This Saturday at UFC 179, emanating from Rio De Janerio, Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis (#6) meets Glover Teixeira (#4) in a light heavyweight bout that will decide who remains a top contender in the division.

Davis is no stranger to the concept of competing in a foreign land; the card marks his third journey to Brazil in two years with previous wins over Wagner Prado and former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. Along with a successful neutralization of a younger Alexander Gustafsson back in 2010 in Abu Dhabi, Davis’ victories abroad suggest he is unlikely to be phased by a hostile crowd or a completely different culture.

In Glover Teixeira, Davis faces arguably his hardest hitting opposition yet. Teixeira’s thirteen knockout and TKO career victories are matched in impressiveness only by a single loss under the UFC banner to the reigning champion Jon Jones.

The bout is a tall order, but the NCAA Division I All-American can reduce his risks by following four essential keys to victory.

I) Stay Out of the Pocket

Teixeira has found significant success in his previous fights when trading shots inside the pocket. It is an environment where he overwhelmed Fabio Maldonado, a former professional boxer with a 22-0 record in his own right, en route to a doctor’s stoppage victory.

Teixeira also demonstrated an ability to withstand punishment in tight and up against the cage in his respective bouts with Jon Jones and Ryan Bader. In the latter case, the protégé of John Hackleman showed formidable composure under pressure, his back literally up against the wall, to land a counterpunch that earned him the win and a title shot.

Davis needs to exploit his superior three inch reach advantage (79” to Teixeira’s 76”) to work strikes from the outside and either pick apart Teixeira on the feet, or to set up a takedown that harks back to Davis’ wrestling pedigree.

II) Circle Away from Teixeira’s power shots

As part of a strategy to avoid any extended close exchange with Teixeira on the feet, Davis must prepare and execute his movement to evade the Brazilians preferred punches.

While the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva have proven the benefits of the jab in establishing distance, Davis must be wary of Teixeira’s cross counter right hand, which he has floated over many an opponent’s jab – including Maldonado and Kyle Kingsbury. The cross’s extended motion, which comes from its movement over the user’s shoulder, gives Davis the opportunity to evade if he can anticipate the move and time his reaction to it.

In addition, Teixeira is also known to favour a left hook that often follows the cross counter right, underscoring Davis’ need to use explosiveness off the feet, adept head movement, and level changes to limit Teixeira’s combinations and dictate the tempo of the fight.

III) Mix Up the Takedowns

For a fighter, the many intricacies of this sport often disturb the balance between being proactive, attentive to the opponent’s actions, and unpredictable.

To an extent, Davis has already embraced the significance of unpredictability in his previous fights. Few thought that he would stand toe to toe with the fluid and dynamic striking of Lyoto Machida at UFC 163. It was Davis’ willingness to do so, combined with selective takedowns, that gave him the victory in the judges’ eyes that night.

As an accomplished wrestler, Davis’ takedown capabilities also become the dominant talking point of his 2011 showdown with another well-renowned Brazilian striker, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, forming an integral part of the fight’s narrative when it finally took place. After struggling on several occasions to secure a double-leg takedown, Davis finally found success with the single leg alternative on his way to a decision victory.

If Davis is looking to take the fight to the ground, this is the kind of versatility Davis must bring to the Octagon from the outset against a man with 75% takedown defense. The more wrestling techniques Davis can utilize, the more likely it is he will be able to take Teixeira off balance.

IV) Respect Glover’s Ground Game

Should Davis succeed in his efforts to take the fight to the ground, he must take care not to let Teixeira get on the top of any grappling exchanges. While Mr. Wonderful is a BJJ purple belt with the distinction of creating his own submission manoeuvre – a one arm kimura over Tim Boesch – Teixeira is a black belt in his own right.

Teixeira has secured submission victories over the likes of Kingsbury, James Te Huna, and three other opponents outside of the UFC. The Brazilian has also showcased his ground and pound capabilities from the top position, where he effectively transitions between hand, forearm, and elbow strikes, to finish several fights over the course of his career, including Marcio Cruz and Ricco Rodriguez.

With a win over Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson indefinitely suspended, now is a time of bountiful opportunity for Phil Davis. Using the right game plan, this Saturday could not only mark a return to winning ways that befits the name Mr. Wonderful, it could be the springboard form which Davis catapults himself into title contention.

About The Author

Aidan O'Connor
Staff Writer

A native of Maidstone, England, Aidan has been covering MMA in a news or feature capacity since 2010. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Aidan also runs the MMAmusing Twitter account and enjoys the sport as an avid enthusiast. A graduate in English and American Studies, he currently works in marketing and public relations.