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Eventually, many, if not all, settled on Phil Davis, an up-and-coming wrestler with an undefeated record and a growing arsenal of skills that may not yet match the champion's, but are certainly on par with any of the other options currently at 205-pounds.
"Mr. Wonderful" faced his biggest test last night (March 26) at UFC Fight Night 24 in Seattle against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, in a fight that he was heavily favored to win and would likely serve as an indicator, at least in the minds of fans, as to how he would do against Jones.
The answer? Probably not so good.
That's because, although he defeated "Lil' Nog" via unanimous decision, he didn't look like the world-beating crusher Jones did when he took the strap off "Shogun."
Is it fair to compare the two so early in the development of both their careers? That's up for debate but Davis is saying all the right things, as evidenced by his words at the post-fight press conference last night:
"Pretty much everyone I've ever fought has had more experience than I have in fighting. So just going through four fights in one year in the UFC has put me in a place where everyone is a lot more experienced than I am, so I just need to make sure I'm giving myself enough time to develop as a fighter. Listen, if Dana says fight 'em, I fight 'em. If he says get 'em, I got 'em. If he don't say get 'em, I don't got 'em. ... I'm not annoyed at all (by questions about Jon Jones). I like that people bring me up when Jon Jones comes up. You just have to make sure that you let people know that...I don't want to be walking in his shadow. Then people have the same expectations for me as they have for him. We have different styles. He's his own fighter and I'm my own."
Essentially, Davis is saying he'll fight whoever the UFC wants him to fight but he makes it clear he's cognizant of the fact that he needs to develop as a fighter before being rushed into anything.
That would include a title fight against Jones, who has shown at every turn that he's a freak of nature.
And it's perhaps because of that, that Phil doesn't want anyone to mistake the two as being the same fighter because they very clearly are not. Expectations are difficult to overcome, and while Jones has already reached the pinnacle of the sport, Davis still has a ways to go to even think of it.
But can he ever get there? How many more fights does Davis need before he's in the hunt for a title shot? And who should he fight next in his climb up the ranks of the light heavyweight division?