In the co-main event of UFC 172, Anthony Johnson defeated former light heavyweight contender Phil Davis via unanimous decision in his first fight since re-signing with the UFC earlier this year.
Anthony Johnson wins UD over former Penn Stater Phil Davis at #UFC172— Dan Gelston (@APgelston) April 27, 2014
After the win, "Rumble" thanked Dana White, per MMAFighting.com:
Johnson: Mr. Dana White, thank you for you did. You made me turn into a beast.— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) April 27, 2014
Any thoughts that it would be an easy day in the office for Davis were erased in the first round. With both fighters trading strikes, it was Rumble’s power that made the early impression. He dazed Davis with an uppercut and took the first round with his powerful striking, leaving "Mr. Wonderful" bloodied and discouraged.
Johnson continued to be the better-looking fighter in the second round as he stalked Davis down and consistently got the better of the exchanges. Whereas conditioning had been an issue for the former welterweight in the past, it was clear that this was a new version of the promising contender.
With the lead easily in hand, Johnson continued to be the more confident and controlling fighter throughout the third round.
The UFC signed Johnson to a deal in February, according to MMAJunkie Radio, and he made a splash in his first fight back in the Octagon. He was with the UFC from 2007 to 2012 but could never manage to gain much momentum in the title hunt with losses to stars like Vitor Belfort and Josh Koscheck.
After winning six fights in a row across various promotions—including a heavyweight bout against Andrei Arlovski—Dana White and UFC officials bet that Johnson had made strides as a fighter. With a victory over Davis in a marquee position on a pay-per-view card, he proved his worth.
As great as the victory is for Johnson, though, it is equally devastating for Davis.
After losing to Rashad Evans in a title eliminator in 2012 and fighting to a no-contest against Wagner Prado later that year, Davis beat Prado and added victories against Vinny Magalhaes and Lyoto Machida.
Davis was on the ascent before Saturday’s loss and now looks to be squandering his talent as a divisional gatekeeper.
As for what’s next for Johnson after the marquee victory, the perfect solution would be a battle against Daniel Cormier. If D.C. beats Dan Henderson at UFC 175, the potential in-ring masterpiece between Cormier and Johnson would make for a great title eliminator.
While Cormier looks like a man on a mission in the light heavyweight division, Johnson proved against Davis that he will not go down without a fight.
*Stats and information via UFC.com.