This one kind of got lost in the shuffle due to the fact that there’s been about 368 shows so far in 2012. Unlike the blink-and-you-miss-it first Fox special where Junior Dos Santos knocked out Cain Velasquez quicker than I could write this sentence, this time around we’re guaranteed two hours and at least three fights. That’s good news for fans who want to see more action and for the UFC, which will likely get a better rating throughout the course of the evening than they would if they were to just throw Evans and Davis on the air cold with no lead-in.
Although no titles are on the line, there are plenty of implications arising from the main card. If Rashad Evans defeats Phil Davis, he finally gets his shot at UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones. If Phil Davis wins, well, he gets a pat on the back and leapfrogs ahead of a lot of other contenders. I personally think Davis would give Jones a lot more trouble because of his size, but more on that later.
The other two fights on the main card will more or less determine the path of the middleweight division for the next year. Demian Maia was originally supposed to face Michael Bisping, with Chael Sonnen facing off against Mark Munoz. Unfortunately, Munoz had to have surgery to remove a ridiculous amount of bone and cartilage that was floating around in there (pics are here and fair warning, it’s pretty goddamn gross). As a result, Bisping got the call to move up to face Sonnen for the #1 contendership to the Middleweight championship. Replacing Bisping against Maia is up-and-comer Chris Weidman, and the winner of that fight will realistically be one fight away (Munoz) from a title shot.
Got all that? Good. Let’s do a few picks.
MY PARTIALLY EDUCATED GUESSES
Chris Weidman over Demian Maia (R2, sub) On paper this is a big, big step up in competition for Chris Weidman and marks the first time he’s even gotten a sniff at top ten competition, let alone a top five fighter like Maia. But I don’t like what I’ve seen of Maia lately. He may be a jiu-jitsu ace, but his recent outings have been largely unimpressive against the lower tier of the division and he hasn’t finished a fight in two years. Weidman is a strong grappler coming off two consecutive submission wins and has a five-inch reach advantage. I think Bisping was a much better fight for Maia, and I don’t like his chances here at all.
Chael Sonnen over Michael Bisping (Unanimous Decision) Sonnen’s wrestling is going to be way too much for Bisping, who doesn’t have strong enough stand-up to end it on a TKO or good enough takedown defense to prevent it from going to the ground. He won’t embarrass himself like Jason “Mayhem” Miller did, but I do think he’s going to be exposed.
Phil Davis over Rashad Evans (submission, R3 )
As surprised as many will be by this pick, I’m just as surprised that the consensus is going with Rashad Evans. Rashad is talented but undersized at 205. It makes what he’s been able to do in that division that much more remarkable, but it also means he wouldn’t last outside of ninety seconds against the tall, lanky, and powerful Jones and I think it’s going to cost him here. Phil Davis is the strongest wrestler and biggest fighter Evans has ever faced. The last time he stepped in against someone as big as Davis was Thiago Silva. He gave Evans a lot of trouble, and I don’t think he’s nearly as talented, smart, or disciplined as Davis. It’s true that his chin is untested, but that doesn’t mean that Evans will land anything of note, let alone that it would drop him. The only doubt I have is when/if the bout heads into the fourth and fifth rounds. If Evans can hold on that long, he’ll presumably have the cardio advantage and have a chance to maybe get something done.
The rest of the card:
Lightweight bout: Evan Dunham vs. Nik Lentz
Heavyweight bout: Mike Russow vs. John-Olav Einemo
Featherweight bout: Cub Swanson vs. George Roop
Featherweight bout: Charles Oliveira vs. Eric Wisely
Lightweight bout: Michael Johnson vs. Shane Roller
Heavyweight bout: Joey Beltran vs. Lavar Johnson