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Phil Davis: It's Time to Walk the Walk at UFC 172

Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Phil Davis (red shorts) competes against Vinny Magalhaes (black shorts) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2014

What a difference a week can make.

It wasn't that long ago that Dana White was saying light heavyweight stalwart Phil Davis was basically too bland to ever be a contender, according to a report by Steven Marrocco on MMAJunkie.com. Davis was lacking pizzazz in the cage and was void of it completely outside of it.

In the way that White insists some people just have "it," he was very much insisting that Davis did not.

And then, out of nowhere, Phil Davis: Professional Trash Talker hit the UFC and the whole sport is left wondering what just happened. Heading into a bout against Anthony Johnson on a card headlined by light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Davis began pulling double duty: he'd fight Johnson, but it was Jones who was in his cross hairs.

While chirping away at the champion on a media call (that his actual opponent seemed to enjoy immensely) and tweeting about his verbal sparring match at the same time, Davis immediately became among the most charismatic guys in the division. There aren't many guys at 205 who understand how to maintain relevance, and Davis' sudden verbosity put him ahead of many in pretty short order.

But now, legendary media call and continued fight-week silliness behind him, it's time to get down to business. It's all well and good to reinvent oneself outside of the cage, but if you don't keep winning inside of it you become little more than a caricature.

For his part, Davis does win. He holds victories over Lyoto Machida, Alex Gustafsson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Brian Stann in his career. None of those came easy, and it's a resume few can boast. Actually, only former champion Rashad Evans has bested Davis in his career, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

So it's not a matter of being able to walk the walk; Davis has proved he can. The question is whether or not he can now, with the stakes of his career irrevocably altered by his gamesmanship heading into UFC 172.

Can he live up to the tremendous pressure he's put on himself? Can he maintain focus on the task at hand, knowing that suddenly people are interested in his burgeoning feud with Jones? Can he make a proper statement against Johnson, a dangerous veteran but one who's been fighting considerably lower competition in recent years?

No one can know for sure, but given his history as an elite athlete both during his wrestling career and in MMA, it's hard to bet against him. He's obviously intelligent enough to know the game he's playing, because it's a game he's clearly chosen to play since White lit that fire a short while ago.

Looking at his UFC run, it should be no surprise to find out that Davis is in the mix for a crack at Jon Jones. Seeing it happen because of his trash talk, though—that is definitely surprising.

Not that it matters.

Davis has been walking the walk for years. Doing it this time, though, might pay off like it never has before.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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