Rashad (Suga) Evans has punched his way back into the UFC picture.
The former light heavyweight champion scored a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) over Dan Henderson at UFC 161 in front of a packed house at the MTS Centre, stopping a two-fight losing skid and improving his record to 23-3-1.
Henderson, one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history, falls to 29-10.
"I had to step it up in the last round," said Evans. "I got dropped in the first round, and I thought I was winning the round till then, but I won the second for sure and I knew I needed to come on more in the third.
"I was a man on a mission in the last round. I was not going home losing tonight. I got a lot of respect for Hendo, and I’m happy to have got the win."
Henderson, 42, has one of the most-impressive resumés in the sport but has now lost his last two fights.
"I thought I had it, but I take responsibility. He didn’t hurt me at all but I should have been more active in the last round instead of slowing down. He’s a tough guy, hard to land clean on, and we had a knockdown each. I was coming off the cage, off balance, and he’s got great speed and timing. This decision is a little less hard to swallow than the last one. Rashad came to fight."
In arguably the most entertaining fight of the night, Stipe Miocic upset fan favourite Roy "Big Country" Nelson with a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). Miocic is now 10-1 and his fitness was definitely a key against Nelson, who goes for the quick kill and was fading as the fight progressed.
"I guess this was the biggest win of my career," said Miocic. "I hit him with some big shots and he took them. I’m a Golden Gloves boxer, I believe in my boxing ability. I’m glad to have put my last fight behind me. This was a big fight for me and I’m very happy I came through it with the win."
Nelson, a hefty everyman’s fan favourite, is now 20-8.
"I’m just annoyed. I’m fine," said Nelson. "I’m going to be sore tomorrow but he didn’t hurt me. Sore and annoyed."
It was also a night to remember for local product Roland Delorme and six of the seven Canadians on the card, who went 6-1 on the night with Yves Jabouin (Montreal), Mitch Clarke (Saskatoon), Sean Pierson (Toronto), Ryan Jimmo (Edmonton) and Alexis Davis (Niagara Falls, Ont.) all winning. Only London, Ont.’s Sam Stout lost, falling to James Krause on a guillotine choke tap-out late in the third round.
Davies’ fight was the first women’s UFC bout in Canada and came against a game Rosi Sexton of Manchester, England.
"I’m so tired I can barely speak," said Davies. "The adrenaline jump I got when (ring announcer) Bruce Buffer said my name was awesome. I wanted to finish the fight in the first round, I landed some big elbows standing but she’s tough and so hard to finish on the ground. I can’t wait to fight again. I will fight anyone the UFC asks me to."
In what was clearly the strangest result of the night, Jake Shields of San Francisco scored a split decision over Tyron Woodley of St. Louis (29-28, 29-28, 27-30) — an outcome that led UFC president Dana White to tweet "Does anyone think Jake won that fight!?! WTF???" and "Woodley got ROBBED!!"
Said a despondent Woodley, who hung his head in disbelief the moment the result was announced: "I am very confused right now. I got a 30-27 on one card, what were the other two judges looking at? He didn’t get anything going in that fight, I was the one pressing it. I don’t know what to say but WTF?"