Forgive Rashad Evans if he seems a bit on edge heading into his fight with Tito Ortiz at UFC 133.
It has been well over a year since Evans, a former light heavyweight champion, has been able to step inside the Octagon and release his anger on someone other than a sparring partner or teammate.
Injuries have forced scheduled championship fights to be cancelled, leaving Evans (15-1-1) as the current No. 1 contender to Jon Jones’ crown, but putting a huge target directly on his back.
That status as top contender could disappear on Saturday, Aug. 6 when Evans meets Ortiz in the main event in Philadelphia.
Ortiz (16-8-1) battled Evans to a draw in 2007, but was deducted a crucial point in that meeting that eventually came back to cost him.
Evans knows the whirlwind of fights he has seen come and go is nothing he can control. The only thing on his mind is re-claiming his championship belt, and Ortiz is the first step in that direction.
“Everybody wants to be where I’m at,” Evans said. “I want to be fighting for the belt and they want to be fighting for the belt. So, when you get to this position, it’s a dog eats dog world. Everybody wants to be the top dog.”
When the two first squared off, it was Evans that was trying to make a name for himself against the former champion, who himself was trying to get back in line for a title shot.
Evans relied on his ground game to try and control Ortiz, but the former Michigan State standout feels his best attributes are now his hands, which have delivered five knockout victories.
“I think Tito’s going to try and get me down. I think he’ll try to get me down, put me on my back, do a little bit of ground and pound,” Evans said. “That was his game plan in the first fight and I think he’s going to try to do it again this fight but I’m not a puppy anymore. I’m a big dog in the game now. It’s not going to be the same.”
Ortiz, who is now 36-years-old, showed he still has something left in the tank when he delivered a crushing blow to top prospect Ryan Bader last month before finishing off the fight with a guillotine choke.
Evans, though, is not worried about Ortiz being able to do the same thing to him.
“I’m that much faster than him,” Evans said. “As long as I keep my movement going and keep using my speed, I think that he should be a couple steps behind me. He’s going to be making a mistake even stepping into the cage with me, let alone try and stand with me.”
Evans didn’t shy away from making a prediction against “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.”
“I’m confident no matter where this fight goes, I’m going to destroy him,” Evans stated. “There’s no doubt in my mind I will defeat Tito Ortiz. That I know for sure. As sure as my next breath, I’m going to defeat Tito Ortiz.”