UFC light heavyweight contender Dan Henderson believes his UFC 161 opponent Rashad Evans is “shy” about exchanging in the pocket, but is aware of the former UFC light heavyweight champion’s wrestling ability.
The difference between Evans and other opponents Henderson has faced is Evans’ ability to get the fight to the ground.
“He’s a better wrestler than most of my opponents have been,” Henderson told former welterweight contender turned broadcaster Frank Trigg.
“I think he gets a little nervous sometimes in there. I’m going to be pressuring him, but not overly aggressive where I end up getting taken down easy. I want to make sure I pressure and control the middle and wait for him to kind of come at me a little bit, but still just pressure him and be aggressive, but not to where I’m going to be getting taken down,” he said.
Henderson feels Evans is sometimes hesitant to let his hands go, but doesn’t think Evans has ever been mentally broken in a fight.
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying scared. He’s just a little bit shy when it comes to that. He’s a little hesitant sometimes. Maybe he’s thinking too much, I don’t know,” said the 42-year-old.
“I haven’t really seen in any of his other fights where he’s broken from pressure at all. He just stays in there and does the best he can. But he doesn’t pull the trigger a lot of times when he should, or he’s not aggressive. I think just pressuring him and creating action a little bit more than he’s used to might get him a little tired. And trying to take me down might get him tired as well,” said Henderson.
“I don’t think Rashad is going to be in any better shape than I am at all.”
Evans’ approach is sometimes hard to figure out. He stands with strikers and wrestlers with wrestlers and appears to be gun-shy at times.
“I think that could be why he’s hesitant sometimes to really stand and trade with some guys. But there are other fights where I think he should be taking the guy down and he doesn’t. He’s kind of a hard guy to figure out what he’s going to do, or how he’s going to come out,” said Henderson.
“I know what his strengths are and I know what dangers he possesses, so those are the things that I need to be aware of and then come up with my game plan and just be thinking about my offense, what I’m going to do and not what he can do.”
Evans is going to have a speed advantage, but isn’t worried about Evans running from him.
“I think I can pressure him and still stay in the center and just keep a little bit of pressure on. He’s not going to run anything close to what (Lyoto) Machida did. When I pressure, when I come at him, I need to be aware of not getting taken down and his counter strikes. He’s quick and athletic,” said Henderson.
“Anything can happen in a fight. I’m not discounting the fact that I need to be aware of his striking and his power and his takedowns.”
As far as how the fight unfolds, Henderson believes it could play out two different ways.
“It’s really got the potential to be a really good fight if the action kind of gets pushed, and it’s got the potential to be a pretty boring fight too if he takes me down and puts me on my back too much then that slows it way down.”
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