Multiple sources confirm that an injury suffered at UFC 128 will keep Jon Bones Jones on the sidelines indefinitely. The Bones Jones vs. Rashad Evans UFC 133 fight is officially off. Phil Davis now steps in as Evans’ new opponent in a battle of former collegiate wrestling standouts.
I can’t think of a more jinxed division in the UFC than the light heavyweights. Mauricio Shogun Rua, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Thiago Silva, and Tito Ortiz have all missed or delayed UFC main-event fights in the last twelve months. Apparently Bones is not super human after all and has been bitten by the same bug. Jones will reportedly be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time as a result of a torn right-hand ligament suffered in his championship win at UFC 128.
[adinserter block=”2″]The news further delays a shot at the UFC light heavyweight championship that Rashad Evans has been working towards since he defeated Rampage Jackson at UFC 114 last May. Rather than risk a title opportunity, Evans chose to sit out for eleven months and wait for Shogun Rua to return from injured reserve. A little more than a month before the fight, Evans himself suffered an injury in camp and had to pull out of the fight which went to Jones. With UFC 133 not scheduled until August, it could be another ten months before Evans even comes close to sniffing an opportunity at the championship.
Casual MMA fans may think that Evans is getting a much easier fight with Phil Davis. I disagree. Is it easier? I am not so sure about that. If not for the Jones hype machine, it is very possible that MMA fans would be pushing Davis as the next big UFC superstar. Davis has quietly amassed an impressive MMA record going undefeated with five wins in the UFC. Davis recently defeated Antonio Rogerio Nogueira via unanimous decision and looked very impressive in doing so. Phil Davis is no joke.
With all of that said, I think the UFC is going to have a real difficult time selling Phil Davis vs. Rashad Evans as a UFC main-event. The previous UFC Philadelphia even featured Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin and BJ Penn vs Kenny Florian, so returning with Davis vs. Evans has to be a slight disappointment for the Philly MMA audience.
I don’t think this is as big a blow to UFC’s overall business as some people think it is. There is still a real question as to whether Bones is a draw after the UFC 128 numbers came in. UFC 128 reportedly generated 445,000 buys which is much lower than expected for a fight with so much hype. Additionally, the UFC 128 attendance is being reported at 12,619, which was underwhelming considering all of the hype behind Jones and the hometown story. To put this into perspective, UFC 78 in the same city headlined by Rashad Evans vs. Michael Bisping drew over 14,000 to the building and even UFC 53 headlined by Andrei Arolvski in New Jersey only did slightly less at 12,000.
If styles make great fights, I couldn’t be any less excited about this one. Davis and Evans are both wrestlers which would make for a great fight if it were an NCAA division 1 championship match. My only hope as a fight fan is that with each fighter knowing how tough the other is on the ground, they both opt to fight on their feet and give Philly a striking fest. I doubt it, but hey one could hope right?
It will also be interesting to see whether the UFC moves either Vitor Belfort or Rich Frankin’s fight to the top of the UFC 133 card over Evans vs. Davis. Belfort and Franklin are both coming off of top slots at UFC 126 which generated a smashing 750,000 buys. My hunch is that the UFC sticks with Evans but there is certainly a case to go with Franklin vs. Nogueira or Belfort vs. Akiyama in the top slots.
[adinserter block=”1″]The confirmed for the UFC 133 fight card:
Light heavyweight fight: Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis
Light heavyweight fight: Rich Franklin vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Middleweight fight: Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Middleweight bout: United States Jorge Rivera vs. Italy Alessio Sakara
Bantamweight bout: United States Michael McDonald vs. United States Nick Pace
Middleweight bout: Brazil Rafael Natal vs. Japan Riki Fukuda
Welterweight bout: United States Dennis Hallman vs. United States Brian Ebersole
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