Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The UFC may not have gotten what they wanted in terms of action on Saturday night, with all three FOX-broadcast fights going to decision, but there is a silver lining. A view of the bigger picture makes it easy to see they got exactly what they wanted as a result of the night: a pair of huge fights.
Both the main event and co-main event represented a risk to the UFC. If either Rashad Evans or Chael Sonnen had been defeated, the UFC would have lost out on a major grudge match. And as we've seen in MMA, long-simmering grudge matches equal big business.
The Forward Roll's job is done for Evans and Sonnen, who will face Jon Jones and Anderson Silva, respectively in the coming months, but what about some of the other winners and losers from Saturday night. And as a bonus, what might be next for Dan Henderson, who lost out on a possible title shot with Evans' win?
Many people came away from the event thinking that Bisping had the most impressive performance, even though it came in defeat. That's probably more a cause and effect of Sonnen's reputation than reality. Bisping has always been a good wrestler and gotten off his back well in situations where he was taken down. So valiant effort though it was, he didn't showcase anything other than what he normally has. There's also no denying that Bisping has struggled against top opponents. At 32 years old, he's running out of chances when it comes to moving into the division's elite.
Prediction: He takes a step back and faces the loser of February's Yushin Okami-Tim Boetsch fight
It's back to the drawing board for Davis, who looked overwhelmed at times against the former light-heavyweight champ. At least it was the type of loss that Evans can learn plenty from. He got the chance to experience a far more complete fighter, and can take those lessons and apply them to his own game. Davis' two big areas of need are committing to his strikes, and sharpening his transitions into takedown attempts. Until he gains fluidity and confidence in both of those situations, he'll have problems against the elite.
Prediction: He faces the loser of February's Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader fight
The average fan who has never competed and cut weight has no idea the willpower that went into Weidman's effort to go from 217 to 185 in 11 days while fighting a top 10 middleweight. He deserves plenty of credit for that, let alone winning the fight. Sure, it wasn't a masterpiece, but it shows that Weidman can overcome some adversity. He also bravely showed a willingness to take the dangerous submission artist to the ground, taking him down four times en route to the decision. So it's onward and upward for the rising prospect.
Prediction: He faces Rousimar Palhares
Maia must have some disappointment over his performance, but we also have to remember he had a late opponent change to complicate things. He went from expecting the kickboxing-heavy Bisping to the wrestling stud Weidman. That wasn't an easy change to handle. On the other hand, some of the striking gains he made in the last two years weren't evident on Saturday, and his gas tank hit "E" way faster than expected. At 34 years old, Maia is 4-4 over his last eight fights, and you have to wonder if he's hit his ceiling.
Prediction: He faces Jared Hamman
In his featherweight debut, Oliveira made history by becoming the first UFC fighter to win by calf slicer submission. While his opponent Eric Wisely came into the fight without much fanfare, he'd never been finished in 25 career fights, and that's included scraps with legit foes like Erik Koch, Hermes Franca, Matt Veach and Pat Healy. A nice next step for Oliveira would be a fight with another strong grappler to see how he does when his bread-and-butter offense is no sure thing.
Predicton: He faces Javier Vazquez
Russow's style -- heavy on wrestling and groundwork -- isn't flashy but is certainly effective. He is getting into some intriguing territory in the UFC. He has an 11-fight win streak, has won all four of his UFC fights, and is on the cusp of cracking the top 10. Because the heavyweight division doesn't have the depth of other divisions, Russow might have to wait a while to receive a matchup worthy of his streak.
Prediction: He faces the winner of February's Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt match
Hendo sat back and waited to see what would happen, knowing that a Davis upset or Evans injury would see him leapfrog his way into a title bout with Jones. Right now, that doesn't appear like it will happen. That leaves him in a tough predicament, as there really isn't a logical matchup for him. Some other top light-heavies like Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira are already locked into fights. That means if Henderson chooses to wait for the Jones-Evans winner, he could be in for a long haul, possibly August or September. I don't think he'll wait that long.
Prediction: He faces Lyoto Machida
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