UFC

Evans-Henderson moved atop UFC 161

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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Injury elevated the Rashad Evans-Dan Henderson bout to the top of Saturday’s UFC 161 card in Winnipeg, Canada — and Evans told FOXSports.com it’s where he still feels he belongs, even if some have downgraded the light-heavyweight’s status after consecutive losses.

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“I’m 33 years old, have only lost three fights,” Evans said.

“People can bag on me all they want. I have plenty of fight left. If I don’t get it done or I have to take a detour to get to where I want to be, then so be it. I’m not going to stop fighting. I feel like I can hang with the best and beat the best.”

Both fighters seemingly have something to prove.

Evans lost unanimous decisions to division champ Jon Jones at UFC 145 in April 2012 and then to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 in February. Henderson, who had to pull out of his title shot against Jones last year after he hurt his knee, fell to Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 in February.

“There's always that pressure that I put on myself anyway to make sure that I perform the way I know I can,” Henderson said on a recent conference call with reporters. “So, that's just the way it is. I mean, every fight's a big fight in my mind. So, whether it's the main event or not, I'm still going to go out there and give it 100 percent of my effort.”

This is yet another reshuffled card in a new Canadian market for UFC.

UFC 149 — the organization’s first event held in Alberta — was plagued by injuries, causing repeated changes. UFC president Dana White called the Calgary event last July one of the worst in the organization’s history.

“There’s always an obligation to go out there and perform,” Evans said about fighting in a new market. “That’s how I always feel, no matter what.”

UFC 161 marks UFC’s debut in Manitoba, and the fans in Winnipeg seem to appreciate MMA; the MTS Centre sold out within minutes.

By comparison, UFC 161 hasn’t been hit quite as hard by injuries as UFC 149, which had nine changes on the card.

Interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao had to pull out of his fight against Eddie Wineland, a bout that was the original main event at 161. Lower on the card, Kenny Robertson stepped in to replace TJ Waldburger in a welterweight bout against Sean Pierson.

Roy Nelson, a fan favorite who knocked out Cheick Kongo just six weeks ago, was added and will fight Stipe Miocic. The heavyweight fight serves as the co-main event. UFC 161 also features the first women’s fight in Canada history, as Rosi Sexton and Alexis Davis make their UFC debuts.

But as far as the main event goes, Evans said the fans shouldn’t be let down.

“I know Henderson’s fight against Machida got away from him a little bit,” Evans said. “He’s going to really try to cut the distance and go in there and bang. I am not afraid to trade punches. If he wants to stand in front of me and fight, I can do that.”

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