Rashad Evans made his 185-lb debut against Daniel Kelly on the third fight of the main card of UFC 209. Kelly won the three-round bout by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
The first round involved a lot of lead-hand fighting as Kelly fought from southpaw and Evans from orthodox. The two boxed tentatively for most of the round with Kelly landing an occasional looping left hand. Evans began attacking with body and head kicks before attempting an unsuccessful double-leg. The round ended with short exchanges from the clinch and a hard right body kick by Evans.
In the second round, the two continued boxing and occasionally tying up in the clinch. About a minute into the round, Kelly threw a left hand that momentarily stunned Evans, who retaliated with a body kick and takedown of his own. Later in the round, Evans nearly landed a head-kick as the two broke off from a clinch.
Early in the third, Evans seemed to have found his range and landed several pot shots from the outside. As time went on, Kelly managed to catch up and land boxing combinations of his own, turning the round into a grueling, back-and-forth brawl.
At the end of the fight, Bruce Buffer announced Kelly as the winner by split-decision.
“He’s a legend and an icon, I couldn’t be happier,” Kelly said in his post-fight interview after scoring the biggest victory of his career. “It’s awesome… My striking is starting to look better, eh?”