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UFC 161 Preview: Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans

By Jaime C. Feal

The UFC officially announced Alexander Gustafsson as the next light heavyweight contender to Jon Jones’ belt at UFC 165, but who gets the next crack at light heavyweight gold after that could very well be determined by tomorrow night’s main event featuring UFC veterans Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans. This card had potential to be one of the best of the year, but injuries derailed a title fight between Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland, and a feature matchup between Shogun Rua and Rogerio Nogueira. Instead we are left with an underwhelming co main-event in Roy Nelson vs. Stipe Miocic and a mediocre 3rd fight between Pat Barry and Shawn Jordan. Despite the lack of big names, the matchmaking should provide for exciting bouts with many finishes, so make sure to tune in to tomorrow night’s PPV.

Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):

Pat “HD” Barry (8-5, 5-5 UFC) vs. Shawn “The Savage” Jordan (14-4, 2-1 UFC)

UFC veteran Pat “HD” Barry has managed to stick around despite his .500 record and being viciously knocked out several times. This is due to his crowd-pleasing “kill or be killed” style, and tomorrow night he takes on former LSU fullback Shawn “The Savage” Jordan. The extremely athletic Jordan is also a power puncher, and the two men will undoubtedly slug it out on the feet and test each other’s chins.

While Jordan is younger, he is not yet in his prime, and lacks big fight experience. This could be the deciding factor in the fight, as Pat Barry has plenty of high-level kickboxing and MMA experience, and is the much more technical and diverse striking. Expect Barry top use his patented outside leg kicks to soften Jordan up, before picking him apart with punches for the finish in the second round.

Prediction: Pat “HD” Barry wins by KO, Round 2.

Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):

Roy “Big Country” Nelson (19-7, 6-3 UFC) vs. Stipe Miocic (9-1, 3-1 UFC)

Roy Nelson has been asking for big things lately, and if he keeps knocking out heavyweights, he may just have justification for a title shot. While fans would undoubtedly like to see him get bigger fights, the catch 22 is that Nelson has been underwhelming when matched up with another elite heavyweight such as Fabricio Werdum or Junior Dos Santos. “Big Country” has a chance to showcase his nasty one-punch knockout power tomorrow night as he takes on Croatian striker Stipe Miocic.

Miocic is an up-and-comer who loves to stand and exchange with his opponents, often looking for the knockout. Until Miocic got dropped and put away by Stefan Struve, people wondered if Miocic was the next big thing in the heavyweight division. A massive underdog in Vegas tomorrow night, Miocic has a chance to shock the world, but the matchup is very much against him stylistically.

Nelson has an iron chin, so Miocic, even if he lands the proverbial “lucky punch,” is unlikely to knock out Nelson. Additionally, Nelson has more power in his hands, so “Big Country” is the one more likely to get the knockout. Finally, if the fight hits the ground, Miocic is extremely inexperienced, and Nelson is a legitimate high level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. Nelson has all the advantages in this one, and the motivation to continue building his title shot resume, so expect an emphatic win from “Big Country.”

Prediction: Roy “Big Country” Nelson wins by KO, Round 1.

Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):

Dan “Hendo” Henderson (29-9, 6-3 UFC) vs. “Suga” Rashad Evans (17-3-1, 12-3-1 UFC)

The main event of the evening features two future UFC hall of famers and former champions, as former Olympic competitor in Greco-Roman wrestling Dan Henderson takes on former Division I standout wrestler Rashad Evans. Neither fighter has preferred to use their incredible wrestling credentials offensively in MMA, instead preferring to use “Wrestling in reverse,” that is to say, keep the fight standing, stuff the opponent’s takedown attempts, and try to load up on a power punch.

That is exactly what both men will be looking to do tomorrow night. Henderson will be looking to land one of his infamous “H-bombs,” while Rashad Evans will be trying to land an overhand right or hook to stun Henderson. “Suga” Rashad Evans looked horrendous in his last fight, however, getting outstruck and outboxed by the aging Antonio “Rogerio” Nogueira. Evans was sluggish, consistently beat to the punch, and looked uninspired.

One can only hope that tomorrow night Evans brings his A-game, because Dan Henderson always comes to fight and looking to knock your head off. Henderson was on the cusp of a title shot until an injury derailed his shot at Jon Jones, and coming off a close split decision loss to Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, Henderson will no doubt be looking to make a big statement and get back on track. Expect both men to try to be ending the fight at all times with that big power shot, but neither being able to do so, mainly because of the solid head movement of Evans, and the experience and chin of Henderson.

Prediction: Dan Henderson wins by unanimous decision.

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