Phil Davis entered UFC 153 with some questions that needed answers.
Davis was a mere 25 minutes away from challenging Jon Jones for the UFC title earlier this year, but was thoroughly dominated by Rashad Evans. The loss sent Davis spiraling down the rankings, and he was selected to welcome the talented Brazilian prospect, Wagner Prado, to the UFC. The first meeting between the two ended in controversy, as an eye poke from Davis rendered Prado unable to continue.
There would be no controversy in the rematch.
Davis came out and controlled every aspect of the fight against the Brazilian. He came into the bout knowing he had a big grappling advantage over Prado, and Davis used it. Davis was able to secure a tight anaconda choke in the second round.
The win effectively announced the return of “Mr. Wonderful.” Sure, Prado isn’t what you would call top competition, but outside of the Evans fight, Davis has responded wonderfully when facing upper-level talent. He’s taken out good fighters, such as Alexander Gustafsson, Brian Stann and the durable Tim Boetsch. Davis has also defeated the much renowned veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Davis isn’t a top-five talent at this point in his career, but that’s the type of competition he should be facing. It seems Gustafsson may be earning a title shot if he gets past Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in December, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch to determine a future No. 1 contender. Or if Rua is victorious, Davis could face him as well.
The former Nittany Lion is primed to become a superstar in the UFC. Sure, Jon Jones is the undeniable king at 205 pounds, but eventually he’s going to move up to heavyweight to seek out new challenges. Somebody will need to step up and take the UFC belt; Davis could be that man. The UFC likely wouldn’t complain if Davis were in the title picture.
Davis is a likeable guy who, being a young fighter, is very adept at social media, which is key to getting a fighter’s “brand” out there. Then there’s also Davis’ credentials as a fighter.
A former NCAA Division I wrestling champion at Penn State, Davis is one of the best amateur wrestlers in the UFC right now. His striking game has been improving with each fight, which is no doubt a product of training with the guys at The Alliance gym along with fighters along the West Coast. Davis’ submission game is also evolving due to his training with one of the best grappling coaches in the game today, Lloyd Irvin.
Davis has all the tools and support needed to become a force in the light heavyweight division. It’s just a matter of “Mr. Wonderful” putting everything together and realizing the great potential he has.
Look for Davis to become an important factor in the 205-pound title picture in 2013.
Photo: Phil Davis has his hand raised in victory (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)