Evans, Sonnen earn title shots

Published on Jan. 30 at 3:15 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen had to go the distance to post victories Saturday night at United Center in Chicago, but both got their hands raised nonetheless to earn title shots in their respective divisions at the UFC on Fox 2.

In the main event, Evans handed Phil Davis his first career loss by capturing a unanimous-decision win as a minus-220 favorite. Evans won the fight 50-45 on the scorecards of all three judges.

For gamblers wagering on the fight to complete four rounds, they brought home a decent plus-125 payout (paid $125 on $100 wagers). Bets on Evans to win inside the distance (per my suggestion) for a plus-160 return were a loser.

Bookmaker.com and BetOnFighting.com have both opened Jon ‘Bones’ Jones as an incredibly expensive minus-600 favorite to successfully defend his 205-pound belt for a third time when he’ll face Evans (+400) at UFC 145 in Atlanta on April 21.

Evans and Jones were teammates at Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico at one time. However, their relationship has rapidly soured in the past year and they are now bitter rivals. Jackson is not expected to work Jones’s corner in this light-heavyweight showdown.

Sonnen won a unanimous decision over Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping to set up a rematch with Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, who is the reigning middleweight champion that’s unbeaten in the Octagon and universally considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The fight is expected to be at a soccer stadium in Brazil this summer, although Silva has hinted that his injuries might push the fight back to the fall.

Sonnen won 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 over Bisping, but many like UFC President Dana White felt that Bisping won the fight by taking Rounds 1 and 2 that were extremely close. Sonnen dominated the third round with his wrestling, working from the top position on the ground for most of the final stanza.

But Bisping had plenty of nice moments in the first two rounds, landing solid strikes and using excellent takedown defense. Even when Sonnen did score takedowns, Bisping was quickly able to get back to his feet and avoid punishment.

In the post-fight presser, Sonnen gave credit galore to Bisping, admitting that a few of his punches had him hurt in the opening round. Sonnen said he would’ve had no complaints if Bisping had won the decision because he was only confident that he’s won the third round.

Bookmaker and BetOnFighting have both installed Silva as a minus-225 ‘chalk’ vs. Sonnen, who is a plus-175 underdog (risk $100 to win $175).

When these middleweights collided in Oakland at UFC 117, Sonnen dominated Silva for 4 ½ rounds. The No. 1 contender scored takedowns early in each round and spent 20-plus minutes working the champ in ground-and-pound fashion.

However, with only two minutes left in his championship reign, Silva executed a miraculous triangle choke from his back that forced Sonnen to tap. Afterward, Silva blamed his poor performance to injured ribs sustained during his training camp.

The third fight that was televised on FOX was a snoozer won by Chris Weidman, who closed as a favorite in the minus-155 range. Weidman stayed undefeated with a unanimous-decision victory over veteran middleweight Demian Maia.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Michael Johnson won a unanimous-decision over Shane Roller as a live plus-210 underdog as a part of the preliminary card Saturday in Chicago. Johnson dominated the first two rounds with his striking, takedown defense and a beautiful flying knee to the end the opening stanza. However, he narrowly escaped several submission attempts by Roller in the final round before finally escaping a body lock and scoring a few strikes in the last minute.

–Coming off his first-round submission of Melvin Guillard, Jim Miller has been tabbed to face Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 3 on May 5 at the Izod Center in New Jersey. Diaz is coming off two of the best performances of his career in wins over Takanori Gomi and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

–George Sotiropoulos will have to wait a little longer to snap his two-fight losing slide. The Aussie has been forced to withdraw from his UFC 144 showdown against Gomi due to an injury. The promotion has replaced him with Eiji Mitsuoka.

–During last week’s edition of the Power Hours on VI Radio, Jason Floyd made a guest appearance to talk all things UFC. Floyd and I both agree that Nick Diaz is the pick against Carlos Condit in this weekend’s UFC 143 main event for the interim welterweight title. Diaz opened at either pick ‘em or around minus-125 at most books, but that number has shot up due to heavy action on Diaz, who is now minus-185 at Sportsbook.com. Floyd is the host of ‘Inside the Cage’ on WDAE in the Tampa area.

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