In a fight that was destined to give the 205-pound division a top contender, both Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis clearly knew the ramifications of their co-main event bout at UFC 163. In the end, Davis was awarded a surprising victory via decision Saturday night at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Both men had a lot to lose, so maybe it should have been no surprise each man started out tentative. Still, a lot of the match featured little more than fancy footwork and shadow boxing. After the opening round, each man picked up the pace and connected with varying strikes.
With the victory, Davis could has set himself up for a future meeting with Jon Jones, though the controversial decision will hurt his cause. Alexander Gustafsson will have the next crack at the champ, while according to Marshall Zelaznik via his twitter, Glover Teixeira could take the top contender spot with a strong showing against Ryan Bader.
Meanwhile, Machida was left miffed by the decision and will have to reconsider his strategy in order to get a rematch with Jones.
What We Learned about Davis
If there was one thing we learned about Davis from the UFC 163 bout, it is that he is willing to take the fight to anyone.
Everyone knows Machida is a counter-striker, yet Davis was willing to move forward and engage after the first round. That aggression, along with two successful takedowns, practically won Davis the match, as little else put him over his opponent.
Davis, 28, did not show off any new wrinkles in his game as compared to his recent bouts against Wagner Prado and Vinny Magalhaes. Davis still uses his size and power to control his opponents, and continues to have trouble finishing fights against top-level competition.
What We Learned about Machida
First and foremost, we all learned that the Brazilian still has trouble pushing the action, and that fact likely cost him the match. Machida must find a way to change up his game enough to impress the often-inconsistent MMA judges.
We also learned that Machida, 35, is not afraid to say when he feels cheated by the judges. Some fighters will say it is their fault for leaving it up to the judges, but the Brazilian pointed to the reaction of the crowd as his proof that he won.
The fight honestly did not give us much to learn about Machida. His next fight will tell us more about whether he still has the fire to compete or if the frustrating loss took away his desire to compete for the title.
What Is Next for Davis
Next for Davis is almost certainly another contender fight or backdoor title shot. Teixeira is a possible top-contender that could cut in front of Davis given the decision outcome at UFC 163 and Daniel Cormier is still vying for a title shot at light-heavyweight as well.
Still, a title shot is not out of the question for the now 12-1 Davis. If for some reason an injury should befall the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson, then a possible contender bout against Teixiera is possible. If Teixiera is injured or loses against Bader, Davis is again near the front of the line to take on Jones.
The once endlessly deep 205-pound division is now feeling more mired in potential threats with no true top contender. Davis, controversial or not, is certainly one of a handful of the possible contenders the division has to offer the champion.
What Is Next for Machida
After such a frustrating loss, it is hard to say Machida (19-4) is far away from a contender fight. A bout against Mauricio Rua may be the best bet for the Brazilian. Both Rua and Machida are loved in Brazil, and a trilogy fight could easily be a headliner or co-main event.
Machida won't want a feeder bout, and so if he does not receive an immediate contender fight, anything high profile and noteworthy will do.