Jeff Chiu / AP
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 | 8:30 p.m.
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Two of the biggest fights available for the UFC to stage in 2012 are Chael Sonnen challenging Anderson Silva for the middleweight title and Rashad Evans facing Jon Jones for the light heavyweight belt.
Neither bout is guaranteed to happen. The potential challengers, Evans and Sonnen, must first get through significant tests at UFC on FOX 2 on Jan. 28, at the United Center in Chicago.
Evans (16-1-1 MMA, 11-1-1 UFC) meets Phil Davis (9-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and Sonnen (27-10-1 MMA, 6-3 UFC) encounters Michael Bisping (22-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) in the headlining contests of the event.
“Unfortunately (Evans) keeps getting hurt once he gets up for that title shot,” Davis said at a press conference to promote the event last month. “It’s my turn to spoil his fun and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Numerous circumstances, including injuries and timing, have postponed a grudge match between Evans and Jones, his former teammate, for nearly a year. The UFC ran into the same problem with its plan to pit Sonnen against Silva in a rematch earlier this year.
Silva is recovering from a shoulder injury that’s expected to keep him out of the octagon until June. Sonnen wasn’t willing to stay inactive and wait for another shot at the champion.
The UFC originally paired Sonnen with Mark Munoz for a middleweight title eliminator bout, but Munoz pulled out Tuesday after hurting his elbow in training.
Bisping, whose brash personality has clashed with fans, immediately slid in.
“I am going to knock the teeth out of that snot-nosed Brit who calls (himself) a Count,” Sonnen said of Bisping in a release to announce the new fight.
Bisping fired back by alluding to Sonnen’s past legal troubles, which included a mortgage fraud conviction in his home state of Oregon.
“He’s been kicked out of politics, he’s been kicked out of the real estate business,” Bisping said, “and I’m going to kick him out of the middleweight division.”
Bisping was originally supposed to meet Demian Maia in the third main card fight at UFC on FOX 2. Rising prospect Chris Weidman (7-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) will fill in to fight Maia (15-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) on less than two weeks’ notice.
“I was always a good crammer in school,” Weidman tweeted Tuesday. “I think I can make it work for fights too.”
Check below for a list of the preliminary bouts slated for the Chicago card.
Lightweight Bout: Evan Dunham (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) vs. Nik Lentz (21-4 MMA, 5-1-1 UFC) The Las Vegas-based Dunham will have to fight off Lentz’s wrestling to continue his run back to the top of the 155-pound division.
Heavyweight Bout: Mike Russow (14-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) vs. Jon Olav Einemo (7-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) Russow hasn’t lost a fight in five years, while Einemo, who came out of retirement last July, hasn’t won one in six years.
Bantamweight Bout: Johnny Bedford (18-9 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Mitch Gagnon (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Many expected Bedford to win “The Ultimate Fighter” 14, but John Dodson knocked him out in the semifinals of the competition.
Featherweight Bout: Cub Swanson (15-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. George Roop (12-8-1 MMA, 2-4 UFC) Roop was a major underdog in each of his three fights last year, and managed to go 1-2.
Featherweight Bout: Charles Oliveira (14-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) vs. Eric Wisely (19-6 MMA, 0-0 UFC) The 22-year old Oliveira was a can’t-miss prospect at lightweight before dropping two in a row and moving down a weight class.
Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson (9-6 MMA, 1-2 UFC) vs. Shane Roller (10-5 MMA, 1-2 UFC) Six of Roller’s wins are by submission. Five of Johnson’s losses are by submission.
Heavyweight Bout: Joey Beltran (13-6 MMA, 3-3 UFC) vs. Lavar Johnson (15-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) The UFC imported Johnson from Strikeforce, where he had lost two in a row. Beltran has also dropped two straight fights.
Middleweight Bout: Chris Camozzi (15-5 MMA, 2-2 UFC) vs. Dustin Jacoby (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) Camozzi, a wrestler, and Jacoby, a striker, each lost in preliminary card bouts at UFC 137 last October.