As Phil Davis prepares to face off against Linton Vassell at Bellator 200 in London this Friday, he readily admits there are parallels between his game and that of his British counterpart. However, “Mr. Wonderful” believes Vassell’s strengths are qualities that Davis himself possesses to an even greater extent.
“He actually is quite similar,” Davis told Sherdog.com. “In a lot of his matchups, he ends up being ‘the wrestler.’ Even though he’s not a credentialed wrestler, he’s the guy who ends up getting a bunch of takedowns and really presses the action. He’s quite solid all-around; he does a good job in the wrestling department, and his standup is solid.”
While the two men have numerous opponents in common -- Francis Carmont, Emanuel Newton and 205-pound champ Ryan Bader are among them -- as veterans of Bellator MMA’s light heavyweight division, Davis does not depend on those matchups too much for advance scouting.
“Well, Emanuel Newton, he fights a style that is completely different from mine. Bader, he has a comparable style, he’s a wrestler, similar enough style that I might be able to get a few reads off it, but that fight was too short for me to really gauge,” Davis said, referring obliquely to Bader’s second-round TKO of Vassell at Bellator 186. Davis, in contrast, has two competitive split decision losses to Bader, one in his last Ultimate Fighting Championship appearance and one at Bellator 180 in June.
“The best move is, truthfully, just be the best you,” Davis said, “and go in there and face whoever shows up.”
On the topics of Bader, of light heavyweights crossing over to fight the big boys and of being his own best self, Davis is aware of his two-time opponent’s progress in the ongoing Bellator heavyweight grand prix. In addition to heavyweight legends such as Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir, that tournament includes fighters in Bader, Muhammed Lawal and Chael Sonnen, who habitually fight at 205 pounds or below. In spite of the high-profile tournament going on, Davis maintains he was never especially interested in venturing outside of where he feels he is at his best.
“I was never that interested [in entering the grand prix],” Davis said. “I have a good light heavyweight skill set. To be a great fighter at heavyweight, there’s some learning curve. They might be a little slower, but you don’t want to get hit by those guys. Within each [weight] class, there’s a certain flow or a certain skill set you need to be good at. Simply put, I am a much better light heavyweight. There are some guys I can beat at heavyweight, but I am a much better light heavyweight and that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.
“A lot of people don’t truly understand that every single weight class, there are different moves, different techniques, and there’s a certain rhythm and cadence to fighting,” he added. “If you’ve ever watched Demetrious Johnson fight, at those lighter weights, it is a fast tempo. You have to go ‘DJ’ speed; if you can’t go ‘DJ’ speed, you’re in trouble. You have to be extremely active to keep up with him. Even a guy like Jose Aldo, two weight classes higher, he’s extremely quick and extremely fast, but he was the type of champion who liked to sit and wait and then punch, punch, punch combo. It’s not the same constant non-stop speed. People don’t realize that between every weight class there’s so much you have to know and so much you have to change about your own game, and it really helps if you have a fighting style that equips you to do so.”
With an obvious eye towards his own legacy and his own footprints in the sport, Davis wants to entertain at Bellator 200 and in his remaining fights beyond that milestone.
“More than anything, I just want to have the next 10 or 15 fights be the best fights of my career, the ones that end up on highlight reels and so forth,” Davis said. “I want to push the envelope of what I can do and how entertaining I can make the fights.”
For now, he has his eyes fixed on Vassell.
“It can go either way [as long as it’s a good fight],” Davis said. “Sometimes a fight ends in a decision, but you’re like, ‘Oh my God, these guys have just been swinging non-stop for the last 15 minutes, this is an awesome fight,’ and sometimes you get a fight that doesn’t make it out of the first period and it’s an awesome fight. Any combination of the two, I just hope I get a fight where I look back and go, ‘Bellator 200, what a monster fight card, what a great city to have it in, the British fans were great and man I really had a good time that night.’”