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True prize still awaits Rashad Evans after UFC on Fox 2 victory

Evans rolls past Phil Davis to set up Atlanta showdown with rival Jon Jones

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rashad Evans, left, takes down Phil Davis in a Light Heavyweight Bout during an Ultimate Fighting Championship match at the United Center Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in Chicago. Evans won by unanimous decision.

UFC on Fox 2

KSNV coverage of UFC on Fox 2, Jan. 28, 2012.

CHICAGO — The man who Rashad Evans spent 25 minutes battering Saturday night at the United Center was not his enemy.

Evans’ real enemy peered over the fight from a television perch 25 yards away.

The satisfaction Evans felt after a unanimous decision victory, in which he took all five rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, at UFC on Fox 2 had nothing to do with beating previously undefeated Phil Davis. It had everything to do with confirming that on April 21 at UFC 145 in Atlanta, he would be the next man to fight light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who served as an analyst for Fox on Saturday.

“(Jones) told me that he wants to show everybody that I’m all hype and he’s going to destroy me,” Evans said. “That right there is the biggest motivation in the world. For him saying it, I’m going to make him pay.”

The history between Jones and Evans is permanently indoctrinated into UFC fans’ minds by now. Evans was once Jones’ mentor and training partner. They vowed to never fight each other, until Jones broke that bond and said he would be willing to face Evans.

They’ve bickered about it for the past year, but injuries and circumstances have kept them from meeting in two previously announced bouts.

Evans (17-1-1 MMA, 12-1-1 UFC) thought about Jones (15-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) so much while training for Davis (9-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) that he began to worry it was unhealthy. Hence why the former, once-beaten champion started relentlessly attacking Davis with trash talk the past two weeks: Evans needed something other than Jones to motivate him.

“It’s easy to talk about Jon Jones and that whole situation, but it takes away from someone in front of you who is dangerous,” Evans explained. “To focus and get myself to where I needed to, I needed to make it a little bit personal.”

Most of Evans’ insults rolled off of Davis’ shoulders. But Davis openly contested Evans’ claim that he had superior wrestling.

It sounded ludicrous. Davis was a national champion and four-time All-American wrestler at Penn State. Evans was merely average at the college level when he attended Michigan State.

Evans proved more Nostradamus and less Harold Camping on Saturday. His prediction that he would dominate the wrestling portion of the fight came true.

Evans stuffed the majority of Davis’ takedown attempts and brought the former Nittany Lion to the ground himself on multiple occasions. The success took Davis out of his game.

“Normally, my strategy is to strike first,” Davis said. “But he controlled the tempo of the match and was more offensive than I was.”

Evans offered no gloats or ‘I told you so’-like comments after UFC on Fox 2. He never even cracked a smile in the post-fight press conference.

Evans blamed his lack of positive emotion on not finishing Davis in the fight.

“I wanted to do better,” Evans said. “I wanted to put on a more spectacular performance for the Chicago fans and for the Fox fans. I didn’t do what I envisioned myself doing.”

But the truth is, the Davis fight never excited him. Evans said he woke up Saturday and felt like the bout "crept up" on him.

It took a long conversation with one of his coaches for Evans to feel ready, which was unusual compared with the rest of his career.

That’s just the temperament of a fighter whose true foe remains separated by a safe distance. With a showdown against Jones less than three months away, Evans can forget all about the feeling.

“I can definitely beat Jon Jones,” Evans said. “I see areas in his game where I can capitalize on. I know it’s going to be a good fight. We’re very familiar with each other. Jon Jones has one thing over other opponents that he doesn’t have over me: We’ve faced each other before many times. I’m not too worried about the mystique of Jon Jones. I know Jon Jones’ core.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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