This match between Wagner Prado and Phil Davis was deceptively important to the light heavyweight division. The UFC is incredibly limited right now in terms of their options at 205 lbs.
Currently, Davis is a very, very important commodity, simply because there are so few established young talents. Prado started his MMA career 8-0 fighting in smaller Brazilian promotions, but his UFC debut against Davis ended in frustrating fashion as the bout was waved off due to an eye poke early in the first round (which was obviously joked about at the weigh-ins, as seen above).
Because of this, the UFC desperately needed a traditional strong ground performance from Davis or a spectacular effort from Prado. They got the former, as Davis completely destroyed Prado with his world-class wrestling. Here is what this fight taught us.
Phil Davis is Really, Really Good
I am willing to admit that after Davis got completely tooled by Rashad Evans, I felt that he was completely overrated. Sure, we knew he had a great wrestling game. But how many great wrestlers are there in the UFC? What makes Davis better than any of them?
Well, he sure showed me.
Davis landed takedown after takedown throughout the fight. As soon as they made it to the ground, Davis controlled his seemingly amateur opponent and did whatever he felt like. He flattened him. He pressed him. He worked him over. Prado had absolutely no answer to anything Davis threw at him.
Davis made me completely forget about his performance against Evans tonight. He's going to have to show me a bit more striking before I believe he is a top light heavyweight. That said, I'm now a believer and would go so far as to label him the next Tito Ortiz.
Wagner Prado Had No Place in the Cage with Phil Davis
In one of my first MMA articles for Bleacher Report, I said “in a match between a strong wrestler and a strong striker, you should always bet on the wrestler.” Granted, I said that going into Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem, but it still holds true here.
A grappler of Davis' caliber is capable of taking the fight to the ground as soon as he gets within an arm's length of somebody. Unless somebody has exemplary takedown defense or a comparably strong grappling game, a strong wrestler is going to be able to twist and squirm and slither around their legs and take them down like an Imperial Walker in Star Wars.
Prado proved this notion correct and was simply outclassed by Davis from start to finish. Prado may or may not be a fighter capable of winning in the UFC. He is 24 years old and has plenty of fights ahead of him. UFC fans are still yet to see him on his game and, who knows, his game might be awesome! That said, Davis showed that, right now, he is on a level far above Prado.
Phil Davis is Deserving of a Step Up in Competition
Earlier this year, Davis fought Evans, one of the all-around best fighters in the UFC and somebody who is wrongly left off many pound-for-pound top-10 lists, in a top-contender match to determine who would face Jon Jones. After being thoroughly bested by Evans, Davis found himself fighting rookies on undercards.
It is now obvious that this was a mistake. Should Davis be slotted against Lyoto Machida or Jon Jones at this point? No. However, he is very clearly one of the better fighters in the light heavyweight division, and is better than fighting guys like Wagner Prado on Fuel TV.
A fight against somebody like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua or the winner of Forrest Griffin vs. Chael Sonnen would be the perfect challenge for him.
Wagner Prado Has a Lot of Heart
Yeah, he got beaten pretty badly. Really pretty badly. Well, actually, really very badly.
That said, if there's one thing we have seen out of Prado in his budding UFC career, it is that he is really passionate about fighting. We saw this in his melodramatic screaming after his first fight with Davis was called off. We saw it again tonight in his body language after tapping out to an arm triangle.
What lies ahead of him remains to be seen. How good he actually is remains to be seen. The one thing does not remain to be seen is how much fighting in the UFC means to him.