Rashad Evans vs Phil Davis
Not effected by the Munoz shuffle, but by it's own set of circumstances instead. Rashad Evans and Phil Davis were supposed to fight each other late last year but the bout had to be moved when Davis suffered an injury. He was replaced by Tito Ortiz, who was soundly dominated by Evans enroute to a TKO loss. Now that Davis is healthy again the bout is back on.
Standing I give the advantage to Evans in technique and striking power as Davis hasn't exactly shown us he's confidant enough in himself to go for the knockout. Wrestling is a bit of a questionmark. It's been a very long time since Rashad has faced a wrestler anywhere close to his prime like Davis is. On the flip side Davis has never fought anyone quite as big as Rashad, or that had his kind of wrestling base on top of that. I would put wrestling as a wash since we have seen both guys use it to great effect, and we have also seen them struggle a bit to impliment it at times. Cardio is something to consider and if it becomes a factor, and it very well could if this fight sees the third round, Phil Davis has the edge since he seems the much fresher fighter in the third round when his fights go there. As far as the fight goes it's hard to tell for sure how things are going to go down. Either Davis can't establish the takedown early and ends up getting blasted by strikes, or this turns into an ugly clinch war that see's Evans tiring out in the third round. Personally I'm going with Davis being unable to get the takedown on Evans, since he struggled early on getting it on Minotoro.
Prediction: Rashad Evans by (T)KO Chael Sonnen vs Michael Bisping
Probably the only fight of these three where one cannot see the fight going either way. Sonnen was originally slated to fight Mark Munoz on this card, but with Munoz being forced to pull out with only two weeks or so before fight night the shuffle shook things up for everyone. Now Sonnen takes on Michael Bisping in a fight fans have been calling for since Sonnen almost beat Anderson Silva. These two are easily two of the most hated fighters in the business simply due to their personalities and penchant for selling fights with trash talk. Sonnen's last outing saw the utter decimation of Brian Stann which ended by arm triangle choke after a dominating performance. Bisping meanwhile concluded his second stint as TUF coach by brutalizing a clearly exhausted Jason Miller. However despite all that there are no grey area's in this fight, a least not for Me.
Striking technique is an advantage for Bisping, he has made a career out of using great footwork and crisp technique to outpoint opponents. Striking power however has never been Michaels strong point, no pun intended. When it comes to power in general the edge has to go to Sonnen, who has shown a tenacity and never-ending pressure. On the ground the wrestling and submissions are both advantages for Sonnen, though Bisping has shown the ability to get back up when taken down several times in the past against skilled wrestlers in Matt Hamill and Rashad Evans. Unfortunately for Michael I just don't see him stuffing the elite level takedowns Chael brings to the table, I also don't see him just popping back up afterward. This is going to be a fight filled with takedowns and Sonnen wearing on Michael. He'll take Michael down, work from guard and just beat him up until the end. Chael has shown a propensity for being submitted while on top but I just don't think Michael has the high level grappling game to pull it off. Most likely Sonnen grinds out a decision, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he forces a referee stoppage or snags a submission either.
Prediction: Chael Sonnen by Decision Demian Maia vs Chris Weidman
Possibly the strangest outcome of the shuffle that occured in light of Mark Munoz' injury has Demian Maia fighting up and comer Chris Weidman. While this is a huge opportunity for Weidman, who is currently undefeated, there is almost no upside for Maia in this. This is a very dangerous fight against a non top ten opponent. Beating Weidman offers him almost no boost in contendership for the title, and losing may even force him out of the top ten and the title picture until he can string something together again. For Weidman this couldn't be a better fight for him. No downside even in the event he loses, if he wins he vaults himself into title contention by beating a perrenial top ten fighter and if he loses we'll likely say he wasn't ready yet.
Standing I give an advantage to Demian Maia, though I do think Weidman can hang with Maia standing when push comes to shove. On the ground the wrestling is a clear advantage for Weidman while jiu jitsu and submissions are clear edge areas for Maia. However it is worth noting that Weidman seems to be some kind of guard passing and submission savant who has had success in the submission grappling world as well. With the time Maia has spent refining his strikes he has neglected his ground game some and it has shown, couple that with the fact that Weidman seems to be able to hold his own on the ground provided he's on top and it could very well be a situation where if Chris gets Demian down it may not just be "game over" as most anyone would have thought two years ago. This fight is going to come down to who is more prepared and able to impliment the gameplan that allows them to win. If Weidman can take Demian down for three rounds and avoid the submission or the deep half guard sweep he very well could win this fight. If Maia can work his own takedowns and keep Chris from successfully shooting on him time after time or force a mistake that allows him to lock up a submission or a sweep then he could change things in an instant. I'm going to go out on a limb, maybe for the sake of going against the general consensus if nothing else, and pick Weidman here by decision.
Prediction: Chris Weidman by Decision