Post-Fight Thoughts After UFC on FOX 2

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The sky is not falling.

The doomsdayers always seem to panic whenever a UFC show does not produce a series of heart-racing moments, and UFC on FOX 2 certainly fell a little flat, leading to heavy criticism and downright concern about the future of the FOX deal.

Relax. FOX is well aware that some fights are going to blow you away, and others will make you want to walk away. That's sports. They didn't lock in a seven-year deal with the thought of divorcing after their first official show under the terms of the deal. This is still a new sports property for them, and there is plenty of room to grow for both sides.

Adjustments will be made, and fights will deliver.

Remember, we have Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller on tap for UFC on FOX 3 in May. There's no way that fight doesn't deliver.




Until then, here are my thoughts on storylines stemming from the UFC's second outing on network TV...

Historic Run
Jon Jones had a banner 2011, capturing the title and finishing all four of his fights. The virtuoso performance led many to wonder what he could possibly do for an encore, and now we have our answer. Jones has Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson waiting to fight him.

Think about this: Jones has the possibility of going through Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Evans and Henderson consecutively. If he accomplishes it, it would no doubt be the most impressive five-fight run in MMA history.

And let it be said, giving Evans the first shot at Jones before Henderson is the right call. Evans has been the No. 1 contender in waiting for about 18 months, since beating Jackson back in May 2010. He's waited long enough. Even though Henderson is 41 years old and has less time remaining in his career than Evans, he wasn't even in the UFC when Evans became the top contender. He was still in Strikeforce at the time.

Henderson should certainly get the chance to fight the Evans-Jones winner, but given the UFC schedule, he'll likely be offered another fight before it.

Stepping Back
It's safe to say that Phil Davis wasn't quite ready for the jump up to elite opponent level, struggling in a decision loss to Evans. Davis remains a wildly gifted talent, but seems to lack conviction in some of his own abilities. He didn't fully commit to his punches, often moving backward as he threw, and that allowed Evans to fire off his own strikes with little to fear.

Davis does throw strong kicks, but until he learns to let his hands go -- a skill that will complement his wrestling -- he won't reach his optimum potential.

Sonnen-Silva II
Chael Sonnen had some trouble with Michael Bisping on the way to a unanimous decision that will set up a rematch with Anderson Silva, likely this summer in Brazil. The less-than-stellar performance sent his stock downward in the eyes of many, who suggest that it will somehow carry over into his fight with Silva.

There's no correlation between the two fights. Bisping has always boasted very good takedown defense and even when he's gotten taken down, he tends to pop back up to his feet quickly. Silva's takedown defense is average, and when he gets taken down, he looks for submissions instead of trying to get to his feet. Sonnen is much more likely to take him down and keep him down for long stretches, just like the first fight, mainly because Silva is often content to work from his back, where he's dangerous.

That said, the rematch -- like the original -- is likely to come down to whether Sonnen can stay away from a fight-ending submission.



MiddleMan
For a long time, I have asked, where is the next great middleweight? In a story from last year, I suggested Chris Weidman could be that man.

On Saturday, Weidman defeated Maia in a workmanlike decision. While he didn't steal the headlines away from Evans or Sonnen, Weidman's win on 11 days' notice sends the message that he's a force to be reckoned with. He had to cut from 217 to 185. He was faced with fighting a southpaw. His opponent was one of MMA's submission masters. Weidman conquered all these obstacles in his path, and that says plenty about his mental and physical makeup.

Weidman has shown advancing striking skills to go with his excellent wrestling and ground game. Barring an injury, there's no question that he'll be knocking on the door of top contenders in the division ASAP.

Another first
Charles Oliveira made his featherweight debut memorable, becoming the first UFC fighter in history to score a calf slicer submission. Oliveira is an aggressive, attacking offensive fighter, so it's no surprise that he'd pull off something so bold and rare. Now it's worth watching to see if he becomes a real factor in the division.

Damned if you do...
Nik Lentz used to receive a ton of criticism for fighting conservatively, but the approach led to a 15-fight unbeaten stretch from 2007-2011. The constant slams from fans and media caused Lentz to reconsider his approach, and his more wide open style has led to two losses in a row. The upside: he earned a $65,000 bonus for Fight of the Night. The downside: he's now officially on the cut watch list.

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