Can Evans-Davis steal the spotlight back?

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
7:02
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Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Phil DavisRod Mar for ESPN.comWith Chael Sonnen on the undercard, it will take more than pink short shorts to get people buzzing.
It’s not like Rashad Evans and Phil Davis haven’t done their due diligence leading up to UFC on Fox 2.

On the contrary, Evans and Davis have both been doing their level best to sell their possible light heavyweight title eliminator at the fight company’s second live network television broadcast this Saturday. Case-in-point: The formerly friendly pair embarked on a contentious (and nearly obligatory) war of words during a recent conference call for the event, with Evans reprising his usual role as provocateur and Davis continuing to assert that this fight is little more than a stepping stone on his own march to the title.

"After I beat Rashad on Jan. 28 they won't really have anything else to do with me other than to have me fight [Jon Jones]," Davis said. "Rashad is the true No. 1 contender and after he loses, who else do I fight? The champion."

"You ain't beating me, dog ...," Evans retorted moments later. “I'm going to smash you, dude."

For the record, those are pretty much the exact same rhetorical strategies the two were pursuing prior to UFC 133, before an injury to Davis effectively hit the pause button on their budding feud. Now that they’ve resumed, it feels like they’re having some trouble finding traction; as if their main event is being overshadowed by the drama surrounding the rest of the show.

You had to pay pretty close attention during the last couple of weeks to even know Evans versus Davis was on this card. That’s how most of the coverage has been overtaken by Mark Munoz’s injury and Chael Sonnen’s improvised middleweight clash with Michael Bisping.

To be fair, that’s a lot to compete with for headlines, but at this point it seems as if Evans and Davis -- through no real fault of their own -- are vying for a distant second in terms of prefight excitement.

For starters, the sheer weight of the personalities involved in Sonnen versus Bisping is sort of staggering. Davis and Evans are no slouches in this department -- with Davis one of the more likeable and Evans one of the more unfairly hated-on fighters at 205-pounds -- but Sonnen and Bisping are simply on another level. These are two guys who’ve spent the better part of their UFC careers building themselves into consummate heels. Now they’re going to fight each other? Hard to match that.

Secondly, the stakes are somewhat less clear for Evans and Davis than for their middleweight counterparts. Sonnen and Bisping have already been told that the winner of their bout will fight for the title as soon as champion Anderson Silva is physically able. While we’ve all been assured something sort of similar about Evans-Davis, we’ve learned to take a wait-and-see approach to the light heavyweight title picture in recent months.
[+] EnlargeChael Sonnen
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comBig surprise: Chael Sonnen has managed to hijack the headlines ahead of Saturday.

Certainly, Evans is still burning to get his shot at Jones and UFC brass say if he beats Davis, he’ll get it. Then again, Jones has recently been making noise about fighting at the company’s upcoming show in Atlanta on April 21 and if for whatever reason Evans is unable to make the turnaround, the organization has Dan Henderson already waiting in the wings.

The same is true for Davis, who’d likely need to do something spectacular against Evans to leapfrog Hendo in the pecking order. As hard as he’s worked to make his case as potential No. 1 contender, the UFC has stopped far short of guaranteeing him that spot, even if he does roll out of this weekend’s show with a win.

You could even argue that Henderson makes more sense as an immediate challenger to Jones than either Evans or Davis, after he capped his momentous 2011 with a win over Mauricio Rua in what many called the best fight in UFC history. Fair warning though, if you try to argue that, get ready for some vehement opposition.

To top it off, both Davis and Evans have been mired in inactivity lately, with each having fought just once during 2011. While this fight marks a significant opportunity for one of the two to get back on track, so far Sonnen and Bisping are making a play to steal the show.

The two light heavyweights are going to have to work pretty hard in the cage on Saturday if they want to steal it back.

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