TORONTO - Rashad Evans coasted to a unanimous-decision victory over Phil Davis in the main event of UFC on FOX 2 in Chicago Saturday.
The former UFC light-heavyweight champion out-classed the NCAA Division I wrestler in every aspect of the game, but never cranked up the intensity.
Instead Evans remained focused and stuck to his game plan of wearing Davis out with a combination of heavy punches and strong top-control.
Despite being completely exhausted, Davis managed to survive until the final bell.
“I fought at a pace that was pretty high-paced, but I didn’t get a chance to land any big punches,” Evans said to interviewer Joe Rogan. “But that’s hard when you fight a guy like Phil Davis.”
Barring any unforeseen injuries, Evans will challenge light-heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones in the headlining bout of UFC 145 in Atlanta April 21.
“(The Jon Jones bout) was the monkey on my back, so it was hard to train for this fight,” Evans said.
“But Phil brought it. Now I get to fight Jon and I’m excited about it.”
The two were set to meet twice before, but the bouts fell apart due to injuries suffered by both fighters.
Jones said he looks forward to finally facing Evans.
“I have goosebumps,” Jones said. “I’m so excited when I know who I’m fighting next. I can’t wait to get past this chapter in my life. I’ve been calling him the antagonist of my career.”
Chael Sonnen won a close unanimous decision over Michael Bisping in the co-main event.
The first round will be debated by fans and critics alike. Sonnen scored a pair of takedowns and dictated the pace, but Bisping landed more clean shots. Bisping clearly out-struck the former middleweight title challenger in the second, but found himself on his back for the majority of the third.
After three rounds, the judges saw it for Sonnen with debatable scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
“Joe Rogan, tonight is not about questions for me,” Sonnen began.
“I want to know how it feels to be inches away from greatness. Are you not mesmerized?
“When you’re the greatest fighter in the world, they don’t call you great, they call you Chael Sonnen. Beat me if you can.”
With the victory, Sonnen earns another shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva this summer in Brazil.
It wasn’t pretty, but undefeated Chris Weidman earned the biggest win of his career, edging Demian Maia.
Neither fighter landed much significant offence, but Weidman pushed the pace and landed a series of takedowns.
It was clear the short notice affected Weidman, as he looked slow and lethargic, but surprisingly Maia also ran out steam early.
After three dull rounds, Weidman was awarded a split decision with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
Evan Dunham won an absolute war against Nik Lentz in the final bout of the stellar undercard.
After a close first round, Dunham began punishing ‘The Carny’ with a barrage of straight punches during the stand-up exchanges, and stiff elbows on the mat. But Lentz just kept coming forward, landing a some big shots of his own.
Following an exciting second round, the ringside doctor stopped the bout due to Lentz’s left eye swelling shut.
“The first round, I felt like was a bit flat and slow,” Dunham said. “It wasn’t going the way I wanted it to.
“In the second, I had him on the ground and knew I had to be more aggressive.”
Hometown heavyweight Mike Russow won a gruelling unanimous decision over John-Olav Einemo.
The Chicago police officer surprised many by taking the submission specialist to the mat. But once there, he forced Einemo to carry his weight and bloodied the Norwegian with elbows and punches.
“It’s a dream come true; I love you guys,” Russow said.
“I apologize, it was a bit of a boring fight. But John is a world-class jiu jitsu player. I knew it was going to be tough.”
Earlier in the night, Cub Swanson demolished George Roop with a crushing overhand right.
Charles Oliveira delivered an early candidate for submission of the year in his featherweight debut, catching Eric Wisely in a calf slicer.
In other undercard contests, The Ultimate Fighter 12 finalist Michael Johnson recorded a unanimous decision over Shane Roller, Lavar Johnson handed Joey Beltran the first knockout loss of his career, and Chris Camozzi forced Dustin Jacoby to submit.