Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Everybody's a critic.
No one knows this better than light heavyweight blue chip prospect Phil Davis. The NCAA Division I wrestling champion largely had his way with grizzled veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Fight Night 24 on March 26 and yet, the criticism he faced increased twofold.
Perhaps it was due to his career path sharing a few characteristics with that of current division champion Jon Jones. After all, if you're compared to the biggest shark in the water, you better be swallowing opponents whole.
In MMA, that means definitively finishing your opposition, or at least that's the sentiment shared by the majority of the sport's fanbase. Hence, the issues so many have with Davis coming out of his bout against "Lil' Nog."
But is that fair? Should he really be subjected to the expectations we have for the fighters occupying the space at the top of the division, even if he has yet to break into that upper echelon?
Davis tells MMAFighting.com that no matter what he does, the majority will nit-pick his performances simply due to the high level of fighters within his weight class.
"You'll have (criticsim), no matter what you do, you'll still have a little bit of that. It just comes with the territory of being in the UFC with other great talent where guys beat the crap out of guys. You've got your Rampage, your Shogun's and Jon Jones and all these great guys that finish people and if you're a really tough guy that can't finish people then you seem like your less of a person, and for the most part, yeah. Those guys are up here and I'm not there yet. ... The fact that I took the (Nogueira) fight on short notice against a guy who's a really good boxer and was able to stay out of most of his dangerous strikes and do some effective striking of my own, that's pretty good. He stopped some takedowns but wrestling is what I do and he couldn't stop all of them. So it's kind of like, who won and who lost? You know what I mean? I get confused like ... what did you expect to happen?"
Although Davis outright admits he's not yet on the level of the three former champions he mentioned, Jon Jones, "Shogun" Rua and "Rampage" Jackson, he is undefeated at 9-0 and has looked nearly unstoppable throughout his Octagon run.
Sure, he struggled in the opening minutes of the Nogueira fight but he recovered and dominated the later rounds. That is to say, he thoroughly controlled one of the top fighters in the 205-pound division.
Still, he's facing critics that care not for his strong wrestling and improving striking; they simply see his hit or miss rate of finishes and assume he's not on the same level of the top dogs.
But is that true? Do fighters need to smash everyone in their path, a la "Bones" Jones, to get consideration as one of the best?
Let's hear your thoughts, Maniacs.