Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans Rashad Evans and Dan Kelly collided last night (March 4, 2017) at UFC 209 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Evans has had a rough time as of late, losing his two previous fights and failing to secure a license to fight twice. However, it finally worked out, and he had a chance to clear the slate and score a solid win in his Middleweight debut. On the other hand, Kelly has been racking up pretty decent wins in the middle of the 185-pound division. Evans may have been struggling, but it was still far and away the biggest name that Kelly had yet to face.
Evans looked quick to start the fight, firing off right hands and high kicks into his opponent’s guard. For the first couple minutes, it was all Evans, but Kelly then began to find his range with some hard left hands. The two men traded takedown attempts without any real results. In the second half of the round, both men began to land with more consistency. Evans scored with some counter right hands and kicks, while Kelly did his best work in and on the break of the clinch.
On the whole, it was a rather close round.
Kelly pushed the pace and landed the better shots to start the second round. Evans wasn’t being particularly active, which allowed Kelly to get off first and land some of his seemingly sloppy blows. He even rocked Evans at one point, causing Evans to dive onto a failed single leg takedown. For much of the round, Kelly pressured his opponent and kept busy. More often than not, his punches weren’t doing any devastating damage, but he continually kept Evans on the defensive.
Kelly pretty clearly won the second round.
Evans made a clear decision to stand his ground rather than retreat to start the final round, and it worked well for him. Kelly was a bit fatigued, and that helped Evans find his range with the uppercut and jab, allowing him to land the better blows. Despite that, Kelly simply kept pushing forward. His volume never really dipped, but he was definitely getting out-struck in the final round. Kelly simply walked into a lot of hard strikes, and Evans really swung in combination to flurry at the end of the fight.
It was a strong finish for Rashad Evans, but neither man could be particularly confident heading to the scorecards. Ultimately, two of the three judges felt that Dan Kelly had done enough to win the fight.
Shockingly, Kelly has won six of seven fights inside the Octagon. Once again, he did it by out-working and pressuring his opponent constantly, regardless of what came back his way. Additionally, Kelly showed off some seriously tricky techniques, tripping Evans with his lead leg and using that to set up his punches. Similarly, Kelly was quick to land punches while in the clinch, forcing Evans off-balance before landing good strikes.
Without landing a single takedown, the 39-year-old Judo Olympian earned a decision over a former world champion. Regardless of the circumstances, that’s a major accomplishment, and Kelly has earned his shot at a ranked opponent.
As for Evans, this fight told us several things. First and foremost, there’s a reason that Evans is not a contender anymore — he’s declined athletically. However, it’s also true that Middleweight may be a better division for him, as Evans never seemed particularly drained from the weight cut and is fighting similarly sized opponents.
Aside from those observations, Evans has always had issues opposite Southpaws and with activity. Those traits cost him here, as Evans failed to make the necessary adjustments until the third round. By then, the judges had already scored the fight out of his reach barring a dominant round or knockout. Evans may not be the fighter he once was, but there are still some interesting matches to make at Middleweight if he wants to keep fighting.
Last night at UFC 209, Dan Kelly was awarded the split decision win. Where exactly is the Australian’s ceiling?
For complete UFC 209: “Woodley vs Thompson 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!
Source:: mma mania