Rashad Evans says it will be a little crazy looking across the cage Saturday at Dan Henderson, a veteran fighter he has followed for years.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dan and it’s going to be fun because I’ve watched his style for a long time,” Evans said Thursday.
“I kind of modelled my style after his a little bit.”
Evans, with an MMA record of 22-3-1 and a UFC record of 12-3-1, is still predicting a win when the light heavyweights meet at UFC 161.
He’s coming off losses to Jon Jones and Rogerio Noguiera, who was to be in one of the cancelled fights Saturday that bumped Evans-Henderson into the main-event slot.
“Speed I think is going to be the biggest factor in this fight,” he added.
Both are former champions who would like to get another title shot, although neither was begging for one Thursday.
“Eventually, I beat enough people, I do it impressively enough, they’re going to want to give me a title shot,” said Evans.
Henderson, 42 to Evans 33, is looking to improve on his MMA record of 29-9. He has a UFC record of 6-3 that dates all the way back to UFC 17 in 1998 and lost his last fight in a split decision to Lyoto Machida in February.
He knows what to expect from Evans.
“I think it’s going to be a war. He’s quick and dangerous on his feet and a good wrestler,” said Henderson.
“He mixes up things real well sometimes and I plan on staying in his face and hitting him hard and expecting that he’ll try and take me down after that.”
Henderson has a reputation as a great puncher, but Evans says he believes he can hold his own with his fists.
“I believe I have a heavier punch but Dan Henderson, his punch is legendary. He’s silenced a lot of people with the H bomb.”
This isn’t Evans first visit to Winnipeg, where he had a small part in a movie called “Lockdown” that was filmed in the dead of a Manitoba winter.
“Chilly is an understatement, it was the coldest experience I’ve had in my life,” said the fighter, who is based out of Boca Raton, Fla.
Even though it’s now a main event, the fight remains at three rounds and not the usual five. Henderson said he’s decided he’s content with that.
“I kind of think that I would like to have it five rounds but at the same time five rounds makes it a lot tougher to fight, so it changes things up a little bit.”
As for the age difference, he suggested it gives him an edge.
“I feel that this is definitely an experience-based sport and hopefully that shows on Saturday.”
Henderson also isn’t making his first visit to the city but, like Evans, his last stop was in January when he avoided moving around outside as much as possible. He was born in and fights out of California.
The other fights on the main card include a heavyweight matchup between Roy Nelson of Las Vegas and Stipe Miocic out of Indenpdence, Ohio, and a light heavyweight battle between Edmonton’s Ryan Jimmo and Igor Pokrajac of Zagreb, Croatia.
It will also feature the first women’s fight in Canada between Ontario native Alexis Davis and Rosi Sexton from Manchester, England.
The card took its first hit several weeks ago when the main event featuring interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland fell apart after Barao injured his foot.
It took another blow when the co-main event featuring former light-heavyweight champion Mauricio (Shogun) Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was off after Nogueira pulled out due to injury.
UFC also struggled with injuries that depleted a card in Calgary last year.
UFC president Dana White, in town for the fight, said last year was the worst in 13 years of history for the organization.
“These things are going to happen. Unfortunately a couple of them happened in Canada,” he said.
But he said the response in Winnipeg has been tremendous and no one who bought tickets is going to be disappointed.
“There’s always bumps on the road. Guys get injured, it happens.”
White said he was also encouraged by a law passed this month in Ottawa to legalize MMA and allow provinces to draft regulations.
“We want to take this thing everywhere and now we can.”
White also confirmed Thursday that Jon Jones will defend his light heavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 in Toronto in September.