The Match Up:
It's been a rough road back since losing a dreary five-round main event on Fox to Rashad Evans, but Phil Davis remains one of the most talented fighters in the light heavyweight division. Gifted with world-class wrestling and an evolving stand up game, and an NFL-level physique, Davis' case of freezing on stage against Evans was a good learning experience, especially going the championship distance. Pitted against upstart Wagner Prado at UFC 153 later tonight (Oct. 13, 2012) at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, "Mr. Wonderful" has the same foe for the second time in a row, after their first bout in August ended with an anticlimactic eye poke to Prado scuttled the match.
Prado should look to seize the momentum early and nail Davis with shots, especially as Davis tends drop his hands somewhat while stepping in to deliver his own. Davis can tend to get away with slight technical mistakes because of his brilliantly quick takedown shots and numbing wrestling, which is always a nice fallback plan. On the mat, Davis' ability to combine positional top work with clever submissions is a real meditation on what a top-level wrestler can do with a cerebral approach to jiu-jitsu, as opposed to a purely defensive one.
Tape on Prado doesn't suggest a lot he can do to win this one, outside of landing a huge shot early and pouncing on Davis to finish the job. Phil's still too good a wrestler and his standup game is improving, especially with his heavy leg kicks, a tool he didn't use enough against Evans for fear of being taken down. However, there are no such worries with Prado, who lacks the wrestling and the grappling pedigree to keep from getting planted. Look for Davis to feel the situation out in the first round, score a late takedown in the round, and steadily work Prado over. He'll repeat this in the second and third round en route to a one-sided if somewhat unspectacular decision win.
Davis via unanimous decision
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card bouts on fight night (Sat., Oct. 13, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:45 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" match-ups on Facebook and FX.
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.