With all of the old Pride guard coming over to the UFC one of the matchups that felt natural would be Rashad Evans against Little Nog. And now, after Little Nog has finally healed up from a volume of injuries only his brother could top, we get it.
Fight Breakdown: Rashad and Little Nog have fairly similar games when they matchup. Both have first rate boxing, one shot power and first rate grappling credentials. They’ve fought a lot of the same fighters and have been around the game to have gone through the circuit of elite fighters. On paper it looks close being a matchup of two similar fighters considering their respective skill sets.
It’s just in how they use them where the difference is.
Rashad has evolved from being a grapple first, second and third option fighter into a much better rounded fighter over the years. He’s still one of the best wrestlers in the division, has first rate footwork and a smothering top game. Throw in his one-shot knockout power and you’ve got a handful for anyone. He’s small for the division, with a slight cut to 205, but he makes up for it with speed. He’s also a thick 215 come fight time; he’s the shortest fighter in the division but he’s incredibly powerful.
Little Nog is a smaller version of his brother. He’s got first rate hands, as he had some fairly significant success on the Brazilian boxing scene, and a first rate submission game. He’s got a tough chin and is as durable as his twin. It would kind of insulting to call him Big Nog’s “Mini-Me” in a lot of ways but it’s the absolute truth more often than not. They’re twin brothers so these kinds of things happen.
Evans has two strategies here. He can win both but he can also get caught, as well, because of his style in both.
The first is to turn this into a boxing match. He can win that as he has the ability and the power to do so. The one problem is that he has some of the worst head movement in MMA for a fighter of his caliber. There’s a reason why he gets tagged fairly famously and his stoppage by Lyoto Machida wasn’t purely on Machida’s great counter. Evans has gotten rocked by a lot of fighters because his head movement is static while the rest of his body is moving.
Unless this changes Little Nog has a very good chance at lighting him up and potentially finishing him. Evans has a great chin but he’s hittable; a handful of fighters with as good of striking as Nogueira have nearly finished him with a well placed punch. The one thing Rampage Jackson, Thiago Silva and Jon Jones share in common is that all three lit him up at some point in their fights. It’s eerie that those three and Machida all exploded nearly the same weakness in different ways & situations over the years.
It’s been the one thing Evans hasn’t hanged; he has great body movement but his head stays still. Little Nog can exploit this with some good work from his hands, which could lead Evans to go for a takedown.
He can try to turn this into a grappling match, as well, and play in his guard for a while, and he could grind the fight out this way. Evans has a first rate top game and can grind anyone down. The problem is that Little Nog has traditionally been a bit of a terror off his back. If he wants to see if he can avoid submissions against someone quite skilled in it he can play that game as well as anyone but Little Nog is better at working off his back than anyone Evans has faced recently.
And I say it’s the strategies of Evans because he’s going to be dictating where the fight takes place. Little Nog isn’t good enough to drag him to the ground but he is good enough to keep up with him no matter where the fight goes. If Evans wants to play the standup game it can go there; Little Nog has been content to play that game with everyone and historically has good takedown defense. Not elite, but good, so Evans is going to have some difficulty getting it to the ground but it won’t be impossible to do either.
Why It Matters: With a big win over Rashad he might be back in the title mix, or close to another shot at Jon Jones. He’s the only challenger Jones hasn’t finished yet; he took a 25 minute whooping but he still stood with him for five rounds and survived.
Little Nog has been ranked elite for a while but hasn’t defeated anyone elite in the UFC. He also hasn’t fought a ton, either, so a lot of that ranking comes from his days in Pride when he was among the best in the world. A win here and he could get the next chance at Jon Jones. The UFC is looking for new opponents, not rematches, and if he mercks Rashad he could be pushed to the front of the line based on who he is not what he’s done.