Phil Davis was on the precipice of earning a title shot at 205 pounds before being sidetracked with a loss to Rashad Evans. Since that time he has been away from the minds of fans who have interjected Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson into the title chase.
An emphatic win over Wagner Prado will silence the critics and place him right back in the thick of things in the light heavyweight division.
Davis is still growing as a mixed martial artist and putting together new skills with his excellent wrestling attack. He has only one blemish on his resume.
“Mr. Wonderful” needs to take the beating Evans gave him as a learning experience. Fights like that can help give fighters the edge they need to rebound and make a run for the title. Evans showed Davis what it takes to be at the top of the division.
There has been a lot of hype about Gustafsson perhaps being the man to fight Jon Jones for the title, but at UFC 112 it was Davis who ran through Gustafsson in 4:55. He submitted the young gun with an anaconda choke.
Davis can reassert himself with a big win over Prado, but it is important that the victory be impressive. A lackluster decision will do nothing for his title hopes.
His wrestling credentials are what gets heralded the most, and for good reason. He is one of the very best in the division. His submission game has grown over the course of his career, and he has big submissions of Gustafsson and Tim Boetsch. He needs to continue to showcase his growth to excite the fans about his potential.
Winning fights is important, but it is almost more important to be exciting under the UFC banner. That will give any fighter the fastest route to a title shot. Ask Jon Fitch, a grinding wrestler who had to have a UFC record win streak going before being granted a title shot.
Fans need to believe Davis has a chance of beating Jones. They are already starting to believe that Gustafsson's size can give Jones problems. Davis is flying under the radar, and he needs this to be his big breakout fight.
Davis has the tools to be a threat in the division. He did not begin his career with nine straight victories by chance. To make the next leap up the rankings and give himself a shot to challenge for the title, he needs to show how much he has grown.
The fight versus Prado should be firmly in his favor. This is the kind of fight that top level prospects finish. If Davis wants to remove all doubt that he is one of the division's elite, he must dominate this fight.
UFC 153 is Davis's opportunity to arrive on the light heavyweight division scene in a big way. He just needs to finish Prado to make a statement. It could be a wonderful night in Rio.
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