Without so much as a pause for breath, the heavy 2012 schedule for the UFC continues unabated with UFC on Fox 2. This is an event with some BIG fights that have real meaning on the title picture in the 185lbs and 205lbs divisi,ons. The UK’s own Michael Bisping could finally get the UFC title shot he has dreamt of with a strong showing on Saturday night. He will have it all to do however, if he is to get past the outstanding wrestling of Chael Sonnen. Bisping was bumped up to fight Sonnen after the unfortunate withdrawal of Mark Munoz due to injury. Bisping is a heavy underdog in this match but ‘Count’* him out at your peril. With only 3 defeats in 25 fights and a long and successful UFC career behind him he is a legit opponent for Sonnen. Sonnen has lobbied for a rematch with Anderson Silva ever since the Spiders amazing come comeback snatched the title back from under Chael’s nose. With a win here, Sonnen is the out-and-out #1 contender and Dana White has stated that Silva WILL rematch him for the title in the summer.
In the headline bout we have Rashad Evans facing Phil Davis. Besides owning the most freakish set of lats in all of MMA, Davis is an undefeated prospect with big ambitions to challenge for the title. He will be looking to become another obstacle in the seemingly unending path that should be leading Rashad Evans to a grudge match with Jon Jones. An Evans vs Jones match is what the fans want and tension has been building between the two ever since Jones stepped in for an injured Rashad to take the title from Shogun. Rashad has an opportunity to force that to happen with a win over Davis and this fight should be explosive from the start.
With the main card rounded off with a potentially excellent ground war between Demian Maia and the undefeated Chris Weidman MMA fans will not be disappointed with this event!
In a change to my usual format, from now on I will be looking at the card in reverse order from headliner down. This is so that you don’t have to scroll through a bunch of matches you don’t care about to get to the big fights. The things I do for you readers! 🙂
Main Card (Live in USA on FOX TV, ESPN in UK)
Rashad Evans 16-1-0 vs. Phil Davis 9-0-0 – Light Heavyweight
I’m a little unsure as to whether this has formally been announced as a #1 contender match-up, but if not – it should be. Rashad has proved time and again that he deserves to be in the mix at the top of the division, but injuries and a bad decision a while ago to not fight and instead wait for a title shot, cost him dearly. Evans is arguably one of the best “MMA wrestlers” in the division, he uses striking to transition to wrestling really well and is explosive and athletic. His striking has come along nicely but he is by no means a polished striker who if necessary can rely on punches and kicks alone to win him fights (like Machida, Shogun or Anderson Silva has in the past).
Davis is your archetypal wrestling phenom turned MMA powerhouse. A 4-time NCAA Division 1 All American with a total wrestling mark of 116-7 is a pretty amazing resume. Like Evans, he is a powerful explosive wrestler but is perhaps a little more pure in his wrestling technique. This is MMA though and Rashad has gone on record saying that Davis’ MMA wrestling is not up to his own standard. I think it is pretty hard to argue against that fact. While Davis’ last-win against L’il Nog was undoubtedly the biggest of his career there were some hairy moments for him: In the first round Nog landed some big shots that wobbled Davis, and Davis couldn’t hit a takedown for the entire first half of the fight. ‘Mr Wonderful’ worked some nice kicks, but doing that against Rashad is going to get him taken down and on the bottom is not where he wants to be.
I think Rashad can win this fight in the striking phase. Despite a height and reach disadvantage, Rashads boxing and the way he blends it with his level changes and shots should be enough to confuse Davis. I think it is going to be very hard for Davis to take Rashad down and if he does hit a takedown, keeping Evans on the floor is also a pretty tough proposition. Where L’il Nog would be happy to play guard off his back, Evans is going to want to get up at all costs. Davis has submissions and his long arms and freakish frame have enabled him to hit some pretty sweet ones! Evans though is well versed in submissions himself and has been around elite submissions guys a long time. Davis is definitely no pushover, but I think Evans takes this, and he may even stop it inside the distance. Evans TKO rd 3
Chael Sonnen 26-11-1 vs. Michael Bisping 22-3-0 – Middleweight
I was expecting a tonne of entertaining trash-talk in the run up to this fight, but it has been disappointingly quiet on the abuse front, with most of Sonnens vitriol still reserved for a certain Mr Silva. Sonnen thinks that even if he wins this #1 contender match, Silva will refuse the fight. Dana White says if Sonnen wins, the fight WILL happen in the summer, likely in Brazil. A Silva vs Sonnen rematch in Brazil would be epic win as pretty much the whole country hates Chael Sonnen and the build up would be massive. I’m not a huge fan of Sonnen myself, but no-one can deny that he is damn good at what he does. What he does is wrestle: Really, really well. A one-time Olympic alternate for the US Greco-wrestling team, his pursuit of the takedown is relentless and he can hit them from the shoot or from the tie-up. Once he gets them on the ground he can keep opponents there and grind them to pulp.
This is a problem for Bisping who – although he has decent enough wrestling and takedown defence – is not even in the same galaxy as Sonnen in wrestling. Bisping is a game opponent and a lot tougher than he is given credit for. His losses have all come against big names and he has beaten top guys in two divisions. For some reason his losses get more publicity than his wins and after three stints on TUF (one as a competitor and two as a coach) his coarse English humour and brash personality has not endeared him to American fans at all. As a result everyone is waiting to see Chael hand out another arse-whipping but it won’t be easy for him.
Bispings striking hasn’t proven to be KO power all the way, but his style is effective and his footwork is outstanding. If he can out-maneuver Sonnen then he can surprise and outscore him on the feet. In the very likely event that he Sonnen puts Bisping on his back, Mike does have submissions. With Sonnen being particularly vulnerable to the triangle on more than one occasion – mainly due to a willingness to sit in guard and throw down – Bisping could pull off an upset here.
I can’t look past the clear advantage in wrestling though. It seems fated that Sonnen and Silva 2 will happen and I so badly want to see the real champ beat Sonnen that, despite my preference for Bisping, I am prepared to see him lose just to force that rematch to happen. Good luck Mike, but my pick is – Sonnen decision
Demian Maia 15-3-0 vs. Chris Weidman 7-0-0 – Middleweight
Maia has long been hailed as one of, if not the best “pure” grapplers in the UFC. With a list of BJJ and No Gi honours as long as one of Stefan Struves legs and 4 submission of the night bonuses boosting his UFC pay, it’s easy to see why. In Weidman though, he is facing one of the Middleweight divisions biggest new stars and a fighter who is only getting better. Weidmans own grappling credentials can’t be sniffed at. A decent collegiate wrestling background provides the base of his grappling game and he is a purple belt under Matt Serra. In 2009 at ADCC he went to points with 2011 Absolute champ an BJJ legend Andre Galvao and despite losing, to do that with only 1 year of formal BJJ training is pretty impressive.
In MMA he is undefeated and he destroyed Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawlor after his dominant debut win over Alessio Sakara. Whilst his striking game is a bit of an unknown quantity, the potential of Weidman is obvious and he is the bookies favourite to take this.
Maia has made some improvements to his own standup game, so much so that he might even fancy his chances on the feet in this one. But he doesn’t look to have too much power in his striking and the chance of getting blasted by Weidman in Marquardt-esque fashion may put him off. If Maia can get top position then we could see him pulling off the upset win and putting himself right back in the mix. Putting a wrestler like Weidman on his back though, is a big ask and clearly Weidman will have other ideas about how this one goes down. With Maia already having stated that he wants to go back to his submission roots in this one – if he is true to his word – then we are in for an MMA grappling master class from these two fighters.
I’m in two minds on my pick, Weidman looks to be a real prospect but he has come in at late notice against a top opponent. Even uber-wrestler Mark Munoz couldn’t take Maia out but edged it with his physical superiority. If Weidman is going to take this he has to be off his back and no let his concentration lapse for a second, ensuring he keeps position and posture bang on to avoid any traps laid by Maia. He definitely has the physical tools to do the job here but I just have a hunch that Maia has a trick or two up his sleeve for this one. I will definitely not be surprised it Weidman takes this (unless he actually does the unthinkable and actually submits Maia, that would be incredible), but my gut is leaning me towards picking Maia. Weidman is walking into the biggest fight of his young career at very short notice, against one of the best grapplers in the game. For me Maia is the pick and I think he nicks a submission late on. Maia submission rd 3
*I may get a chance to do some predictions for the undercard tonight / tomorrow, but for now I will just put the rest of the card up *
Prelims (Live in USA on Fuel TV)
Evan Dunham 12-2-0 vs. Nik Lentz 21-4-2 (1 NC) – Lightweight
**************** UPDATED WITH MAIN CARD RESULTS *****************
Phil Davis vs Rashad Evans – My Pick:Evans TKO rd 3 Actual: Evans Decision
Chael Sonnen vs Mike Bisping – My Pick:Sonnen Decision Actual: Sonnen Decision
Demian Maia vs Chris Weidman – My Pick:Maia Submission rd3 Actual: Weidman Decision