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Opening Round: Spoiler Warning

If you’re a fan who feels it’s a foregone conclusion Rashad Evans will be fighting Jon Jones at UFC 145 I feel the need to warn you right now that this article should be read with extreme caution. While Evans would certainly have his chance to face Jones if the UFC was scripted the reality is the sport relies on skill, not storylines, and Phil Davis is anything but a guaranteed win for the former light heavyweight champ.

Actually, let’s go one step further and say Davis will indeed spoil Evans’ hopes of summer scrap with Jones by pulling off the upset this weekend at UFC on FOX 2. Is that so ridiculous? Absolutely not.

Looking over Evans’ record he has excelled against strikers but struggles to find the same groove against opponents who are even moderately skilled at takedown defense or in the clinch. He relies on ability to work over adversaries from a dominant position and control the clock. However, against an athletic former NCAA wrestling stud like Davis it will be far more difficult to do so, especially since Evans will also be on the defensive in terms of potentially getting put on his backside as well. This isn’t Tito Ortiz or Quinton Jackson we’re talking about; it’s a 4X All-American.

When it comes to striking I’d certainly favor Evans’ in the power department but not necessarily finesse. His compact delivery and boxing are dangerous while in a certain range but he lacks Davis’ diversity. He could also struggle to land cleanly if Davis uses his jabs and kicks to maintain distance given his four-inch reach advantage.

The ability to keep Evans at bay and possibly come out ahead in the grappling game is enough to earn Davis a decision win. Still, there is one more factor to consider, and in my opinion it could be the most important one where Evans’ defeat is concerned – mindset. I feel as though Evans is slightly underestimating Davis and looking past him to Jones, a fight he’s wanted for the last half-year and seen slip through his fingers are multiple occasions. If either of those things is true it could spell disaster for Evans in the Octagon given the need for him to be fully focused on the task at hand.

With so many things working against him and the pressure planted squarely on his shoulders Evans could crumble in the cage. He’s not likely to be finished but falling on the scorecards is a distinct possibility. It would certainly be a sad pseudo-ending to his feud with Jones but its MMA and no match-up is guaranteed. Fortunately, two new challengers are waiting in the wings, Davis and Dan Henderson, so at least the story of Jones’ legend still has a chance to live on.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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