Davis vs. Johnson: Keys for Both Fighters in UFC 172 Light Heavyweight Bout

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVApril 26, 2014

Aug 3, 2013; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Phil Davis (pink shorts) fights against Lyoto Machida (blue shorts) during UFC 163 at HSBC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson figures to have his hands full and then some in his return to the Octagon on Saturday in his UFC 172 co-main event light heavyweight bout with Phil Davis.

"Mr. Wonderful" has proved to be a force in mixed martial arts, with his only career loss coming against Rashad Evans in 2012. He most recently defeated Lyoto Machida, a former light heavyweight champ and is currently No. 4 in the light heavyweight division in the UFC rankings

Johnson, on the other hand, hasn't fought in the UFC since his 2012 defeat at the hands of Vitor Belfort. But he has made his resurgence in the World Series of Fighting and other various events, where he's put together a six-fight win streak. 

Everything is on the line for these fighters, so let's break down how each can best will their way to a victory in Baltimore. 


Davis: Don't Look Past Saturday

Aug 3, 2013; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Phil Davis (pink shorts) fights against Lyoto Machida (blue shorts) during UFC 163 at HSBC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

As the No. 4 fighter in his division, "Mr. Wonderful" is undoubtedly feeling confident heading into Saturday.

But perhaps too confident. 

Davis has been looking forward so much into potentially fighting title-belt holder Jon Jones, according to Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, that he's hardly been directing any ire Johnson's way:  

"Jon Jones said I was going to break him apart like a sugar cookie, man, that’s not exactly correct," Davis said. "I promised I was going to break him apart like a sugar cookie. Big difference."

Jones wasn't feeling like engaging in the same sort of banter, per Iole:

I just think when you talk like that, and you be so goofy, it puts a lot of pressure on you. I mean, what if he goes out there and gets caught with one of those high kicks from Anthony Johnson and gets knocked out? It’s going to be really embarrassing to talk so much trash to me and then get knocked out by Anthony Johnson. So I’m going to keep my mouth shut and stay focused for what I’m here for, and that’s Glover.

The biggest thing about this—it happened Monday on the week of the fight. 

All of this smells of a fighter who isn't completely locked into his current matchup.

As much as boxers and fighters look to stir the pot with controversial remarks and call out others that they have the potential of facing in the future, Davis is crossing the line. 

"Mr. Wonderful" might be the favorite in this matchup, but he's not going to cruise to a victory. He will have to tough it out, and if he's mentally locked into a fight in the future, he might be knocked into next week.

Davis is undoubtedly the better wrestler at this stage of each fighter's respective careers, but he has to be all there or he won't stand a chance in the return of "Rumble."


Johnson: Battle Through Takedowns, Find KO Opportunities 

A quick look at the credentials is all it takes to see this will be a wrestling-heavy bout. 

Johnson spent his college days at Lassen College winning a National Junior College Association national championship, and he's well versed in grappling and fighting on the ground with technique. 

However, in rare fashion he may be outdone in that regard Saturday. Davis was a national champion as well as an All-American at Penn State. 

"Mr. Wonderful" has proved to be so good at wrestling that he has avoided being knocked out in his MMA career. That's in sharp contrast to the 11 knockout victories that "Rumble" boasts in his days of fighting.

But that's the best chance that Johnson has at winning—staying upright, avoiding takedowns and landing significant blows when the two are exchanging pleasantries. 

Johnson proves to be effective when striking, as Fight Metric states his striking accuracy is 47 percent—nine higher than Davis' 38. Just as well, his takedown defense is 75 percent, which will have to hold up and perhaps be even better against "Mr. Wonderful." 

But if Davis can get Johnson to the canvas more than a few times early on, it could get the man making his UFC return off his mark and unable to find momentum for a potential knockout blow.