Phil Davis: 'Like Liam Neeson, I'm a Man with a Very Particular Set of Skills'

Damon MartinContributor IAugust 2, 2013

UFC 163 fighter Phil Davis is well aware of his upcoming opponent Lyoto Machida's record against wrestlers inside the Octagon.

The former light heavyweight champion has a resume filled with wrestlers and he's beaten most of them. It's actually gotten to the point with Machida where most fighters don't even attempt to take him down much more these days because of his lightning-quick reflexes and fast footwork.

Davis has watched plenty of film on Machida leading up to their fight on Saturday night, Aug. 3, in Brazil. While he respects the Brazilian's ability to stop a takedown, he's not sure that he's ever been truly challenged by a high-level wrestler.

While Machida has faced a Who's Who list of wrestlers either currently in the UFC or famed fighters from the past, Davis believes that he's never taken on a wrestler like him. He'll find out real quick what that feels like on Saturday night.

Davis told MMA's Great Debate Radio that Machida will have to adjust his strategy when they meet.

He hasn't really fought any wrestlers that wrestle. Rashad (Evans) will take some people down, I don't know what he does with his strategy, but sometimes he takes cats down and sometimes he chooses not to. He's a former champion so obviously it works for him. Lyoto Machida has never faced a national champion, I mean Dan Henderson doesn't even take people down. So it's kind of one of those things.

To get to this level of competition in the UFC, Davis has had to stretch his skills and work far beyond his wrestling background, but he never forgets his roots.

Davis compared his wrestling to the 2008 film Taken. In the movie, a former CIA operative's daughter is kidnapped. He warns the kidnappers that he has no intention of paying them a ransom, but he has the kind of background that will give them nightmares once he tracks them down.

Davis sees himself in the lead role:

I'm like Liam Neeson, he and I have a lot in common. I'm a man with a very particular set of skills," Davis said. "You just don't want to mess with that very particular set of skills. I don't think he's faced anyone quite like me, and I don't think I've faced anyone quite like him. That's for sure. I'm telling you, styles make matchups and it's going to be a fan favorite.

Ever since he debuted in the UFC, Davis was already being touted as a top prospect. A former NCAA champion wrestler from Penn State, Davis was undefeated as a fighter and had the kind of raw athleticism rarely seen in MMA. It was almost odd that just a couple of fights into his UFC career, Davis was already fielding questions about title shots and an eventual showdown with another young gun named Jon Jones.

Like almost every fighter, Davis eventually hit a bump in the road with a 2012 loss to Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC on Fox 2. Since that time, Davis has almost become an afterthought to the title picture despite being ranked consistently in the top-10.

Maybe it was the matchups Davis was getting from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. He fought relative unknown Wagner Prado on two occasions, with the first fight ending after an accidental eye poke, and then beat unranked light heavyweight Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159 in April.

Now after fighting in obscurity for the past three fights, Davis once again stands on the precipice of title contention if he can get past Machida. He stumbled the first time around when this opportunity came up, but Davis said he doesn't plan on falling again:

In order to get to the elite level, you always have to fight those guys like Lyoto Machida. He's the perfect guy to fight. He's the No. 1 contender, Rashad (Evans) was the No. 1 contender before I fought him. I'm happy about this.

This will show exactly where I'm at. This will decide whether I'm ready to move into that top contendership position.

The UFC hasn't announced whether the winner of this fight will be granted a title shot or even be considered for that distinction, but Davis is approaching his bout with Machida with that kind of intensity.

He knows a win puts him right in the crosshairs for the title picture, so he says that he's treating it like this is his chance to go for the gold:

That gets me excited about this fight, and I feel like I’m in the semis of a traditional bracket, and I just need to perform the way I'm used to performing and I'll be right in there for the championship.

If he can beat Machida, Davis will certainly make a strong case that he's deserving of a top-five ranking and get back in the conversation about who would win a fight of Davis vs. Jones.


Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.