This weekend the UFC returns to FOX after smashing records with their November debut on the network. Three important fights take place on the card with the headlining bout featuring the #1 light heavyweight contender Rashad Evans taking on rising prospect Phil Davis.
A late elbow injury forced Mark Munoz from his bout with Chael Sonnen, so in jumps Michael Bisping which has turned the fight against Sonnen into an official number 1 contenders bout for the middleweight title. Another prospect in Chris Weidman replaces Bisping to take on former challenger Damien Maia.
The main card begins at 8 PM E/T this Saturday, January 28th. The eight fight preliminary card will air on FUEL TV.
“Suga” Rashad Evans vs. “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis
At UFC 133 Rashad Evans returned from a 15 month lay off to obtain a rather-easy TKO victory over another former champion in a rematch against Tito Ortiz. He was supposed to challenge then-champion Mauricio Rua for the Brazilian’s title after Evans defeated Rampage Jackson in May of 2010.
As history would have it, Rashad injured himself leading up to the bout with Rua and was replaced by his former training partner/former friend Jon Jones. Jones would go on to become the champion and defend two more times while Evans would miss out yet again after injuring himself against Ortiz and find himself replaced for a second time, now by Lyoto Machida. To say it’s been a long and unforgiving road to another title shot for “Suga” would be an understatement.
A Penn State wrestling stand out, Phil Davis has gone on to become a rising star at 205. Since joining the UFC he has gone on to make a name for himself with victories over Brian Stann, Tim Boetsch, Rodney Wallace and fellow prospect Alexander Gustafsson. His biggest win to date came with a unanimous decision victory over Pride legend Antônio Rogério Nogueira. Since then he was rumored for a few big fights, but has in-fact been on the sidelines nursing an injury of his own.
It’s no secret that Rashad is the favorite going into this one. His speed and athleticism completely make up for what he may lack going into later rounds (as he has shown against Rampage and Thiago Silva) along with having somewhat of a touchy chin. He has shown vulnerability in exchanges against powerful fighters, which Davis hasn’t shown too much of.
What Davis has shown us however, is an excellent top game and a knack for sneaky-yet-impressive submissions. He’ll also have a five inch reach advantage over Rashad although somewhat less than the current champion would have over him.
In my opinion Rashad will end up taking the victory. To do so he must stay far enough away to avoid Davis grabbing ahold of him, but close enough to get past the reach and connect with his better striking. I don’t think it would be smart for him to throw any kicks as “Mr. Wonderful” will be looking for any way to get this fight to the canvas.
And that’s exactly what Phil Davis needs to do to win. I don’t believe he has the power to finish Rashad standing, nor has he shown much well-roundness in his stand up since stepping into the octagon. He’ll have to avoid the trickier punches coming from the former champion, grab hold, and use his strength to secure himself a nice takedown to end up on top. From there his wrestling background would most certainly come into play, preventing any attempt by Rashad to successfully get back to his feet.
Tommy’s Prediction: It may or may not be easy for the former champion but I’m picking Rashad Evans with a TKO stoppage late in the second round. Davis’ striking is certainly lacking, and it has given him some trouble before when looking to set up a takedown. I think hes better than anyone else Davis has faced before, and he’ll be too much for him…battering the up-and-comer up with the referee stepping in. Rashad Evans, TKO, round 2.
Nate’s Prediction: No need to reinvent the wheel on this one. Evans’ improved physique and viciousness showed itself in his bout against a Hall of Famer in Tito Ortiz. I expect more of the same from Evans. I think it’s going to be a grueling three rounds before Evans puts the hammer on Davis. Rashad Evans, TKO, round 3.
Chael Sonnen vs. Michael “The Count” Bisping
This is the fight the UFC should have made originally prior to Mark Munoz stepping out against Chael due to an elbow injury. Both Bisping and Sonnen have made it very clear that they want their respective title shots against Anderson Silva, with Sonnen losing during his first attempt and “The Count’s” being next should he defeat Sonnen.
The loud-mouthed and controversial Sonnen worked his way towards a title shot by dominating just about every opponent leading up to his fight with Anderson Silva. Unluckily for Chael (who was just a round away from taking home a decision against the champ), he was submitted by the BJJ black belt. That’s nothing new for him though, with just about every one of his losses coming by submission. He rebounded over that loss and a year-long suspension due to steroids with a submission victory of his own over Brian Stann.
It was thought that Michael Bisping was on his way towards his own chance at the belt before being knocked out by Dan Henderson. Since then he’s gone 5-1 with his only loss being against Wanderlei Silva. He most recently stopped Jason “Mayhem” Miller by way of TKO to end their Ultimate Fighter coaching fued.
It’s not hard to break this one down. Michael Bisping has a tendency to out point most of his competitors due to the way he kick boxes with them but has also shown enough power to finish a good majority of his fights inside the UFC. His takedown defense is excellent, especially considering the camp he trains with. Have we seen him against a wrestler of Sonnen’s caliber before? Aside from Henderson where the only attempted takedown was from Bisping himself, it’s hard to say. If he can successfully stay on his feet for all three rounds there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to find himself earning a decision victory and being next in line for “The Spider.”
It’s almost universal that Chael will be able to get this down to the ground however, and it’ll be interesting to see how Michael works off his back. You have Dean Lister and Bisping himself saying his Jiu-Jitsu is black-belt caliber but that has yet to be seen. We’ll find out Saturday night.
Tommy’s Prediction: I think that Bisping does well enough early on – backing off and staying far from Sonnen, moving in and out and only committing to strikes he know will land. Unfortunately for him, Chael will set up a pivotal takedown with some of his own underrated boxing, grab hold, slam and stay on top of the Brit for the remainder of the bout and earns his rematch against Anderson in Brazil. Chael Sonnen defeats Michael Bisping via unanimous decision.
Nate’s Prediction: Not to bit my man Tommy’s style, but in my brain I have it laid out about the same. I might say Chael even comes out with a chip on his shoulder and takes Bisping down immediately. In the end, the Brit’s game off of his back won’t be enough (unless he throws a triangle in the mix, somehow) and Chael wins another grinding one. Chael Sonnen defeats Michael Bisping via unanimous decision.
Damien Maia vs. Chris Weidman:
Come back tomorrow for our look at this very interesting middleweight bout.