UFC 172 ‘Jones vs. Teixeira’ Preview

Davis vs. Johnson

By Tristen Critchfield Apr 23, 2014
Phil Davis will enter the cage on a three fight winning streak. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com

Light Heavyweights

Phil Davis (12-1, 8-1 UFC) vs. Anthony Johnson (16-4, 7-4 UFC)

The Matchup: Johnson returns to the Octagon for the first time since UFC 142, where he came in embarrassingly overweight for a middleweight clash with Vitor Belfort. In that bout, Johnson gassed badly and was submitted by “The Phenom” in the opening stanza. While the massive size advantages he held at 185 and 170 pounds were nice in theory, “Rumble” has since seen the light and is now competing at a far more reasonable 205 pounds; and for every foe Johnson overwhelmed physically during his first promotional tenure, there were other instances where he fatigued halfway through the bout.

Now the owner of a six-fight winning streak outside the UFC, Johnson appears to have lost none of his power at the heavier weight class, as most of his victories have occurred via knockout or technical knockout. Considering that the light heavyweight division has been lacking for new contenders, Johnson is a welcome addition. However, Davis could prove to be a rough matchup for the Blackzilians representative.

A former All-American and national champion wrestler at Penn State University, Davis should have a significant advantage in grappling exchanges with his opponent. While Johnson was a junior college All-American, his takedown rate -- 3.17 per 15 minutes, according to FightMetric.com -- is somewhat misleading because it came against significantly smaller opposition. Davis, with his ability to transition to a variety of takedown techniques on the fly, is clearly the superior wrestler.

The greatest concern for “Mr. Wonderful” will be Johnson’s knockout power. The World Series of Fighting veteran attacks with heavy power punches and head kicks, and he is equally comfortable being the aggressor or countering an impatient adversary’s forward movement. Like Johnson, Davis is a rangy, skilled kicker, though not nearly the knockout artist.

Even without a draining weight cut to endure, Johnson is still most dangerous in the first round. Davis’ ability to make him work by defending takedowns and clinches will gradually reduce his effectiveness.

The Pick: Eventually, Davis is going to be able to get Johnson down. From there, it is just a matter of whether he finishes the fight via submission or grinds out a victory. Davis wins by decision.

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