Niko Price has produced one of the knockouts of the year at UFC Tampa.
While it may not have been the best three feet to put forward on their second event on US network television, the UFC still managed to set up the title fights MMA fans wanted.
In the night’s main event, Rashad Evans did what he had to do against his undefeated and in hindsight, somewhat undercooked, opponent.
There was a feeling that Phil Davis would not be prepared for the drastic step up in competition and unfortunately that proved evident early on. Surprisingly though it was made clear by an Evans takedown. Not many, if any, thought the former champion would be able to outwrestle his opponent but outwrestle he did.
A barrage of strikes on the ground at the end of the first and second rounds seemed to weaken Davis’ resolve but he continued to fight all the way to the end of the fifth.
It was a controlled and clinical performance by Evans. He will meet Jon Jones in April for the belt in a salivating contest that should have happened on two occasions last year. His striking was on point against Davis and his wrestling looked the best it ever has but I have my doubts he stands a chance against Jones.
Hopefully fate, luck, or whatever the hell else doesn’t intervene this time around so we can find out.
In the battle of the two most hated men in the UFC, it was Chael Sonnen that emerged victorious with a somewhat disputed decision. Michael Bisping looked the best he ever has as he landed some thumping shots on Sonnen and was also able to negate the “Gangster from Oregon’s” wrestling game for the first two rounds.
As successful as he was though, Sonnen was always in his face and that finally paid off in the third round when he was able to secure the Brit’s back and then move to mount where he clearly controlled the round.
The fight went unanimously to Sonnen with the judge’s all giving Sonnen the third round and the first, while one rather strangely gave him the second as well.
Bisping disputed the decision but ultimately Sonnen was the only one to clearly win a round in the fight and with the first round being as close as it was he was the rightful winner.
The win sets up an epic rematch with Anderson Silva, the man Sonnen has hounded for what seems like an eternity. The match-up is set to take place in Brazil which means that whether or not Sonnen gets lynched before the fight is almost as interesting as the fight.
Safety concerns aside, this fight should do ridiculous business and could very well pack a soccer stadium in Brazil. That of course depends on Silva accepting the fight which Sonnen states he doesn’t believe will (ever) happen.
The broadcast kicked off with a sloppy snoozer between Demian Maia and short-notice opponent Chris Weidman. Maia opted to show off his limited striking to poor effect and was out-struck by Weidman in the first. The 11-day notice took its toll on Weidman though who slowed down in the second round.
Maia was not too far behind though and by the third round I have to admit I started making lunch. By all reports Weidman notched a split decision victory in a fight that couldn’t have done great ratings for the Fox broadcast.
As I mentioned in an article earlier this week, the match-ups for this card had the potential to do exactly what they did tonight. It’s unfortunate the UFC was unable to air any of the prelim fights as they were action-packed and would have given the American mainstream a good feel for the excitement the UFC can bring.
Time or rather the television ratings will tell how these bouts fared with the public but the silver (Silva?) lining is that the championship fights the UFC wanted to set-up were realised.
By the time people have forgotten the rating numbers for this show, the UFC will still be counting the money from the title fights it made a reality.