Phil Davis (file photo) used an effective kicking game at UFC Fight Night 24. | Sherdog.com
Few sports move as fast as mixed martial arts. Last week, fight fans were eager to find out whether Jon Jones could be the next Georges St. Pierre. This week, the focus turned to Phil Davis and whether or not he might be the man to challenge “Jonny Bones” later this year.
A combination of five weeks’ notice and a glut of injuries in preparation -- as well as facing the strongest and most experienced opponent of his young career -- resulted in a workmanlike and unspectacular decision from “Mr. Wonderful” against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Below, an in-depth look at Davis-Nogueira and three other main card matches from Saturdays UFC Fight Night 24.
Chan Sung Jung def. Leonard Garcia -- Submission (Twister) 4:59 R2
What happened: Despite taking the fight on just 10 days’ notice, this fight was all “Korean Zombie” from the opening bell.
Already familiar with Garcia’s game from their critically acclaimed first encounter in April 2010, Jung did a good job of sidestepping his opponent’s telegraphed punches and kicks in the early going. With 100 seconds to go in the round, Jung hit an easy leg-trip takedown and looked for an armbar. Garcia spun free, only to be dropped back down by a pair of knees from the clinch. Jung ended the round in mount, raining down punches.
The second stanza began slowly, with a display of cage kickboxing highlighted by flying knees from both fighters. The beginning of the end for Garcia came when he and Jung exchanged simultaneous kicks, with Jung landing better and Garcia going down. Same as in the first round, the Korean Zombie instantly took top position and did damage with cracking elbow strikes.
Just when round three seemed inevitable, Jung took Garcia’s back, isolated one leg and arm, and submitted the “Bad Boy” with a spinal lock -- also known as a “twister,” as popularized by Eddie Bravo.
What worked well for Jung: Stability, reactivity, creativity.
What Jung needs to work on: Protecting his chin, adding some bulk.
What worked well for Garcia: Heart, robustness.
What Garcia needs to work on: Striking technique, game planning, consistency.
Amir Sadollah def. DaMarques Johnson -- Submission (Elbows) 3:27 R2
What happened: In another fight patched together on short notice, things did not go as well for late replacement DaMarques Johnson as they did for Chan Sung Jung.
In the early going, Johnson was able to capitalize on some of the mistakes Sadollah made. The “Ultimate Fighter 9” runner-up managed to get on top when Sadollah slipped on a head kick, and Johnson got another takedown after catching one of Sadollah’s front kicks. A nice hip throw should have clinched the round for Johnson, who did well on the takedowns but could not control Sadollah on the mat.
Round two started with one of the better slugfests in recent memory. Although Johnson was the more skilled boxer of the two, Sadollah got the better of the exchange with his wide array of kicks and knee strikes from the clinch. A few knees to the body appeared to sap much of Johnson’s energy, and Sadollah proceeded to pin his opponent against the cage and mash away. With two minutes left in the round, Sadollah scored a leg-sweep takedown straight into mount. From there, he tied up the visibly tired Johnson’s arm and forced him to submit with a series of elbow strikes to the head.
What worked well for Sadollah: Knees from every distance, conditioning.
What Sadollah needs to work on: Wrestling, timing his kicks.
What worked well for Johnson: Capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes, throws.
What Johnson needs to work on: Top control, not fighting his opponent’s fight.
Anthony Johnson def. Dan Hardy -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: This fight was almost a blueprint of last week’s 205-pound title bout between Jon Jones and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The only differences were that Johnson does not have Jones’ toolbox and Hardy came into the fight in better shape than Rua.
Johnson’s wrestling, reach advantage and sheer physical dominance were crucial in this fight. After a 14-month layoff and some well-documented weight problems, there were a lot of question marks behind “Rumble” going into the fight, but he erased those with a disciplined showing.
All three rounds shared a similar pattern: Hardy had trouble closing the distance against Johnson’s four-inch reach advantage, and thus, the Englishman started his attacks from too far out. Johnson then took Hardy down with relative ease and stayed active enough in top position to not be stood up.
Hardy attempted several kimuras off his back, but did not come close to pulling the submission off. Johnson, meanwhile, had two highlights in his otherwise conservative game plan: a first-round head kick which knocked Hardy down and an arm-triangle choke attempt in the final minute of the third round.
What worked well for Johnson: Takedowns, top game, reach advantage.
What Johnson needs to work on: Conditioning, doing more damage on the ground.
What worked well for Hardy: Durability, submission defense.
What Hardy needs to work on: Wrestling, wrestling, wrestling.
Phil Davis def. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: The game plan coming into the fight was for Davis to mix his wrestling and kicks to offset Nogueira’s supposed advantages in the boxing and jiu-jitsu departments. However, “Minotoro” only reacted to attacks for the majority of the fight, seeking not to strike first, but to catch Davis with a hook or an uppercut on the counter.
Davis smartly used his solid kicks as separators, so “Little Nog” seldomly got into striking distance. What worked very well for the Brazilian in the first half of the fight was his defense of the four-time NCAA Div. I All-American wrestler’s shot. “Mr. Wonderful” did a good job adjusting, however, as he switched from double- to single-leg takedown attempts to finally wrestle Nogueira to the mat with two minutes to go in the second round.
Once on the floor, Davis did damage from the gut-wrench position with brutal knee strikes to the ribcage. In the final round, it appeared as if Davis had perhaps a little too much respect for Nogueira’s vaunted ground game, as the 26-year-old mainly controlled Nogueira from half-guard en route to the decision victory.
What worked well for Davis: Separator kicks, single-leg takedown, attacks from gut-wrench position.
What Davis needs to work on: Ignore comparisons to Jon Jones and continue to go his own way.
What worked well for Nogueira: Takedown defense, pushing his opponent off and getting up.
What Nogueira needs to work on: Fight more proactively and aggressively.
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