destroyed?

  • Yea this is definitely the case. Rashad Evans is a good fighter but he doesn’t have the complete game to become a great fighter this soon in his career. Chuck has fought some of the most experienced fighters and wrestlers and hardly has ever needed to fight from his back. Rashad may be strong but Chuck is one of the best at sprawling and defending the take down. Rashad has fought some OK fighters in Bisping, Ortiz, Bonnar and Lambert but no one like Chuck. They say Chuck is on his decline and Evans is on the rise but I still don’t see Evans winning this fight. Chuck proves that he can knock out any fighter and I don’t believe Evans will be any different.

  • Cathedron says:

    I have never understood why so many people underestimate Chuck’s wrestling. I guess they just don’t know wrestling enough to realize that wrestling is about controlling your opponents body and keeping them from controlling you. He knows wrestling well enough to keep them from even getting a shot at him. And even the few who get ahold of him have massive problems getting him down. Even fewer can keep him on the ground for more than a few seconds. He’s one of the best wrestlers in the UFC, he just uses it to let him land those extremely heavy hands. If Evans couldn’t dominate Tito, he doesn’t stand a chance against Liddell.

  • Justin B says:

    I think you guys are selling my man short. Rashad is alot slicker boxer then Jardine, and I am sure they have been sparring with each other. You watch Rashad is going to make this a fight. Chuck can only back peddle and counter so much.

  • warcry says:

    I hope Rashad doesn’t get hurt. This has highlight reel written all over it . I expect this to be on Ultimate Knockouts 6. Hope Rashad is prepared to deal with Matt Hamill because they are both gonna get banged out.

  • seth b says:

    And the Evans bashing continues on what seems to be “”. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    Sam- What will you do if Rashad pulls this fight out? What excuses will be made as to why Chuck was unable to beat Rashad? Will Rashad finally be given his due if [gasp] he is able to win this fight? Doubtful. Everyone will say “How can you expect Chuck to get amped up for this fight, it is only Rashad Evans.”

    Here is a fact. All Rashad Evans does is win. Do not look past him in this fight, most have up to this point and none have beaten him.

    Here is a prediction by you that sounds awfully familiar from CBS Sportsline…
    “Fight analysis: Gonzaga is a much more formidable opponent than Eddie Sanchez, who Cro Cop fought in his UFC debut at UFC 67. Cro Cop is still a considerable favorite heading into this bout, but with the rash of upsets in MMA recently, a win here is no slam dunk.

    In order for Gonzaga to pull off the upset, he has to get Cro Cop to the ground, where he can utilize his world class jiu-jitsu skills. Gonzaga is also a threat to submit Cro Cop if he’s on the bottom, but that’s not likely.

    Getting Cro Cop to the ground will not be easy because of Cro Cop’s solid takedown defense. Making matters more difficult for Gonzaga is that Cro Cop isn’t much of a combination striker. Fighters who throw frequent combinations often leave themselves open to a takedown attempt, but Cro Cop can drop an opponent with one swift kick to the head.

    UFC president Dana White thinks very highly of Gonzaga, and he has a bright future with the company. He might even be able to take this fight into the second or third round. However, if you’re looking for Gonzaga to pull a Matt Serra, then you might need to spend some time at the Promises Rehab Center with Britney Spears.

    Predicted outcome: Cro Cop will win with the famous high left kick that the UFC officials were craving to see against Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67. ”

    We all know how that fight turned out.

  • mike wolfe says:

    Jardine beat Chuck with leg kicks, not boxing or wrestling. So the question is whether Rashad can adapt his striking game and whether Liddell will be prepared if he does.

  • Rich S. says:

    do i think chuck liddell’s going to win this fight? yes.
    do i think he’s going to do it via brutal first round TKO? hell no..

    sure, Chuck has tremendous power..
    but look.. out of 16 fights or so, Evans has never lost.. which in-turn means Evans has NEVER been knocked out.. with that aside, if you take a look at every fight he’s had in the UFC [including on TUF] we’ve never even seen him rocked.. so, something in me HIGHLY doubts we’ll see some brutal first round [T]KO..

    now, as for Chuck’s “tailor-made” opponents, that’s kinda bogus.. i mean, yea, Chuck probably has the best takedown defense in the UFC, if not in the entire business.. but the only reason he was so successful with all these ground fighters is for psychological reasons..

    with the exception of Jeremy Horn, every one of the fighters mentioned [Tito, Babalu, Couture (in the 2nd fight)] tried to strike with Chuck.. they get this thing in their head that tells them: “i want to be the first one to beat chuck in the standup” and next thing you know, they’ve completely forgotten their gameplan..

    I mean, take a look at Chuck/Babalu II,
    You’re a black belt in BJJ, and you’re chasing the best counter striker in the world around the ring? that win was plain and simple GIVEN to chuck.. that performance by Babalu made me sick to my stomach..

    Chuck must be the master of mind games, ’cause every ground opponent he’s ever had has tried to strike with him.. and i’m SURE that Rashad will strike with him.. probably for the entire first round, or maybe until he gets caught.. we’ll just have to see if he can get him down..

    but, i’m callin’ this one a UD in Chucks favor..

  • Caleb Newby says:

    Ok guys, this is a fight that 80-90% of the time Chuck should win. When we have that much certainty, it is pretty much able to be called a lock. Of course, sometimes the lot is drawn and the underdog takes it against all conventional wisdom (which makes this sport so much fun) but just because that happens from time to time doesn’t mean we are to stop calling shoe-ins when we see them. Just because we are afraid this *might* be the one that is an upset.

    Chuck should win for all of the reasons Sam said. There is clear logic and evidence for why this should happen along with nearly universal agreement from the sports top pundits. Because Evans isn’t a chump or street bum, he has a shot and CAN win, but when the odds are that low it isn’t really a reason to give that view much credence.

    If Liddell wins, we all know why and it made sense going in. If Evans wins, it doesn’t all the sudden make all the “experts” idiots for taking Liddell. Just like when Serra upset GSP, the smart pick was and is still GSP even though he lost.

  • Bad Monkey says:

    Chuck most likely wins this one, but I don’t think it’s the gimme fight everyone seems to think it is. Keep in mind that not only is Rashad a talented boxer, but in the TUF finale he floored 6’7″ Brad Imes twice with single punches. That means he’s got real power to go along with his speed. Chuck’s got a good chin, but Rampage showed he can definitely be knocked out with a well placed shot. I’d like to see this one get to at least the 2nd round before somebody gets the TKO.

  • […] Here’s Sam Caplan’s opinion on the Chuck Liddell / Rashad Evans fight this weekend: What’s going to happen is that if Evans attempts to take Liddell down, he will find that his wrestling is not high-caliber enough to solve “The Iceman’s” sprawl. Liddell will keep it standing and at some point Evans will have no choice but to engage in the striking aspect of the fight. At that point, he will come up on the short end of the stick and find himself helplessly staring up at the lights towards the end of the first round courtesy of a Liddell overhand right. […]

  • Obama said knock you out says:

    Chuck does have nyquil in his hands, but a devastating first round KO? Damn that is a ballsy, or stupid, call. I have never even seen Rashad hurt and he has fought some big, powerful dudes. I do not think Rashad’s wrestling comes into play here. I think he uses leg kicks, a la Keith Jardine, in an attempt to mess up Chuck’s mobility. Rashad is faster than Jardine and gives more angles. I think you are definitely underestimating his striking ability. If Jardine can outstrike Liddell, I think Rashad has a shot. I think the key is how he reacts in a big fight. In the two headline fights Rashad has been in, he seems to underperform. If I was a betting man, I would take Chuck, but this is not going to be a first round cakewalk and I would not be surprised if Rashad won.

  • JJ Docker says:

    Agree 100% with the analysis of this fight. Constantly bouncing around and overusing head movement and forth does not make you a “quick striker” as someone said. Rashad’s hands maybe ok but not good enough to get inside Liddell without getting KTFO first. Liddell KO R1.

  • HuntingtonBeachBadboy says:

    Heard the same thing about “the dean of mean” Keith Jardine

  • Dr Hak says:

    One point I haven’t seen made yet…

    Liddell is coming off a very, very nasty hamstring injury, and that could affect his sprawl and takedown defense.
    Enough for Rashad to take advantage of? We’ll see.
    Is the injury truly 100%? How long do hamstrings take to fully heal? Like a football or basketball player coming off of an ACL tear, will Liddell have some doubts about it in the back of his mind that may cause a split second of hesitation that leads to getting taken down?

    Just a thought.

  • dbess says:

    got my money on Evans this time. I just don’t see Liddell getting into the right with that hunger like he use to. He’s been on top and now he’s struggling to make it back to the top. I just don’t see Liddell taking this fight. I see Evans pulling the old Lay and Pray tactic out for this fight. We’ll see what happens…sorry Chuck I just don’t see you coming out on top this time.

  • Detroit313 says:

    garbage, biased article. 100 bucks says the clown who wrote this article picked chuck to beat jardine.

  • Kelvin says:

    It will be no cake walk for Liddell…although I do expect him to win.

  • Davey D says:

    I think Chuck is going to win via KTFO (headkick). Kinda of like what he did to Renato Babalu or what Sugar did to Sean Salmon. I just think Rashad is gonna get caught shooting or coming up from the clinch. Not sure about RD1 but a KO should end up happening. I’ll say RD 2 for S&G.

    Rashad is where he is because he belongs there. I like him as a fighter and a person. He is a good guy. Once he loses to Liddell, it will spark a fire inside him like he’s never felt and make him an even better fighter. Shoot…this is MMA after all and he could win but I doubt it.

    Being from Michigan, if he did win, I wouldn’t be all too upset. Right now, I’d rather see Chuck fight Forrest first before Machida or Rashad so that’s my feeling about this whole bit.

  • Jason says:

    Who is excited about this fight? I won’t watch this awful card even though I could see it for free with minimal effort. The next time somebody mentions how great it is that the UFC sunk Pride remind yourself of this card with this main event and you will know better.

  • ACK! says:

    I think Evans is more explosive than many people are giving him credit for.

  • dick vicious says:

    Evans isnt undefeated. ORtiz beat him but also beat himself by losing a point. I AM NOT AN ORTIZ fan but he outclassed Evans for the majority of the fight. No one can argue Liddell has ORtiz covered by a long ways even when ORtiz fought in his prime.Liddell may not be as sharp or quick as then but will have little problems with evans, and Im sure evans only weapon other than ground domination his leg kick won’t be an issue as Liddell will be ready for the high kick. OTher than Bisping(I think he’s really overrated) and Bonnar whom else has he beat that is worth mentioning. REcords only mean something if they have faced competition.

  • Anton K says:

    Interesting thoughts. I was less than impressed with Rashad in his fight with Tito — and not at all impressed by his technique against Bisping.

    I’m not sure what Rashad brings to the cage that Chuck hasn’t already seen.

    Is Chuck’s true opponent merely the slow decline of age?

  • Batman says:

    Hey Sam I am going to have to disagree with you on this one. I think Evans is a stronger better wrestler than Liddell and I believe he can hang with his stand up. I wouldn’t advise Evans to stand up with him but I think he should trade a couple of shots with chuck then go for the takedown. I think Rashads power will earn him a takedown whenever he feels like he needs to put the Ice Man on the mat. I think it will be a tough fight for Evans but don’t count him out just yet.

  • Rich S. says:

    personally, i think Evans will fair well in the stand-up game with Chuck, i just don’t think he’ll win it..

    Evans is a very explosive, elusive, energetic, bob-and-weave type of fighter.. so, he might actually pose problems for Liddell that no one has been able to pose previously..

    i wouldn’t be suprised to see a UD victory by Rashad.. i know Liddell’s takedown defense is SUPERB, but, i think Rashad can get it to the ground..

    either way, i’m stickin’ with Chuck – Unanimous Decision..

  • king mah mah says:

    I don’t care what Rashad says, this is the biggest fight of his career and he WILL be nervous. I smell a knockout! That isn’t to say it is impossible for Rashad to win,but the odds aren’t in his favor.

  • Russ says:

    Evans may be a good fighter, but he is overrated. Sean Salmon dominated him and got caught with a high kick. Tito Ortiz physically beat him, but lost a point for grabbing the fence. I understand the UFC wants to build hype and focus on the undefeated record of Rashad Evans, but he’s gonna get knocked out. Liddell is going to cut off Evans’s options to where Evans has to come and exchange and then lights out!


  • Vee says:

    I thought this was obvious.

    I think Evans only strength is his head. He’s definitely a smart fighter but his wrestling is not really impressive, doesn’t have a gas tank and his striking is sub-par. Yeah, he’s basically tailor-made for Liddell.

  • KTru says:

    Man there are some sick predictions here.

    Chuck by 1st rd TKO

    Chuck by UD

    Chuck by having a cooler haircut

    I do think Chuck will win, but it will be close……real close

    Im on a limb…..

    Chuck by Majority Dec, point deduction from Chuck because hits in back of head

  • Obama said knock you out says:

    overrated….sub-par striking….How is that humble pie?

    Good call Sam.

  • […] I am the same clown who wrote an article this week titled “Rashad Evans is going down and he’s going down early.” Right about now I should be eating some humble pie, […]

  • […] are split between those who think Rashad has no chance and those who think Rashad’s only chance is to win a decision by evading the fight. While […]

  • jay n,f says:

    liddell is a man just the same ! rashad aint playin watch!!!


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