SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC on Fox 2 on Saturday in Chicago.
Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis
FOWLKES: If it were a straight-up wrestling match, I’d take Davis. But Evans knows the tricks of this trade a little better, and he’s more comfortable in the big fights. In a match-up this close, that experience could make all the difference. Evans by decision.
HUNT: The athletic Davis has the right body type (lanky reach, thick lower half for explosive shots) to negate champion Jon Jones’ assets in another year or two. But it’s that year or two of missing gym time that will give Evans the edge Saturday. Evans by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: If Davis can take this fight to the mat, his wrestling pedigree (2008 NCAA champ, 2006 runner-up, four-time All-American) will trump the usually superior grappling of Evans. But I have my doubts that, with barely three years in the MMA game, he’s developed the cage savvy to come to grips with Rashad, whose footwork and fast hands should send “Mr. Wonderful” to the canvas not on his own terms. Evans by TKO.
WERTHEIM: This is a big step up for Davis and the conventional wisdom is that he a placeholder so Evans and Jon Jones can finally settle their score. But Evans hasn’t impressed lately; and if Davis can take this to the ground, he has a real shot. I’ll go upset here. Davis by decision.
Michael Bisping vs. Chael Sonnen
FOWLKES: Bisping is a better fighter than he gets credit for, but Sonnen is strong in the exact places where the Brit is weak. Get ready for a carnival of takedowns, America. Sonnen by decision.
HUNT: Though Bisping looked polished and well prepared in his last fight against a gassing “Mayhem” Miller, wrestlers are a bad matchup for the U.K. striker. The story of this fight will be takedowns, takedowns, takedowns. Sonnen by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Did you see the whupping Sonnen put on Brian Stann? And that guy’s a Marine with thunder in his fists, someone you might be wary of closing the distance against. Chael isn’t going to hesitate for a millisecond before moving in for the kill against the pitter-patter punching of Bisping. The Brit says he can win this fight from his back, but if he has the ground game to expose Chael’s jiu-jitsu vulnerability, we’ve yet to see it. Sonnen by TKO.
WERTHEIM: Bisping will do his best to get in Sonnen’s head (PED! PED!) but if he’s Sonnen equal in the talking department, there’s nothing else he does better. Like most Brits, Bisping’s not adept at defending the takedown. Sonnen’s superior wrestling will win out. Sonnen by decision.
Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman
FOWLKES: Weidman is a tough and talented young prospect, but I don’t know if he’s quite ready for what Maia brings to the table. I think he takes the Brazilian down at some point and gets more than he bargained for. Maia by submission.
HUNT: Word on the street is the undefeated Weidman is a phenom in all areas and only getting better. Still, the always-improving Maia is a big step up in competition, especially on only a few days’ notice. I’ll take the fighter who’s already fought the champ and is working his way back up the ladder. Maia by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Weidman is a dominant wrestler who is unbeaten and coming off a pair of first-round submissions. He’s a fast-rising prospect, and his star will really soar if he can roll with Maia, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu virtuoso. I do think he has the grit to make this a rugged, back-and-forth three rounds, but I don’t see him winning two of them. Maia by decision.
WERTHEIM: One those fights that will either be a snoozer or a gripping contrast of styles. The bandwagon likes the undefeated Weidman but I still recall Maia as BJJ master who has beaten all sorts of comers (including Sonnen). Maia by submission.