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Opening Round: What’s Next? (UFC on FOX 2 Edition)

The UFC’s sophomore effort on FOX may not have been as strong as their original go in November but it still presented a night of competitive, divisionally relevant action for free. Also nice, FOX rolled out the red carpet production wise, showing that they have indeed embraced the UFC/MMA fully rather than treat it like a step-child sport.

In What’s Next I’ll be looking at how all of the featured fights went while also offering up commentary on how I see things unfolding for each of the involved athletes down the road. Since the future is fairly clear in the cases of Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen I’ll throw in thoughts a few of the evening’s other winners as well.

What’s Next for Lavar Johnson: A knockout win over iron-jawed Joey Beltran is nothing to dismiss even if Beltran has lost more than he’s won in the UFC. Johnson should be given another fighter who doesn’t mind striking such as Pat Barry or Gabriel Gonzaga to guarantee another exciting knockout.

What’s Next for Charles Oliveira: Oliveira looked great against Eric Wisely but his submission had fluke-like symptoms so it’s hard to fully gauge how he’ll fare in the future. Tyson Griffin would be a great test for him in all areas of the sport.

What’s Next for Evan Dunham: It’s unfortunate a cut ended the card’s Fight of the Night after Nik Lentz came out strong in the opening round before things turned around in the second. I’d definitely like to see him fight Dunham again down the road as a result. While Dunham wants the winner of Joe Lauzon-Anthony Pettis I think Donald Cerrone could be a better option as a means of shedding a month off the required wait.

Chris Weidman def. Demian Maia via Unanimous Decision

As lackluster as this fight may have been, you still have to give Weidman a lot of credit for coming in on short notice, making weight, and defeating Maia who only had to deal with a change of opponent rather than a phone call while eating Sloppy Joes on the couch. Weidman solidified himself as a star to watch in 2012 with the performance while Maia’s best days at 185 seem to be behind him.

What’s Next for Demian Maia: A drop to welterweight would be wise, a move he’s teased before since he doesn’t have the physical frame to handle bigger opponents; the loser of Jake Shields-Yoshihiro Akiyama would be an adequate adversary if he does indeed go that route, Rousimar Palhares if not to create a BJJ battle for the ages.
What’s Next for Chris Weidman: He’s clearly ready for “Top 10” competition and Michael Bisping makes sense as someone who should not only be ready to fight when Weidman is but was supposed to take on Maia in the first place before Mark Munoz pulled out with an injury.

Chael Sonnen def. Michael Bisping via Unanimous Decision

I’m among the group who feels Bisping won the first two rounds and should have earned the judges’ nod. I was impressed by his takedown defense as well as the way he was able to dirty box and work his way back up to a standing position when put on the mat. “The Count” has definitely shown he’s evolved into one of the division’s top draws. Sonnen is on that same level as well though he’s clearly not as polished as Bisping in an overall sense (and likely never will be).

What’s Next for Michael Bisping: I’ve already mentioned Weidman as a possibility but if the UFC needs a different option there’s always Munoz to consider who would give Bisping another go at a high-level grappler.
What’s Next for Chael Sonnen: Obviously Anderson Silva who won’t let him make it to the scorecards if the same Sonnen shows up who fought on FOX.

Rashad Evans def. Phil Davis via Unanimous Decision

I wasn’t surprised to see Evans win but I my jaw did drop slightly at how bad Davis looked. His technique seemed off, plus the conditioning many felt would be one of his advantages never materialized. He deserves one Mulligan for the possibility he wilted under the pressure of a fight with Evans on FOX but a second showing like that and fans could be seeing his true competitive colors.

What’s Next for Phil Davis: Hopefully the loss shows him his is indeed a mortal man with flaws and inspires him to refine not only his offense but his ability to escape clinches or off the ground; he needs a solid opponent who is also relatively beatable such as Stephan Bonnar.
What’s Next for Rashad Evans: Obviously Jon Jones and, similarly to Sonnen, he’s in for a long night if he performs in his upcoming title-fight along the lines of what was seen last Saturday night.

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

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