Yeah, so, there’s a big UFC on FOX tomorrow night, a three-fight doozy featuring matchups whose results will have serious repercussions in two divisions. For the light-heavyweights, and particularly champ Jon Jones, there’s a top-contender slot at stake for Rashad Evans when he takes on Phil Davis. For the middleweights and their lord and king Anderson Silva, there’s Demian Maia, angling toward another shot at the belt in the future if he gets past up-and-comer Chris Weidman. And of course, there’s the piece de resistance 185-pound pairing (and what truly should be the headlining bout) of brash Brit Michael Bisping and ultimate trash-talker Chael Sonnen. The winner of that one gets Silva next, which is a whole lotta “yikes!” for a free fight on major network television. You know, the last time the UFC did their FOX thing, we got a heavyweight title bout that lasted just over a minute and left us all saying “That’s it?” Now we’re going to get a trio of worthwhile battles that could knock our socks off. Let’s break them down, shall we?
-Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis – There’s supposedly some kind of friction between Evans and Jones, which should in theory make us care about the TUF winner beating the stud wrestler on Saturday night. I say hogwash to that. The heat Evans and Jones generate couldn’t melt a snowflake. What is compelling, however, is the fact that the champ has cleaned out the division with such authority, there’s literally no one left to legitimately challenge him – save Evans, who’s still waiting for his turn to get his ass kicked. Granted, Davis a tough competitor who’s beaten the likes of Brian Stann and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, but no one in their right mind believes he’s even close to being worthy, or even close to being able to make Jones break a sweat. Evans, while certainly not the favorite if and when a Jones/Evans matchup materializes, is an ex-champ with a lot of tools. Of all the residents of the light-heavyweight division that Jones has yet to murder, “Sugar” is at the top of the list of guys who should be next. So how will things go when Evans squares up against Davis? Wrestling accomplishments notwithstanding, Davis is out of his league, and Evans is going to spend three rounds avoiding his takedowns and beating him up against the fence. Then, further down the road, Evans and Jones will do the dance, and Jones will Force Choke him from across the cage, rendering him unconscious with pugilistic powers as yet unseen in the Octagon (and unseen in normal human beings).
-Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping – As unlucky turn of events go, Mark Munoz pulverizing his own elbow in training yielded perhaps the best possible matchup in terms of finding champ Silva a suitable opponent. For while Munoz and Sonnen would’ve made for a decent fight, Sonnen versus Bisping makes for an even better one – whether we’re watching a mouthy dude get his comeuppance or a mouthy dude earn his shot, either way we’re going to be entertained, both now and later. Setting aside the fact that Sonnen is going to destroy Bisping by slamming him to the canvas and grinding him into chopped meat (which is guaranteed to be the outcome of Saturday night’s fight), whoever wins gets to be the foil Silva needs to make people want to tune in when next he defends his belt. If Sonnen crushes Bisping, we get to have the American spew the most outrageous things, amusing us with words that he can apparently back up. And if, by some miracle, Bisping defeats Sonnen, then further down the line we get to watch the Brazilian bust open the Brit like he was a poorly-constructed piñata. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wins at UFC on FOX 2, because at the end of the day both guys will make great foes for the champ.
-Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman – Maia looked okay when he tried to pry the belt from Silva’s uncaring middleweight hands. Not great, but not bad. Just okay. So although Munoz squeaked by him with a decision at UFC 131, you have to think the jiu-jitsu master is still in the running to face Silva again. On the flip side, Weidman, who’s filling in as a late-replacement but who’s got Division I collegiate wrestling skills, a modicum of jiu-jitsu knowledge and decent striking, has got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in this matchup. If Weidman loses, so what? He’s only had three fights in the UFC thus far, and seven fights overall. A loss (which would be his first) against such a high-caliber opponent would only make him more seasoned. And if he wins, well, there goes Maia’s title aspirations, and the American establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division. Sadly, as much as I like Weidman (he’s a product of the Northeast MMA circuit), I see Maia’s jiu-jitsu and experience proving to be too much. But it should be interesting.