Last August in Brazil, in the midst of cascading boos and looks of astonishment among the faces of fans, Phil Davis had his hand raised after defeating Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision in the co-main event of UFC 163.
Close fights that end in decision are always subject to harsh criticism by pundits, as well as the fans, and many were screaming that Machida had been robbed of a win that night in Rio de Janeiro. A big reason for that sentiment among those who watched on television -- in the eyes of Davisv--vwas due to Brian Stann's commentary.
If you were watching that night, you know Stann was of the opinion that Machida was the clear victor.
"I love Brian Stann. I've worked with him, just doing little things here and there, appearances... He's an awesome guy," Davis told MMAmania.com. "Sometimes, when you are commentating a fight... I don't even think he was rooting for Machida. I don't even think that was the case. He's 100 percent an honest guy and he was just talking and giving his description of the fight. He really kind of threw a bias on the fan's perception if they were watching at home."
"Having said that, I'm a fighter," he continued. "I like to watch the fights with and without sound. Especially when I watch my buddies fight, I have to watch it objectively. If I know it's going to be a tough fight, I have to watch with the sound off to know who won. I need to be focused on what I see and not what I hear."
He brings up a very interesting point, and turning off the sound while watching a fight is something that many of us haven't done. Commentary combined with the crowd noises and reaction can definitely sway anyone's opinion. As far as those people who still feel the now 12-1 (1) fighter didn't deserve the victory, Davis gives his argument with conviction.
"Here's the thing. When people say ‘Machida won that fight,' I say name something he did -- other than one flurry -- name something memorable that he did, and they can't come up with much," he said.
It has taken the UFC over six months to find him his next opponent since defeating Machida at UFC 163, but "Mr. Wonderful" can now set his sights on UFC 172 on April 26, 2014, in Baltimore, Maryland, and begin making his preparations for the returning Anthony Johnson.
"I'm excited," Davis said. "I'm glad I finally have a fight I can post on Twitter about. I'm ready to get back in the Octagon and keep making my case for a title shot."
Proving you deserve a crack at a UFC title is usually two-fold. Obviously you have to win, but more importantly, in order to impress the boss, UFC President Dana White, finishing your opponent is usually paramount to placing yourself on the best avenue toward fighting for gold.
Davis is currently ranked fourth atop the UFC light heavyweight rankings (see them here) and is riding a three-fight winning streak, but he isn't exactly sure what it is that will get him a fight against the UFC's 205-pound king, Jon Jones.
In fact, the Team Alliance fighter thinks he may be fighting Glover Teixeira for an interim title at UFC 172, due largely to his feeling that Jones is "not going to make it to the fight."
"Well, here's what I think. I don't know exactly what will get you the title shot," Davis admitted. "I'll tell you what, if Jones pulls out of this fight, I'm fighting Glover Teixeira for an interim title and that's that. Hands down, you can start printing the posters now."
"I don't know if he's going to get injured or anything... I don't wish any harm on the guy. I just don't think he is going to make it to the fight," he continued. "Having said that, when that happens, I want to fight Glover Teixeira, because he's the guy and he's the number one contender and I pick tough fights, that's what I do. If that doesn't happen and Jones makes it to the fight, we fight the same night. I fight Anthony Johnson and everyone goes home happy."
Stranger things have happened, so if Jones for some reason doesn't make it to UFC 172, Davis won't exactly become
Nostradumbass Nostradamus, but since his match-up is with Johnson, we will stay on course. After being released from the UFC over two years ago for repeatedly failing to make weight as a welterweight -- in addition to his lone loss at middleweight -- "Rumble" has won sixth straight fights; four of those wins coming by way of knockout.
According to "Mr. Wonderful," that was pretty much how he envisioned Johnson's path back to the UFC.
"I expected that," Davis said. "That's what he was doing inside the UFC. So anytime you get a guy like that who's a hammer in the UFC, who's outside the UFC... He's quality. He's a quality fighter. He's a tough UFC guy. I expect him to be dropping fools outside the UFC and he did, so no surprises there."
The collegiate wrestling phenom out of Penn State has found most of his success in the UFC by utilizing his grappling skills. He has three submission victories and one "Submission of the Night" bonus. Johnson is easily one of the biggest 205-pounders he will ever have to face. The former welterweight scale tipper was a junior college national champion, but he prefers to stand and trade with his opponents and more than likely won't be easy for Davis to take down.
Davis is steadfast that his wrestling "is not something that can be nullified," no matter who his opponent is.
"If you have expert level jiu-jitsu, that doesn't stop wrestling," he explained. "If you have good hands or good kicks, that doesn't stop wrestling. Even if you are a good wrestler, that doesn't mean I won't take you down. That doesn't mean you can't be out-wrestled."
Further helping his cause will be the new Team Alliance head grappling coach, Neil Melanson. "His style is awesome," Davis said. "He's ‘The Ground Marshal' as they say. He used to be an Air Marshal, now he's a ground marshal."
"It's great having a big training partner," he continued. "Sometimes big guys are like few and far between. They are so hard to find. Just having a big guy to roll with and just for cage work and takedowns and all these odd positions you encounter in MMA, it's good to have a guy... I mean, he's way bigger than me. It's good to have a big body I can move around."
Having fought before at heavyweight, Johnson certainly fits under the criteria of big, so training with Melanson may end up paying dividends. Should he be victorious at UFC 172, Davis would definitely move closer to a title shot. That is something his friend and teammate, Dominick Cruz is now working toward also, after being stripped of his bantamweight title from suffering yet another injury.
Davis shared a recent conversation between the two of them.
"I just told him, I said ‘Hey dude I'm praying for you. Get well.' He was just like ‘Hey thanks I appreciate it.' That was pretty much it," he said. "I know he's been getting hit up a lot and all that stuff. Dominick is a workhorse and I know he is just devastated. I really tried to keep it brief and let him know everything that he needed to hear. He's a competitor and he's a champion. These type of things will really set a guy back, but he will be fine."
There were once two titles at Team Alliance, but now there are none. Cruz will likely get back to a title fight after one victory upon his return. Michael Chandler faces Eddie Alvarez in the upcoming season of Bellator for the lightweight title he lost back in November. Lastly, Team Alliance's other light heavyweight, Alexander Gustafsson, is currently ranked second in the UFC rankings and is set to face Jimi Manuwa.
Should he win, many are clamoring for a rematch against Jon Jones after their epic clash at UFC 165, in a fight Davis said, "I don't know how he lost."
Then there's the UFC 170 showdown between Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier, one that could add some murkiness to the 205-pound title picture, as well. Davis will likely need a finishing performance over Johnson to "continue to make his case" as he said, to stand out from the rest of the pack.
An American Cancer Society supporter, Davis will once again be donning his trademark fight shorts that he has worn in all but one of his fights, and the six-year veteran is as confident that he will defeat Johnson, as his shorts are the color pink.
"I don't see anything stopping this fight from going my way."