Phil Davis (file photo) gutted out a victory against a tough veteran in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. | Sherdog.com
It was not the spectacular, jaw-dropping coming-out party for which many had hoped, but Phil Davis nevertheless toppled respected Brazilian Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 24 main event on Saturday at the KeyArena in Seattle.
The three-round affair shed light on how far “Mr. Wonderful” has come and how far he has left to go. A fantastic wrestler and superior athlete, he failed to secure a takedown against Nogueira in the first round, and though he threw kicks liberally and without reservation, the 26-year-old Harrisburg, Pa., native remains a work in progress on the feet. That said, the fight also showcased Davis’ ability and willingness to adapt on the fly, as he switched from a double- to a single-leg takedown attack in rounds two and three, finding success in doing so.
Comparisons to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones are inevitable but unfair. Davis is not yet what Jones has become. Nine fights into his professional career, he has plenty of loose ends left to tie up before he can be considered a legitimate championship contender at 205 pounds. Perhaps now he can proceed with less astronomical expectations hanging above him.
A closer look at four matches we want to see after UFC Fight Night 24 “Nogueira vs. Davis” follows:
Phil Davis vs. Forrest Griffin: His encounter with Nogueira may have exposed holes in his game, but Davis deserves to go as far as his considerable abilities will take him. Some foresee a blockbuster 2012 title bout with Jones, who has harnessed his otherworldly skills with frightening speed. First, Davis needs more seasoning against top-flight competition, and Griffin could provide another stern litmus test for the 2008 NCAA wrestling champion. Griffin returned from shoulder surgery in February to best former middleweight king Rich Franklin at UFC 126. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner held the 205-pound belt for nearly six months in 2008 and has proven his considerable worth in victories over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. His size, experience and well-rounded skill set would provide a serious challenge for the still-green Davis.
Anthony Johnson vs. Carlos Condit: Seemingly always on the cusp of stardom, Johnson left former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy in his wake in the UFC Fight Night 24 co-headliner. The lopsided win sets up the gifted but inconsistent Georgian for another run at the divisional elite. Johnson failed in his first such bid, as he succumbed to a rear-naked choke from Josh Koscheck at UFC 106 in November and then missed more than a year with a knee injury. Condit, who is openly campaigning for a fight at UFC 132 in July, needs a viable dance partner. A matchup with the unbeaten Dong Hyun Kim has been rumored, but if that fight should fail to materialize, Johnson would certainly fit the bill.
Amir Sadollah vs. Duane Ludwig: They were originally slated to collide at UFC Fight Night 24, but an injury forced Ludwig to withdraw and left Sadollah to face DaMarques Johnson. Sadollah had little trouble dispatching “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 finalist inside two rounds, as he wore down Johnson with his relentless standup attack and struck him into submission on the ground with a series of brutal elbows.
The Sadollah-Ludwig showdown made sense when it was first booked, and it makes even more sense now. A feared striker with a wealth of experience, Ludwig can test Sadollah where the Brooklyn, N.Y., native is at his best. For all the grief he takes for his quirky personality, Sadollah has developed into a quality competitor at 170 pounds, despite losses to Kim and two-time NCAA wrestling champion Johny Hendricks. Plus, few would argue that Sadollah’s work ethic is second to none.
Chan Sung Jung vs. Tiequan Zhang: Jung raised more than a few eyebrows and lifted his stock considerably in The Emerald City, as he submitted former WEC title contender Leonard Garcia and became the first man ever to finish a UFC fight with a twister. The South Korean has enjoyed developed a loyal following stateside for his willingness to throw caution to the wind, a willingness that was best exemplified in his first encounter with Garcia 11 months ago. That ended in a controversial split decision defeat; their rematch was far less competitive. Zhang, meanwhile, needed just 48 seconds to dispatch Wand Fight Team representative Jason Reinhardt in his promotional debut at UFC 127 in February, as he snatched a violent guillotine choke at the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. In his last 13 appearances, the 32-year-old Chinese import has sandwiched 12 first-round finishes around a unanimous decision defeat to Duke Roufus protégé Daniel Downes. If it is validation he seeks, Zhang could find it in Jung.
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