Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans made his middleweight debut last Saturday at UFC 209, but 39-year-old Dan Kelly was there to play spoiler as he defeated ‘Suga’ via split decision (scored 29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Evans’ grappling looked crisp during grappling exchanges, but on the feet, Kelly — even with a busted knee — kept coming forward and wouldn’t let Rashad get comfortable.
“I feel like my time away from the cage has probably cost me a lot,” said Evans on The Luke Thomas Show this week, adding that fighting once a year wasn’t enough to ward ring rust. “I think I need to be more active when it comes to fighting.”
Evans was complimentary of Kelly’s overall game, perhaps too complimentary. The former champ was worried about the Austrailian judoka’s sweeps especially, and even though Dan Kelly isn’t technical with his strikes, ‘Suga’ says he’s effective.
Rashad doesn’t think Kelly won the judges’ scorecards and as disappointing as it is — he has to move on with the realization he is 0-1 in a new division. He says he should have remained focused for 15 minutes, stuck to his gameplan, and went for a finish for the entirety of the fight; he shouldn’t have left it to the judges, and now he remains haunted by a few thoughts.
“Whenever I close my eyes, I just see different things that now, is so abundantly clear, but during the fight — I couldn’t see. It’s tough man because I feel like I still could make a run and I still feel like I’m not that far from doing that, but, I gotta do better — and that’s just the bottom line and it’s heartbreaking, it’s sad, for me, but it is what it is,” said Evans. “When it was time to go, it just didn’t happen like that for me.”
Evans will now look to get back into the cage as soon as possible because he knows he’s better than this, even though he’s 37 years old. He still feels like he can compete and that’s what he wants to do — compete as much as possible until he can no longer go at an elite level.
Kenny Florian called for Evans’ retirement on the FS1 post-fight show (video below).
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