A Wonderful Pitch

By Danny Acosta Jul 19, 2013
Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis heads into hostile territory on Aug. 3. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Davis insists he has an offer Lyoto Machida cannot refuse.

The 205-pound contenders will square off in the UFC 163 co-main event on Aug. 3 at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Davis sees their forthcoming clash inside the Octagon as excellent source material for an opportunity to work together on the Silver Screen.

“Listen, I’ve already started pitching this as a movie,” Davis told Sherdog.com inside Alliance MMA. “You’ve got the wrestler -- mean, tough guy; he’s from the inner city, OK? You have the foreign karate guy, OK? He’s the new kid in school. He’s from out of town. He just talks funny. Just because he has an accent, everybody is picking on him. Next thing you know, there’s conflict: inner city wrestler, out-of-town karate guy. Who wins? Blah, blah, blah, drama, add a girl in there. Pow! You got a blockbuster.”

The once-defeated 28-year-old rides back-to-back victories into Machida’s home country. “The Dragon” also has won two in a row ahead of the bout, having bested Ryan Bader via second-round knockout and Dan Henderson by split decision since being choked unconscious by light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in December 2011. Davis wants to put a win over a former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder on his resume -- something he failed to do in a unanimous decision loss to Rashad Evans at UFC on Fox 2 a year and a half ago.

“I didn’t have enough time in the gym at that point,” Davis said. “I was good in my own regard, but I didn’t have enough tools at that time to beat someone like Rashad Evans. One thing: I lost, but I didn’t get the crap beat out of me, which is almost not worse.

“I just lost pretty steadily for five rounds,” he added with a laugh.

The matchup with Machida offers “Mr. Wonderful” a chance to conquer a world-ranked foe in hostile territory, all while climbing towards title contention. Davis became intimately familiar with how “bananas” the Brazilian crowd can be after he submitted Wagner Prado with an anaconda choke in October. He declared himself ready for the pro-Machida masses he will encounter once he arrives. Nearly four years into his professional career, Davis thinks he has arrived at a point where he needs to face the sport’s best.

File Photo

Machida last fought in Brazil in 2006.
“You’re never going to be a great fighter until you beat one of those guys,” he said. “I need to be [in there] against that top 10 competition. Now, I’m there. Now, I’m ready to contend with any of those guys.”

How to deal with Machida’s unorthodox style has become one of the notorious talking points in mixed martial arts. Davis kept his pre-fight plans secret, refusing to name names when it came to who would mimic Machida during his training camp. A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Penn State University, “Mr. Wonderful” simply emphasized that he would be fully prepared. He believes his style could prove just as problematic for Machida.

“I will take you down. I will do it. It’s well understood,” Davis said. “Other guys don’t have that. Even if they do have wrestling credentials, they don’t use their takedown in the way that I do. It’s kind of hard to look at tape and say this is what he’s going to do when I get close to him. He might try to run away from the takedown when I get close to him.

“If [takedowns are] not something you don’t already fear, you might want to go watch some tape,” he added. “That’s a reasonable option every time I step in that Octagon. That’s always something you want to put in the back of a guy’s head: I will pick you up, I will slam you on your head and I will embarrass you.”

The Davis-Machida clash could potentially determine the No. 1 contender for 205-pound gold. Jones will defend his light heavyweight crown on Sept. 21, when he meets Alexander Gustafsson, Davis’ stablemate at Alliance MMA. If Gustafsson were to dethrone Jones, Davis has no issues with fighting his teammate for the title. Davis remains the only man to beat “The Mauler,” having submitted the Swede with an anaconda choke in April 2010.

“Nobody’s in this game to be number two,” Davis said. “Everyone wants to have the belt. Everyone wants to win. That’s just the way it is. It’s not something that was hidden and somebody screwed someone over later down the line.”

Davis already has wins over two top 10 light heavyweights -- in addition to Gustafsson, he also defeated Antonio Rogerio Noguiera in March 2011 -- but he concedes a win over a former champion like Machida would be a major feather in his cap.

“Even out of the guys who are former champions, he’s so elusive, so hard to beat,” Davis said. “He’s so dang difficult. He’s a puzzle. That’s a nice notch in your belt. More than anything, I’m just worried about going out there, putting on a great performance and winning.”

How adept is Davis at solving puzzles?

“I’m the puzzle master,” he said. “Every time I finish a puzzle, I glue it together, hang it up on the wall -- it’s a picture.”

Nobody’s in this game to
be number two. Everyone
wants to have the belt.
Everyone wants to win.
That’s just the way it is.

-- Phil Davis, UFC light heavyweight contender

He hopes this picture includes his hand being raised in Brazil.

Listen to Danny Acosta on the “Acosta KO” at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT on Tuesdays on Sirius Fight Club (Sirius 92, XM 208). Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @acostaislegend.


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