Two of the most talented light heavyweight grapplers in all of mixed martial arts (MMA) will battle for supremacy this Saturday night (April 27, 2013) as former national champion wrestler Phil Davis takes on recent ADCC submission grappling gold medal winner Vinny Magalhaes on the UFC 159 main card in Newark, New Jersey.
Davis has long been considered one of the best prospects in the light heavyweight division, but his talents were wasted the last year with a pair of fights against the incredibly overmatched Wagner Prado. He'll finally get back to taking on fighters at or around his level when he takes on Magalhaes.
Magalhaes has made the most of his second stint inside the Octagon, dominating Igor Pokrajac and immediately setting himself up for a fight against a top 10 opponent. He'll try to move his winning streak to seven straight this weekend.
Record: 10-1 (1 no contest) overall, 6-1 (1 no contest) in the UFC
Key Wins: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (UFC Fight Night 24), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 112), Tim Boetsch (UFC 123)
Key Losses: Rashad Evans (UFC on Fox 2)
How he got here: Phil Davis was a very successful wrestler at Penn State, competing in the 197 pounds where he was a four-time All-American and the 2008 NCAA Division I national champion. When his college career was over, Davis immediately transitioned into mixed martial arts.
After just four fights, "Mr. Wonderful" was signed by UFC and thrown in against former WEC light heavyweight champion Brian Stann in his debut with the promotion and was able to utilize those wrestling skills to dominate the Scranton native.
Davis followed up his victory with a string of impressive performances including two submissions over Alexander Gustafsson and Tim Boetch as well as a decision victory against Rodney Wallace. The Boetsch submission in particular was impressive as he used a hybrid move he got to name after himself.
The Alliance MMA fighter stepped up in competition against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and made the proper adjustments on the fly , scoring a unanimous decision victory over the Pride veteran. After an extended layoff, he took on top contender Rashad Evans in his most high profile test to date, but came up short after being forced to stand and trade for five rounds, losing for the first time in his career.
His comeback fight against Wagner Prado didn't go as expected, landing an incidental eye poke and resulting in a first round no contest. In the rescheduled bout, David made quick work of the Brazilian, dominating him with his superior wrestling and forcing a second round submission.
Now, he'll be taking on a much more credible threat on the canvas in the elite grappler Magalhaes.
How he gets it done: Davis is incredible at completely dominating opponents once he gets them to the canvas, mixing up hip pressure, smothering top control, guard passing, brief ground and pound and submission attempts.
That won't be quite as easy this time around against one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu players on the planet.
While I haven't been that impressed with Davis' striking yet, I'd like to see him try it out for a bit on the feet, particularly his kicks. If he can land some heavy leg and body kicks, he could set up an unexpected head kick and do some serious damage.
If he feels confident enough in his abilities, he should then take the fight to the ground and do his best to create as little space for Magalhaes to work as possible. Controlling the Brazilian's hips will be very important for keeping from being swept and submitted. If he can mix in short range punches and elbows, it will at least set "Mr. Wonderful" up for winning a decision.
Record: 10-5 (1 no contest) overall, 1-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Igor Pokrajac (UFC 152), Mikhail Zayats (M-1 Challenge 27)
Key Losses: Ryan Bader (The Ultimate Fighter 8 Finale)
How he got here: Magalhaes came into MMA as a highly decorated grappler, training under Royler Gracie and winning two gold medals in the 2005 world championships. His MMA career didn't get off to the best start as his striking was severely lacking.
Despite a 2-2 (1) record, he was invited to season eight of The Ultimate Fighter where he made a very good impression with his ground skills, winning three straight fights to advance to the show's finale. In his bout against Ryan Bader, Magalhaes instead chose to stand and was knocked out on the feet in violent fashion.
Magalhaes was released after a loss to Eliot Marshall, but not disheartened. He won a few bouts on the local circuit and reinvented himself in M-1, going back to his roots with the ground game. He finished every opponent he faced in M-1, even claiming and defending the light heavyweight title in the process.
He made his UFC debut late last year, finishing Croatian Igor Pokrajac with a second round armbar and is now set to take on potentially the stiffest test of his career.
How he gets it done: Magalhaes should be very aggressive on the feet because he's likely not scared of being taken down. With his tremendous submission grappling ability on the canvas, it should give him some confidence on the feet to throw some heavy strikes.
As long as he's not too reckless, he shouldn't be in danger of getting knocked out, especially against a fighter with more rudimentary striking skills like Davis.
If the bout goes to the ground, Magalhaes should also be very aggressive, looking for sweeps and submissions if he's on his back and trying to tie Davis up like a pretzel when he's on top. If his ground skills are as good as many of us expect, he could potentially turn this into Demian Maia vs Jon Fitch 2, gaining superior position on the canvas every time an opportunity presents itself.
Who will come out on top at UFC 159? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!