So, the day is finally here. The Octagon returns to the Windy City for the first time since UFC 90 in October 2008. The fighters have weighed in, the press conference is in the books, the smack has been talked and now its time to walk into the arena and get it on.
The United Center sold out with more than 20,000 MMA fans packing the home of the Chicago Bulls. You gotta admit its impressive to sell out a fight that anyone could see for free. The main reason it was a sellout is because the top three bouts are all phenomenal.
As is par for the course with mixed martial arts, several fighters have gotten hurt in training, causing the now regular shuffle of matchups. Instead of facing Demian Maia, England's Michael "the Count" Bisping now faces top contender Chael Sonnen in the co-main event of the evening.
Likewise, Demian Maia now has to prepare for a tough submission wrestler in undefeated prospect Chris Weidman. Weidman took the fight on a couple weeks notice, so he has had no time to plan on Maia and has spent far more time having to slim down in order to make the specified weight limit of 185.
The great thing for us as fans is that nowadays these men are highly trained top-notch athletes that can take a fight on little notice and deliver like any other time they compete. The UFC of the SEG days would never have been able to do something like this. It is an exciting time to be a fan of the UFC and of MMA as a whole.
Without going into too much detail, I will provide a historian's breakdown and analysis of the top five bouts of the evening. As a historian, I will view these bouts in relation to the performance of each man in his previous UFC bouts and his current path in UFC and life as I perceive it.
Please understand this is just my opinion from a certain standpoint and it does not completely reflect how I view these people. It is nice to get a different perspective on things.
My predictions are below:
Jon Olav Einemo vs. Mike Russow
Mike Russow is known as a durable guy, and we all saw he has one hell of a right hand when he knocked out Todd Duffee in Round 3. Einemo has a great ground game and has won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club world grappling tournament).
The difference is that Einemo can't strike that well. Dave Herman has good standup and Einemo got his face busted up pretty good in that fight and he was stopped due to strikes in the second round. Clearly this is a weakness.
Russow has displayed no glaring weakness in the fights I have seen while he has competed in the UFC.
Looking at the history, taking into account the fights I have seen, of these two men in the UFC I would see Mike Russow having an advantage.
He should be able to use the Dave Herman fight as a blueprint. Russow should be able to keep it standing and win it on the feet possibly with a TKO finish. Russow will have a successful homecoming.
Evan Dunham vs. Nik Lentz
Nick "the Carny" Lentz has been on a nice run in the UFC's lightweight division. He has great power in his wrestling. He is coming off of his only UFC defeat and now looks to make a big splash on Fuel TV.
Evan Dunham was well on his way to the top ten of the UFC 155 pound division when he suffered two losses in a row, although his decision loss to Sean Sherk is highly debatable.
Regardless, Dunham has since rebounded with a decision victory over Shamar Bailey and now looks to move further up the rankings.
Nick Lentz is a very good prospect and I respect his game, but I have to look at what I have seen. Dunham is a more well-rounded fighter and he has a reach advantage that can help him to use his distance. Dunham should pull out the win here.
Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman
Demian Maia is one of the best jiu jitsu players of all time. That means he is great on the ground in even the elite class of Brazilian jiu jitsu. Add to that the fact that he now has hands to go with it, this fight isn't tough to pick.
Weidman is a good fighter, but he has to lose weight very quickly which will most likely see him fade quickly. Maia is always a threat on the ground and standing. I see Weidman getting tired and Maia winning a decision with a very convincing Round 3.
Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping
Chael Sonnen is probably the most polarizing figure in all of MMA. He is ridiculous, talented and crass. And we all love his craziness. It's tough not to at least be entertained by the guy.
He also happens to be one of the best fighters in the UFC. He is a monster with his wrestling and he showed great striking in the first four rounds or so of his fight with Anderson Silva. He recently ran right through the tough contender Brian Stann. Impressive.
Michael Bisping has been on a great run lately as well. His boxing and underrated ground game have grown immensely in his time in the UFC. He looked very dominant in his thrashing of Jason Miller in December.
I have been a critic of Michael Bisping in the past. History tells me both of these men are tough. I just have a feeling that people are looking past him.
Most people think it is a sure thing for Sonnen to win, and I think Bisping will pull off the upset with strong takedown defense and disciplined European boxing.
Phil Davis vs. Rashad Evans
Rashad has been on a rollercoaster in the last two years. He finally defeated Rampage Jackson, got a title shot, suffered a knee injury making him lose that shot, almost fought Jon Jones and then ended up beating up Tito Ortiz.
Rashad has had a rocky road of late. People always want to be hard on him, but you can't deny that a lot of these things are either bad luck or outside factors that he can't help. Injuries and these kinds of things happen.
Rashad is healthy and focused now. He will be ready tonight.
Phil Davis has an amazing college wrestling pedigree. He was a national champion. He is an undefeated mixed martial artist. But, in his UFC career, historically his striking is lacking and his wrestling tends to be his crutch.
It is hard to imagine that crutch working out for him against Rashad Evans. Wrestling for MMA is another beast entirely and Rashad has it figured out much better than Phil does.
Rashad will win this fight and the more I think about it I see it being a stoppage due to strikes.