Rashad Evans’ first post-retirement analyst gig just happens to line up with a main event featuring the man who retired him.
UFC Fight Night 134 headliner Anthony Smith (28-14 MMA, 5-3 UFC), who meets Mauricio Rua (25-10 MMA, 9-8 UFC) in a light heavyweight bout, defeated Evans (19-8-1 MMA, 14-8-1 UFC) by 53-second knockout at UFC 225 in June. After the fight, “Suga” decided to hang up his gloves and move on from his tenure as an active fighter.
Evans is on the analyst desk for UFC Fight Night 134, though, which takes place at Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany and airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. With Smith having stepped into the fight against “Shogun” as an injury replacement on less than three weeks’ notice, Evans didn’t know until recently the circumstances of his assignment.
“When I got this gig I had no idea the first gig back would be against the guy who just recently beat me,” Evans said on the UFC Fight Night 134 weigh-in show on FS2. “Awkward, huh? It wasn’t (planned) that way.”
Ever the professional, though, Evans was able to overcome any potential bad feelings about his loss to “Lionheart” and provide a straightforward analysis of the fight.
The former 205-pound titleholder only spent 53 seconds in the octagon with Smith at UFC 225. However, through his preparation for the contest and the fight itself, he thinks he has a good read on Smith’s keys to victory.
“One thing I watched in his game, I was seeing the fact that when he starts out fast he tends to fade a little bit later on in the fight,” Evans said. “Against a guy like ‘Shogun’ who gets better as the fight goes on, who gets better as more damage is put on him, he’s going to have to be careful like that and not rest on his haunches once he starts to take a lead on him and really try to finish ‘Shogun.’ Because ‘Shogun’ is the Terminator in many ways.”
After a long tenure at middleweight, Smith, 28, moved up to the light heavyweight division for the first time when he fought Evans. He had a shining performance, and Evans said one thing he noticed was Smith’s size, even despite moving up a weight class. To beat Rua, 36, Evans thinks Smith needs to put his frame to use.
“Anthony Smith is very big for the weight class, even at 205,” Evans said. “The thing about this kid is that he’s just super, super hungry. He’s got the focus, he’s got the drive. … Use his size. Be the bigger fighter in there. Use the clinch, use those knees and work the knees like he caught me with.”
Going into UFC Fight Night 134 there has been discussion about the main event winning possibly receiving the next title shot at champ Daniel Cormier (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC). Most of that discussion has centered around Rua, but former multi-time title challenger Kenny Florian, who was also working the weigh-in show, said Smith can take that narrative for himself.
“This would be huge for him,” Florian said. “To get a win over a legend like ‘Shogun’ Rua, a former champion in this division, would be massive and would create a lot of momentum and a lot of hype.”
For more on UFC Fight Night 134, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.