After a wishy-washy 2011 fight campaign, we may finally end up with a pair of definitive number one contenders.
That's the big story heading into UFC on Fox 2, which is all set to blow the roof off the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, this Saturday night (Jan. 28, 2012) live on network television.
Leading the charge is former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who is (once again) just one win away from challenging his former training partner and current ruler of the roost, Jon Jones, for the 205-poud strap.
But he'll have to get past the undefeated Phil Davis to do it.
Also blowing into "The Windy City" are a pair of motor-mouthed middleweights, as Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping fight for the right to party with Anderson Silva later this year. And should one of them emerge victorious and get hurt in the process, expect the winner of Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman to eagerly step in and take their place.
Only three televised fights -- but the stakes have never been higher.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., Jan. 28), which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 5 p.m. ET with the preliminary bouts on FUEL TV.
Alrighty then, that takes care of the housekeeping issues, now let's figure out who's gonna win this thing come Saturday night. Already made your picks? Better check with your Uncle Dumbass before rushing off to the sportsbook.
Predictions after the jump.
Nostradumbass predicts: Is undefeated division prospect Phil Davis an accomplished collegiate wrestler? No doubt. Does he have slick submissions and a tank full of gas? Yes and yes. Is he beating Rashad Evans on Saturday night?
He's had some "Wonderful" performances over the higher end of the middle of the pack, outwrestling Brian Stann and tapping out Alexander Gustafsson and Tim Boetsch. But that's still middle of the pack. Remember too, that Davis has been in the UFC for less than two years.
He's still wet behind the ears.
Evans has been in the game since 2005 and has defeated four former light heavyweight champions during his incredible run. Yes, I said incredible. Did you forget that Evans has just one loss in 18 fights? There's just no substitute for that kind of experience.
Let's also keep in mind that Davis has been out of the cage for 10 months due to injury. You know all that jibber-jabber about the Penn State alum's unparallelled wrestling? Let's see how well those shots are timed after riding the bench for almost a year.
He sure as heck won't be setting them up with strikes.
Davis's striking is rudimentary at best and Rashad has fast hands. If he thinks he's gonna get away with that herky-jerky offense he pulled in the Nogueira fight, he's doomed. Davis won't admit it, but it sure looked to me like he was fighting scared against the littlest of Nogs.
Wait until he gets a takedown stuffed by Evans, he'll be terrified.
"Suga" might not be as sweet a wrestler, but the fact that he's good enough to keep pace with Davis is all you need to know about the outcome of this fight. Evans can survive on the ground. Davis can't survive on the feet. That's why I have him getting crushed somewhere in the opening frame.
Bring on the "Bones."
Prediction: Evans def. Davis via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: I don't know if this was an early birthday present or a late Christmas gift but Chael Sonnen sure lucked out in the matchmaking for this title eliminator in "Chi-town."
It's hard to break this fight down without sounding like a Bisping basher because I'm not. He's had a few hiccups along the way, but when you strip away the bravado and the H-Bomb GIFS, what you're left with is a very talented fighter.
Regrettably, he's victimized by unfavorable matchmaking.
In order to defeat Chael Sonnen, you have to have one of two things: A sledgehammer for a hand or a birth certificate from Brazil. Bisping has neither. "The Count" is the superior striker from a technical standpoint, but his pillow-fisted pitter-patter is hardly enough to knock his opponent out and while he may have decent grappling, he doesn't have a single submission win in 15 UFC fights.
Submitting Ross Pointon seven years ago in England isn't the kind of thing that's keeping Sonnen up at night.
I don't think anyone is gonna be shocked at how this thing unfolds. Sonnen will stay upright for as long as he wants to. Maybe he'll try to pull a Hendo and airmail this guy across the pond. If he can't, it's back to his bread-and-butter, the wrestling.
Bisping is confident that if he does get taken down, he can get right back up and keep it competitive.
I'm pretty sure that's what Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami thought, too. You see how well that worked out for them in the end. Even without the TRT, Chael is a strong mofo. You can ask Brian Stann, who can bench-press a Humvee, how hard it is to escape from under a top-heavy Sonnen.
The Brit is too tough to finish, so prepare yourselves for three rounds of maul and stall.
Prediction: Sonnen def. Bisping via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: What has this sport come to? On what planet is a guy with seven pro fights and three wins in the UFC favored over a five-time world jiu-jitsu champion with four "Submission of the Night" bonuses in 12 Octagon appearances?
Oh, that's right, Weidman was a good college wrestler.
C'mon people, let's be realistic here. Weids put the screws to Alessio Sakara, Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawlor, so excuse me if I'm not popping the bubbly during the pre-fight introductions. It's easy to be undefeated when you've only fought seven people.
If he wants to make me a believer, then handle Maia on Saturday night and I'll shut the hell up, but until then, I have to go with the facts I have and the fact of the matter is Weidman has yet to prove he should be favored against the Brazilian.
He's a great wrestler, but do you really wanna take a fighter with Maia's jiu-jitsu to the floor? And anyone thinking that Maia is weak on the feet hasn't been paying attention, because he's busted his butt to improve his hands ever since the knockout loss to Nate Marquardt.
I don't think anyone in K-1 is breaking a sweat, but take another look at the Mark Munoz fight to see how far he's come. That leaves Weidman with very few options. He doesn't have an advantage on the feet and on the ground he's a sitting duck.
Maia's last six fights have gone to a decision, but that's because his opponents have allowed them to by obliging him on the feet. Weidman on the other hand, who will eventually fall back on his wrestling, is sooner or later going to make him an offer he can't refuse.
Prediction: Maia def. Weidman via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FOX 2 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Evans vs. Davis."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.