With eight fewer octagon appearances than UFC on Fox 2 opponent Rashad Evans, Phil Davis is still developing as a mixed martial artist.
For the most part, the 27-year-old former NCAA champion wrestler still depends on his base discipline to win fights at the highest level.
In order for Davis to walk away with a victory in the most important fight of his young career, and potentially earn a title shot against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, he must:
- Set up takedown attempts with striking combinations.
- Show much-improved striking.
- Be prepared for a varied attack from Evans.
In his most recent fight, despite elite amateur wrestling credentials, Davis had initial difficulty in taking Antonio Rogerio Nogueira to the ground.
Against Evans, who has limited UFC opponents to a 45 percent success rate on takedown attempts, Davis will need to do a better job of setting up his takedowns if he wants to dictate where this fight takes place.
Undoubtedly, the weakest aspect of Davis' game has been his striking, so he will certainly be looking to put Evans' back on the canvas on Saturday.
In his five UFC fights, Davis has only landed 13 percent of his arm strikes while standing.
In comparison, Davis' well-rounded and experienced opponent has landed 36 percent of his arm strikes over the course of his entire 13-fight UFC career.
Because Evans holds such an advantage over Davis in the striking department, many are expecting the former champion to simply look to strike in Saturday's main event.
However, since Evans is also a skilled wrestler, Davis has to be equally ready to defend takedowns.
If Davis, a former wrestler, gets dumped onto his back, he will have difficulty winning rounds.
Since Evans has never been finished on the ground, winning rounds will be Davis' main focus during this fight since it's highly unlikely he will land a knockout blow on his feet.
All statistics provided by Compustrike.