Phil Davis is on the hunt for Bellator MMA gold again.
The former light heavyweight champion will look to climb back into title contention when he meets Linton Vassell at Bellator 200 on Friday at the SSE Arena in London. Interestingly enough, Davis and Vassell share common victims in Emanuel Newton, Francis Carmont and Liam McGeary. Time will tell how they fare against one another.
Ahead of Davis’ latest outing, here are five moments that have come to define him:
1. Breaking out the Anaconda
When Davis faced Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 112 on April 10, 2010, it felt like a preview of the future. Both men entered the cage undefeated. However, the fight ended inside the first round, with Davis submitting the Swede via anaconda choke. “Phil Davis took his soul, took his heart [and] took his will to fight away in under five minutes,” then-contender Jon Jones said.
2. Taking Names
In his fourth Ultimate Fighting Championship appearance, Davis squared off with Tim Boetsch at UFC 123 on Nov. 20, 2010. He finished “The Barbarian” with a unique one-handed kimura that had never before been executed inside the Octagon. UFC commentator Joe Rogan dubbed the maneuver “The Mr. Wonderful” during his post-fight interview with Davis, who was awarded a “Submission of the Night” bonus for his efforts.
3. On the Marquee
After he defeated Boetsch, Davis found himself in the UFC Fight Night 24 main event against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on March 26, 2011. He did not disappoint, despite agreeing to face Nogueira on just six weeks’ notice. Davis outpointed “Minotoro” across three rounds, improved to 9-0 and showed he belonged in the upper tier of the light heavyweight division. He went on to challenge Rashad Evans in a 205-pound title eliminator in January 2012, losing a unanimous verdict.
4. Dictating Terms
UFC 159 on April 27, 2013, featured two of the finest grapplers in the sport, as Davis locked horns with decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner Vinny Magalhaes. A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Penn State University, Davis used his skills to keep the fight standing. It was not the most entertaining fight on record, but “Mr. Wonderful” showed improved striking through basic but effective combinations. More importantly, Davis made certain Magalhaes could not engage him on the ground.
5. Striking Gold
Davis failed to secure a title fight during his five-year run in the UFC. When he signed with Bellator, he made sure he would not suffer the same fate. Davis entered a four-man tournament at Bellator 142 on Sept. 19, 2015 and kicked off the competition by submitting Newton with a kimura in the semifinals. He expected to face Muhammed Lawal in the final, but the latter was forced to withdraw with a rib injury. Instead, Davis squared off with Carmont and knocked out the Tristar Gym-trained alternate in a little more than two minutes. The victory was supposed to set the stage for a title fight between Davis and McGeary. However, the promotion deemed it necessary to pair “Mr. Wonderful” with Lawal first and did so at Bellator 154 on May 14, 2016. Davis took a unanimous decision from “King Mo” and went on to his date with the McGeary six months later, claiming the undisputed Bellator light heavyweight championship with a unanimous verdict.