Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweights Phil Davis and Ryan Bader looked to confirm their position as contenders last night (Sat. 24, 2015) at UFC on FOX 14 inside the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
Davis came into this fight off perhaps the best performance of his career, in which he dominated recent title challenger Glover Teixeira. Looking to continue showcasing his improvement, Davis wanted to make a statement in last night's battle.
Meanwhile, Bader slowly put together a solid three-fight win streak. If he managed to defeat Davis -- something only done prior by top contenders -- he would put forth a solid case as an eventual title challenger.
Neither man really took control of the first round. Bader attempted to occasionally close the distance with punches -- some of which landed, in fairness -- while Davis played the outside game with kicks, occasionally reaching out with his usual corkscrew punches.
Essentially, fight fans had a mediocre kickboxing battle on their hands between two incredible grapplers throughout the first.
For the first time in the fight, Davis got his hands on Bader in the clinch. Unfortunately for "Mr. Wonderful," he was not able to accomplish much with the position, as Bader landed a nice elbow on the break. For most the round, Bader got the better of the boxing while Davis landed some okay kicks.
With about a minute left, Bader attempted to take some momentum by shooting for a double. However, Davis shucked him off and took his own shot, dragging Bader to the mat. It was only for a brief moment, but it was still the most significant thing to happen in the round.
The third round was about as slow paced as the rest of the bout. For a large portion of the round, Bader's punches connected more frequently, swelling one of his opponent's eyes shut. Then, Davis found some late success with low kicks, knocking Bader out of his stance a couple times.
In the last twenty seconds or so, the two traded takedown attempts and moved around each other a lot, but neither gained an advantage. It was a fair representation of the fight as whole, which was the first scrap booed by the Swedish fans.
At the end of the fight, Bader was awarded the split decision.
For his skill set, Bader did an okay job. By the second round, he realized that Davis' could not really hurt him with his strikes, so he only had to worry about the takedown. From that point on, Bader got the better of most exchanges.
Bader's boxing continues to show small signs of improvement. In this bout, his jab was pretty on point. The major jump hasn't happened yet and probably won't, but Bader is now a more defensively sound fighter and technically decent on offense.
Unfortunately, the slow nature of this bout will do little for Bader in terms of momentum. For his next bout, look for Bader to take on an up-and-comer, as there's little desire to see him fight Jon Jones ever again. For example, Patrick Cummins could provide an interesting challenge.
Davis continues to show that there's no real connection between his striking and wrestling. It's shockingly easy to predict when Davis will aim for a takedown.
Perhaps more importantly, Davis does not put any power behind his strikes. Case in point, Davis landed a head kick in the second round with a nice little set up. However, it had absolutely zero effect, as none of his weight went into the strike.
If Davis wants to improve, he needs to train strictly striking for some time and really commit to his shots inside the cage. Davis is incredibly athletic and should be able to destroy people with his punches and kicks by now, but he doesn't commit in the least.
Just look at the few times he dug into low kicks, they had a major effect. If he committed to all of his strikes like that and began transferring his weight, Davis would be a dangerous opponent for just about anyone.
Otherwise, he'll climb no higher in this division.
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