In the main event of Saturday night's UFC on FOX 2, two of the light-heavyweight division's premier wrestlers battled for five rounds for a future title shot against current champion Jon Jones.
When the dust settled, it was former champion Rashad Evans who came out the victor, easily disposing of Phil Davis in a lopsided unanimous decision win.
The victory not only proved the importance of experience, but it also served as an exposé on the difference between wrestling for mixed martial arts and wrestling for college.
Leading into the fight, speculation arose as to whether Evans could stuff Davis' world class takedowns and prevent him from controlling from the top. A former NCAA Division I wrestling champion, Davis, on paper, should have been able to accomplish both goals with relative ease.
But, as the world saw Saturday night, wrestling alone does not win fights.
Davis did not tailor his wrestling background to the needs of a mixed martial arts fight, signaling his shot every time he went in for a take down by not varying his attacks. Evans capitalized on this and actually turned the tables on Davis, taking him down multiple times while raining down blows from the top position.
Evans is one of the premier MMA wrestlers because he integrates his striking and jiu-jitsu techniques to blend with his base. When he looks for the takedown, he sets up his shots with punching combinations and changes levels to confuse his opponents.
This is something that Davis simply did not do.
The difference between the two styles of wrestling become even more apparent on the ground.
In collegiate wrestling, or any type of wrestling outside of MMA, lying on your back is the worst position to be in. Often, wrestlers will give up their backs just to get to their knees.
In MMA, this is the worst thing to do because of jiu-jitsu.
At many instances in this match, Davis found himself on his back and stuck in the crucifix position, unable to escape while Evans pounded away at his face. Clearly, Davis was uncomfortable off his back and had no clue how to get out of the dangerous situation.
Conversely, Evans was very calm in the guard and off his back during the few moments he was actually taken down. His black belt jiu-jitsu skills shined through. When coupled with his wrestling, this served as a potent combination that Davis could not deal with.
Time and time again, specialized fighters—such as Davis—have to be reminded that their world-class base can only take them so far.
Evans realized this years ago and added in devastating boxing and slick grappling skills in order to become a well-rounded, champion-caliber fighter.
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