The UFC will present its first full card on the network TV giant FOX’s flagship station as UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs. Davis looks to name the number one contenders for not one but two UFC titles. Headlining the card is a light heavyweight contest between “Sugar” Rashad Evans (16-1-1) who will face “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis (8-0) for a chance at UFC gold in the 205lbs. division. Serving as the co-main event, “The Count” Michael Bisping (22-3) will replace an injured “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Mark Munoz (10-2) against Chael Sonnen (25-11-1) with a middleweight championship bid hanging in the balance. Opening things up for the televised card, Chris Weidman (7-0) will step in on short notice to face Demian Maia (14-3). The bout will represent a chance for Weidman to expose casual fans to his breed of high octane wrestling and top game submissions, but also poses the most serious threat to his undefeated record to date.
At First Glance: That he will have only a brief opportunity to prepare for this bout is nothing new to Chris Weidman. Of his three UFC bouts, two have come as a last-minute replacement for an injured fighter. That coupled with the fact that Maia has spent months preparing to face Michael Bisping, a striker who fights from the outside, presents a favorable situation for the ADCC veteran and NCAA Div. I wrestler. On the other side of things, Maia is the kind of grappler that gives wrestlers fits and he also no longer has to worry about finding a way to get the fight to the mat.
In Depth: To see the danger this fight presents to Maia, one need look no further than his last loss. Maia may have some of the best submissions in the division, but he hasn’t been able to bring them to bear against high level wrestlers. He scored a Triangle Choke win against Chael Sonnen in 2009, but was completely controlled by Mark Munoz who, like Weidman, is much more conservative with his offense on the mat. Should Maia find himself underneath Weidman, it is unlikely he will be able to reverse his fortunes. Neither man is a truly competent striker despite the KO wins each has achieved, but Maia gets the edge in that department so long as he keeps his head and remembers that he isn’t good enough on the feet to get fancy. That fact also points to Maia’s biggest advantage in this bout. Whereas Chris Weidman can and often does finish fights, his road to victory lies through top control-based wrestling. Maia, however, can easily finish the fight anywhere. In fact, the only way he can win this fight relies on his ability to score the finish from unfavorable positions.
Wild Card: Maia’s training camp represents a big issue for him in this fight. While Maia will likely be thrilled to face an opponent not only willing to go to the mat, but openly favoring the ground game, he still has to throw out months of game planning and situation specific training with only two weeks time to make up for it. This could seriously hurt Maia if he tailors his striking game to Bisping’s takedown avoidance instead of Weidman’s wrestling. The wrong strike at the wrong time could easily end in a double-leg that goes straight to side mount.
The Verdict: While Maia has faced superior competition and shined against all but the best of it, Weidman has a distinct advantage in the fact that he is a totally different kind of fighter than the one that Maia has prepared for. That, backed by a strong, control heavy wrestling attack, should be more than enough to shut down the BJJ ace and earn him a place among the division’s elite. Weidman via Unanimous Decision