Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Anthony Johnson and Phil Davis went to war in the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event of UFC 172 from Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.
"Rumble" was making his awaited return to UFC after he missed weight three times attempting to make both welterweight and middleweight. Johnson had won his last six mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts in smaller promotions like World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and Titan FC, scoring four knockout finishes in that span.
No. 4-ranked Davis was last seen winning a controversial decision over current UFC middleweight title challenger Lyoto Machida. After talking a ton of trash about light heavyweight champion Jon Jones heading into this bout. "Mr. Wonderful" was looking to prove he deserved a shot at "Bones."
He may have been looking past "Rumble" just a bit, as Davis ended up losing a rather dominant decision to a seemingly re-invented Johnson. Let's take a look back at his triumphant return performance from Baltimore.
The fight started with "Rumble" controlling the Octagon. Davis threw some glancing strikes and clinched very quickly, breaking to throw several feints. Johnson unleashed a big uppercut, but Davis tagged him with a good straight right. Johnson slapped a hard leg kick on "Mr. Wonderful," following with another combo of uppercuts.
He landed some more big shots; ragdolling Davis on the ground to throw some ground and pound. Davis was in big trouble, bleeding from his left eye. Davis missed a takedown, absorbing a huge low kick. "Rumble" was calm and confident on the feet, absolutely dictating the pace and pushing forward with a massive punch. Davis threw a head kick at the end of the first, but he was clearly behind on the scorecards.
The second round saw more of the same from "Rumble," as he landed a good straight by staying out of the way of Davis' kicks. The range was in Johnson's favor, and he grabbed a Davis kick to unleash one of his trademark high kicks. He landed another uppercut and then a combo ending with a head kick. "Rumble" scored an overhand right and more stiff jabs, but Davis fought back with a Superman punch. Johnson countered a Davis kick with some snapping shots, sprawling a Davis takedown to close out the second round.
Johnson landed a good body shot to start the last round. He slapped away Davis' punches with ease, peppering "Mr. Wonderful" with his jabs and a big right hook. He sprawled another takedown to land some subsequent shots, looking as fresh as he was at the opening bell.
Davis pushed the action up against the fence, but "Rumble" responded with a knee to the body. He landed some more big shots and a front kick, continuing to push the pace. Johnson refused to be taken down as the fight's final minute began. The fighters swung wildly in the final seconds, and Davis went for a kimura to no avail as the bell sounded.
"Rumble" scored a clear-cut unanimous decision, earning the biggest win of his lengthy MMA career in the process. He looked in by far the best shape of his UFC stint, showing absolutely no ill effects of the taxing weight cuts he once unnecessarily put his body through. In beating a highly ranked challenger in "Mr. Wonderful," Johnson immediately cements himself as a true title contender in the suddenly stacked UFC light heavyweight division.
There aren't too many opponents that could potentially have an easy time with "Rumble," but many of the top light heavyweights are currently booked. A fight against Glover Teixeira, who lost to champion Jon Jones in UFC 172's main event, would be an excellent gauge of where "Rumble" is truly at in terms of legitimate title contention, but that will all hinge on Teixeira's health.
If he can't go when "Rumble" returns, then the winner of UFC 173's Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson could make for an exciting opponent for him to decide the next challenger for the winner of the Jones vs. Gustafsson rematch.
The loss is an extremely devastating one for Davis. He ran his mouth heavily heading into this bout, but not much of it focused on Johnson. That came back to haunt him, and he'll experience a sharp drop down the rankings for it.
He's still a tough out for the majority of light heavyweights in UFC; he just continues to lose the big fight when he's set to rise to a new height. That trend obviously can't continue of he wants to be considered a true top competitor.
A bout against Manuwa or the loser of Cormier vs. Henderson would be a good match-up for Davis.
Anthony Johnson "Rumbled" back onto the UFC scene with a huge upset victory over Phil Davis. Just how close is the former welterweight to a shot at 205-pound gold?