UFC 161: What We Learned from Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterJune 16, 2013

Jun 14, 2013; Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Rashad Evans during the weigh in at UFC 161 at the MTS Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

What can we possibly learn when two veterans of the light heavyweight division face off in a fight that would determine which of them would remain near title contention and which one would likely spend the remainder of his career acting as a gatekeeper for up-and-coming talent?

As it turns out, we learned plenty.

Rashad Evans' split-decision win over Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 161 showed that the former light heavyweight champion still has plenty to give the fight game.

Whether or not he'll ever work his way back to a rematch with Jon Jones remains to be seen, but in outworking Henderson, Evans proved that he still has the talent to compete with the best in the division. He's back in the win column after two consecutive losses.

For Evans, his footwork and speed were the deciding factors.

He moved much quicker than Henderson, particularly in the third round when Henderson seemed to slow due to exhaustion. Evans moved around much more than Henderson and worked a larger variety of angles, while Henderson continually moved in straight lines while looking for his big signature right hand.

Henderson isn't a shot fighter. Not by any measure.

At 42 years old, his days of contending in the championship sphere may be over and done, but "Hendo" still has plenty to offer against tough competition at light heavyweight. His reliance on his right hand, counting on it to help him finish fights, isn't serving him well when he can't land it against sharper and quicker fighters like Evans and Lyoto Machida, who defeated Henderson in his last fight. 

As for what's next for Evans: It's hard to say.

There are plenty of interesting opponents out there for him, and someone like Glover Teixeira may make sense as his next opponent. Evans will likely need at least two more wins to work his way back into the title picture, and there's no way of knowing if he'll actually be able to do that.

This wasn't a world-beating performance by any stretch of the imagination, but he did enough to beat a game and durable opponent. And Saturday night in Winnipeg, that's all he really needed.