By Jaime C. Feal
In November of 2011 fight fans witnessed the UFC on network television for the first time ever, when Junior Dos Santos smashed through Cain Velasquez in a minute to capture the Heavyweight title. Responding to criticisms that the one hour program, and one-minute fight, were too short, UFC on Fox 2 features three full fights. These bouts are closely matched and are all capable of going the distance. The main event of Evans vs. Davis could potentially headline a pay-per-view. However, viewers will be treated to all three fights for free this Saturday night at 8 p.m., live on Fox TV.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Demian Maia (15-3, 9-3 UFC) vs. Chris “All-American” Weidman (7-0, 3-0 UFC)
Maia started his UFC career on an absolute tear, submitting all of his opponents on a five fight win streak, culminating in the submission of Chael Sonnen. Since then, Maia has never looked the same, being quickly knocked out by Nate Marquardt and appearing lackluster in several decision losses. When Maia has won of late it is by doing just enough to earn decision nods, as opposed to finishing with nasty submissions as he once used to. He faces rising contender Chris Weidman, who is unbeaten as a professional mixed martial artist. Weidman appears poised for a breakthrough as he is on the upswing of his career and possesses tremendous wrestling and athleticism. He should be able to keep the fight upright, where his stand-up skills are improving and he should have a decisive advantage in speed and athleticism. Maia’s best hope appears to be to pull guard and attempt submissions from his back, as he is unlikely to either be able to take down Weidman or win a stand-up battle.
Prediction: Chris “All-American” Weidman wins by unanimous decision.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Chael Sonnen (26-11-1, 5-4 UFC) vs. Michael “The Count” Bisping (22-3, 12-3 UFC)
This fight will be a middleweight title eliminator with the winner getting a shot at Anderson Silva, who has already cleared out the division once over. While he is undefeated in the Octagon, Silva came closest to losing his belt against Sonnen before he was able to pull off a submission in the fifth and final round. The flamboyant Sonnen, who has a penchant for trash-talk, was subsequently suspended due to a positive test for performance enhancing drugs. Since then he made a successful return to the Octagon by submitting Brian Stann, and is now poised for a second title shot. Sonnen squares off Saturday night against an equally polarizing figure in Michael Bisping, who is a classic “love him or hate him” fighter with his brash antics and arrogance. Bisping is coming off a short layoff as he very recently stopped Jason Miller in the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale. Bisping did not sustain much damage in that contest, however, so he should be good to go for Saturday. Bisping will want to keep the fight standing, where he has a decided advantage with his accurate, volume striking. He also has superior footwork and movement. Bisping’s dilemma is that he is competing against possibly the best wrestler in his division. Sonnen is absolutely relentless with his pursuit of the takedown, and thus far no one, including champion Anderson Silva, has shown the ability to stop them. Expect more of the same as Sonnen smothers Bisping for three rounds, grinding out each round. As this is a three round contest, Sonnen should have the cardio to keep up his grueling pace without emptying his gas tank.
Prediction: Chael Sonnen wins by unanimous decision
Light Heavyweight Division (205 lbs.):
Rashad “Suga” Evans (16-1-1, 11-1-1 UFC) vs. Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis (9-0, 5-0 UFC)
Evans has already been guaranteed a title shot at Jon “Bones” Jones if he is able to defeat Davis. The future for “Mr. Wonderful” is less certain, but general consensus is that a dominant performance against Evans could also earn him a title shot. This is an extremely even matchup as the oddsmakers have set the line fairly close for an MMA fight, with Evans the slight favorite. The key to this fight is who can dictate their style. Phil Davis is a wrestler first and foremost, and has not evolved his striking skills like Evans has. That said, Evans was never as talented a wrestler as Davis is, and “Mr. Wonderful” is the younger, stronger, more dominant grappler. If he can take Evans down and impose his will he could simply cruise to another decision victory, as he did against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Evans needs to use his wrestling skills defensively and keep Davis from taking him down. If he can do so, he figures to possess a significant advantage in the striking department. He has more experienced, technical, and powerful striking. Davis, however, is an undefeated wunderkind who may still be improving, which is a downright scary notion.
Prediction: Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis wins by unanimous decision.