Anthony Johnson vs. Phil Davis: An Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Anthony Johnson vs. Phil Davis: An Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Dana White made the announcement via Twitter that Anthony Johnson would be returning to the UFC. He is scheduled to take on No. 4 ranked Phil Davis at UFC 172 in Baltimore.

    Riding a six fight win streak, Anthony Johnson will make his UFC return against #4 ranked light heavyweight Phil Davis at UFC 172

    — Dana White (@danawhite) February 4, 2014

    Johnson returns to the UFC for the first time since January 2012 when he missed weight for a middleweight scrap against Vitor Belfort. After losing the fight via submission, he was cut from the roster. Since that time, he has gone 6-0 outside of the UFC to earn his way back into the organization.

    Johnson made the move to light heavyweight and is 4-0 in the division. He is also 1-0 in the heavyweight division with a decision win over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.

    Davis will return to the cage for the first time since a contentious decision win over Lyoto Machida at UFC 163. The contender will try to improve his stock in the division and prove himself to be a potential title challenger on the same card that the UFC light heavyweight championship will be defended.

    This is an interesting light heavyweight tilt that could generate a lot of excitement. Here is an early breakdown of the Johnson-Davis fight before the two tangle in Baltimore.


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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    "Rumble" Johnson has fantastic power in his striking. He showcased it throughout his welterweight career, and it has carried to the light heavyweight division. The power didn't go away.

    Johnson is very diversified in his striking, and that is going to have to be key in this bout.

    Davis continues to improve on his striking, but it is not his forte. He has the ability to throw hands, but against much better strikers like Johnson, it isn't smart. He should not take such a big risk.

    The former welterweight will want to make his UFC return an impactful one. If he is able to knock Davis out, he will announce himself as an instant top-10 fighter in the division. He has a big chance at UFC 172.

    This one is clear on who is the better striker, but Davis has the ability to surprise.

    Edge: Johnson


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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Davis is a former NCAA champion at Penn State, and he has translated those wrestling skills into MMA.

    He has proven his ability to take down some of the most difficult fighters to take down such as Machida in his last outing. As his striking grows, he is able to mix in his takedown attempts much better, making them that much more effective.

    Johnson has quality takedown defense, but he has been placed on his back before. Regardless of how much he has improved in his time away from the UFC, he has not faced anyone the caliber of Davis.

    Much like we know who is the better striker, we know who holds the edge in the grappling exchanges.

    Edge: Davis


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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Mr. Wonderful has developed a very underrated submission game since turning pro in MMA. He has two quality submission finishes in the UFC over Tim Boetsch and Alexander Gustafsson.

    As for Johnson, he has an OK submission defense, but the art of submissions is clearly not where his heart lays. Of his four losses, Johnson has tapped three times. Also, Johnson has zero submission victories. He wants to finish with violent strikes.

    The other element to the submission game is positioning—position before submission. In this matchup, it is much more likely that Davis has the better position.

    Johnson better make sure his defense is on par in Baltimore.

    Edge: Davis


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    Felipe Dana/Associated Press

    Davis' X-Factor: Speed

    In the vast majority of Davis' bouts, he was the faster man in the cage, and that speed helped him to wins. In two of his biggest bouts, he did not have that advantage. He lost against Rashad Evans, and he was involved in a very close contest with Machida in which he got the nod.

    Against Johnson, he will not hold that advantage. With Rumble's KO power, that becomes a scary aspect to consider.

    Davis can negate the speed advantage by grappling with Johnson, and that grind will take its toll on Rumble.

    Johnson's X-Factor: Weight/Cardio

    Weight should not be an issue for Rumble at 205, but it will forever remain a part of his career after failed weigh-ins in the past.

    In his first trip back to the Octagon, it will be a talking point, and eyes will be on him when he weighs in. How will he look, and how will his cardio be?

    In this fight against Davis, it needs to be top notch. This matchup has the potential to turn into a grinding fight with Davis clinching with him or shooting in to take him down. Johnson cannot get tired in this fight, or he will be rendered null and void.


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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    This is a very intriguing fight for Johnson, but it completely favors Davis.

    If he can clinch or take him to the canvas, then this is his fight. It is only a 15-minute bout, and Davis can grind on a fighter who has notoriously faded over the course of his career.

    That is what I see happening, too.

    Johnson will not be able to stay upright if Davis wants him down, and on the canvas, Davis will ride him until he forces a mental mistake. Once tired, Johnson will slip up, and Davis will find a submission. The finish will keep his standing in the division.

    Mr. Wonderful will pick up another win and potentially line him up for a title eliminator bout later in 2014.

    Prediction: Davis defeats Johnson via submission in the third round.