Rashad Evans had two key goals in his UFC on Fox 2 headlining bout against Phil Davis last night (Jan. 28, 2012), at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois: Win decisively and don't get injured to preserve his rightful title shot.
Davis entered the fight with significantly less experience in mixed martial arts (MMA) than Evans, but also with much higher collegiate wrestling credentials, even winning a national championship for Penn State University in 2008.
So why did he find himself repeatedly put on his back throughout the five round affair? And what's next for both talented light heavyweights?
Follow me after the jump for our Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis UFC on FOX 2 post-fight review and analysis:
Early on, Phil Davis looked strong, controlling most of the action in the stand-up as Evans sized him up, trying to figure him out. With Evans focused more on gauging distance, Davis was able to attack rather efficiently, throwing some crisp kicks and putting some decent pressure on the former champion with some improved punches.
That was, until Evans got "Mr. Wonderful's" timing down, caught a leg kick, took him to the canvas and started blasting him with punches from the crucifix.
Davis' confidence in his kicks after that, perhaps his only real advantage over Evans in his MMA skill-set, was decimated after that first round. It seemed like "Suga" was able to catch Davis' kicks about 25 percent of the time he threw them and in the fourth round, he even checked one so badly that "Mr. Wonderful's" kicking leg began to bleed profusely out of his shin.
While Evans didn't light up his opponent in the stand-up exchanges, he clearly began to get comfortable with his punching, landing some nice flurries during random spots in the bout, although he never got so aggressive that he gave Davis anything to really work with.
In the end, Davis simply didn't have enough to challenge Evans as he lost every round on all three judges' scorecards with a 50-45 unanimous decision.
For Phil Davis, this was simply too much, too soon for the former national champion wrestler. He's still got a ton of talent, as evidenced by his improved striking, but this was a fight he shouldn't have waited one more year before accepting. He still need time to catch up to the elite in the division with his overall skills before he can present a legitimate threat to the title. The potential is still there, and the fact that he never gave up speaks volumes for his mental fortitude.
As long as Davis continues to round out his game and shore up his technique, he'll be an elite 205-pounder someday. I'd like to see him given a top level veteran opponent also coming off a loss who would still be beatable, someone like Forrest Griffin, Rich Franklin or Vladimir Matyushenko.
For Rashad Evans, despite putting on a dominant show, it wasn't the most crowd pleasing performance. He was patient almost to a fault and the brief explosions of violence didn't make up for much of the posturing. He did what he had to do, however, and showed some marked improvements in key areas. The first was his movement. He finally stopped that herky-jerky head movement in his stand-up which featured a ton of wasted body motion and likely contributed to him gassing in the third round of several fights. He also went past the third round for the first time in his career and looked strong doing it. He wasn't bouncing around like he was before the fight started, but his conditioning was on point.
It's obvious who's he's fighting next, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at the UFC 145 event in Atlanta. While there was a ton of buzz surrounding this fight, Jon Jones didn't do much to sell it last night with his ho-hum appearance in the broadcast booth and his choice to stay there instead of confront Evans in the cage ruined a potential verbal sparring match which would have hyped up some fans to see the future pay-per-view.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did Rashad Evans' 50-45 sweep across the boards against Phil Davis make you a believer he can beat Jon Jones? Does Phil Davis still have the potential to be an elite light heavyweight?