Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) just finished its second foray into its network broadcast partnership with FOX Sports as UFC on Fox 2 delivered a top-notch card of mixed martial arts (MMA) fights on Jan. 28, 2012, LIVE from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
FUEL TV was, once again, the stage for the "Prelims" under card bouts, featuring a nice combination of both finishes and fights that went to judges scorecards.
The main event produced a number one contender and heir to a title shot, as Rashad Evans will finally get the grudge match he's been aching for against current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones this spring in Atlanta, Georgia.
The co-main event produced a similar result, when fight fans saw MMA's number one villain, Chael Sonnen, win a very close decision against Michael Bisping, earning him the opportunity to right a wrong when he takes on UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva for his 185-pound strap, also scheduled later this year at an upcoming event in Brazil.
Join me after the jump for a look at the big winners and lowly losers from UFC on FOX 2:
Rashad Evans -- Say what you want about this guy, he proved last night that he is still a dominant light heavyweight and very deserving of being named the number one contender. He completely neutralized Davis' reach advantage. He outstruck him badly. He outwrestled him. He came very close to finishing him at several points. Don't get it twisted. Phil Davis is not Jon Jones. Not by a mile. Still, it makes for a very interesting match up.
Chael Sonnen -- You can love him or hate him. You might even think the decision should have been awarded to Bisping. It didn't. I admit, Sonnen didn't floor me with his performance. There were spots where he looked a little gassed and that just about never happens. There also points where he got pushed around a bit, which is also very out of character. Either way, he got the job done and will now get his shot at redemption versus Anderson Silva. Let the drama begin!
Lavar Johnson -- Welcome to the UFC, buddy! In his first fight since making the transition from Strikeforce, Johnson used his reach and his big, heavy hands to make quick work of Joey Beltran. The fight looked like it was either going to be a quick, explosive finish for one fighter, or a laboring three rounds of clinching and "positioning." Luckily, it was the former. Nice win for Johnson who looks to have been a great addition to the UFC's arsenal of 265-pounders.
Charles Oliveira -- "Do Bronx" made his debut at featherweight tonight and looked amazing. After finding himself winless in his prior three contests, it was "crap or get off the pot" time for Oliveira. The Brazilian prospect used quick and and thunderous leg kicks (both inside and out) to keep Eric Wisely on his heels. Finally, during a scramble, Oliveira pounced on an opening, went for a heelhook submission, transitioned to a kneebar and wrenched on the limb as Wisely tried to roll out. The finishing move was high level and had all the viewers grabbing for their knees as they watched the replay. Good finish. Big win for Oliveira.
Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman -- What a brutal way to start the main card on FOX. I can't help but think of people who weren't MMA fans who tuned in out of curiosity and asked aloud: "Is this what the UFC is all about?" It isn't, but they may never give it a second chance to find this out. For three rounds, Maia and Weidman plodded, threw lazy strikes and takedowns and put on a fight that appeared to be underwater. Weidman had a difficult weight cut, which is understandable with him taking the fight on only 11 days notice. What was Maia's excuse? Boo.
Joey Beltran -- I know "The Mexicutioner" has a lot of fans, so this will probably be unpopular. I don't care. At some point, "getting beat up" needs to not be what you're known for if you want to be a fighter on the biggest stage. Though it's true, this was the first time he'd actually been knocked out in a professional fight, but he's taken a ton of punishment in almost every one of his bouts. He's also now lost four of his last five. See ya.
Curt Menefee -- I'm gonna be nice. He's new. There's a possibility he's never even watched MMA before he started working the microphone for UFC on FOX. The truth is that he made Kenny Rice look like an award winning journalist during the UFC on FOX 2 breaks in the action. He called people by their wrong names (on multiple occasions), missed his cues and just seemed awkward on the whole. Maybe he'll get better. He couldn't get much worse.
Phil Davis -- I saved Phil for last, because, quite frankly, I didn't want to include him at all. He won a lot of moral victories at UFC on FOX 2 by merely surviving. He kept up. He swam in the deep waters and made it to the final horn. He's never fought anyone on Evans' level and there was no way to emulate that massive of a moment. It just was too much, too soon. He'll get there and will eventually be a great fighter, but he has lot of improvements to make. The truth is that Evans did him a favor by beating him, because if he fought Jones right now, it could be devastating for him and his career.
That's all we got. Our list is pretty complete, but there's always room for improvement. Care to add-on? Toss out your best suggestions in the comments section!