Chael Sonnen (file photo) has his wish: a rematch with Anderson Silva. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Rashad Evans wanted Jon Jones. Barring an injury, he will get him.
Evans dispatched previously undefeated four-time NCAA All-American wrestler Phil Davis with surprising ease in the UFC on Fox 2 main event on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago, utilizing his superior all-around skills in capturing a woefully one-sided unanimous decision -- 50-45 from all three judges. The still-green Davis, who figures to benefit from the experience, was never a factor in the fight.
The result clears the way for the long-awaited Jones-Evans grudge match. Former training partners turned sworn enemies, the backstory between the two has been covered ad nauseum.
A knee injury to Evans ahead of his scheduled title fight with then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128 in March opened the door for Jones, who stepped up in his stead. “Bones” demolished Rua inside of three rounds to become the youngest champion in Ultimate Fighting Championship history and went on to defend the crown against two former titleholders: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 135 and Lyoto Machida at UFC 140. Evans left the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts camp for the upstart Imperial Athletics dojo shortly after, and the two men have feuded publicly ever since.
In what amounted to a tune-up fight in hindsight, Evans bested Davis in every facet, moving into the mounted crucifix position on three different occasions in the five-round bout. According to FightMetric.com figures, Evans outlanded Davis 106-61 in total strikes, 98-22 in strikes to the head. He also was successful on three of the four takedowns he tried, achieved side control three times and seized Davis’ back once. All his performance lacked was a finish.
With that, Jones-Evans becomes a given. In wake of UFC on Fox 2, here are five other matches we want to see made:
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen: He did not set the world on fire against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping, but Sonnen’s strong third round gave rise to a unanimous decision and set in motion the rematch with Silva, a man who has held the middleweight crown for more than five years now. The two met at UFC 117, where Silva, nursing a pre-fight rib injury, landed a triangle armbar for a dramatic fifth-round submission. Sonnen later tested positive and was suspended for suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs. Perhaps their second encounter, ticketed for a stadium show in Brazil this summer, will settle their score.
Phil Davis vs. Ryan Bader: Life as an elite light heavyweight may be in Davis’ future, but, for now, he remains a largely unproven commodity with plenty of questions to answers. His lopsided decision loss to Evans highlighted the holes in his game and showed Davis was not yet ready for what the alpha males in the division have to offer. Still, “Mr. Wonderful” does not turn 28 until September, giving him more than enough time to fulfill his considerable promise. Bader finds himself at a similar stage in his career, though he bounced back from consecutive defeats to Jones and Tito Ortiz with a 77-second knockout against Jason Brilz at UFC 139. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner faces a former champion in Jackson at UFC 144 on Feb. 26 in Japan. Should Bader falter there, as some suspect he might, a matchup with Davis would make perfect sense.
Chris Weidman vs. Rousimar Palhares: Weidman effectively shed what was left of his prospect label, as the unbeaten Serra-Longo Fight Team representative won a unanimous decision from 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships winner Demian Maia on just 11 days’ notice. A grueling weight cut sapped Weidman of his endurance late in the fight but made his victory no less significant. He has put himself in position to climb the middleweight ladder in the UFC and, perhaps by the end of 2012, move towards title contention. In the meantime, potential potholes abound. Palhares may be the most feared submission fighter in the UFC, and he, too, wants a piece of the 185-pound pie, as evidenced by his three-fight winning streak. Let the leg lock master have a go with Weidman and let the chips fall where they may.
Michael Bisping vs. Demian Maia: Love him or hate him, Bisping did virtually everything right against Sonnen, only to come up short on the scorecards.
In defeat, however, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner likely quieted some of his detractors by more than holding his own with an opponent most view as the No. 2 middleweight in the world. Bisping fought back to his feet when taken down, delivered the more consequential strikes and even kept Sonnen, a world-class wrestler, pinned to the cage at various moments in their 15-minute battle. Bisping was originally booked to face Maia before an injury to Mark Munoz forced matchmakers to shuffle the deck. With both world-ranked middleweight now on the rebound, a bout between them seems even more appropriate.
Evan Dunham vs. Edson Barboza: The buzz over Barboza’s scintillating wheel kick knockout on Terry Etim at UFC 142 has not died down. With that said, talk of pairing the Brazilian with someone much higher on the food chain -- there were calls for him to tackle Jim Miller at one point -- appears to have been premature. Having just turned 26 and with only 10 professional MMA fights under his belt, Barboza deserves time to cultivate and sharpen his potent skills, especially in a division as cutthroat as the one in which he competes. Dunham overcame a slow start to stop the gritty Nik Lentz on a second-round technical knockout, winning for the sixth time in eight trips inside the Octagon. He has the experience and the skill set needed to provide Barboza with a worthwhile test.