Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson: What We Learned from UFC 172 Co-Main Event

Steven RondinaFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2017

USA Today

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson made his much-hyped return to the UFC opposite No. 4-ranked Phil Davis...and it did not go as most expected.

Davis, a wrestler by trade, had many believing he would be able to physically dominate Johnson with little difficulty, setting up a handy decision victory or a submission. The former welterweight striker, though, shocked many by effortlessly stuffing Davis' takedowns and lighting him up standing.

That resulted in a shockingly lopsided beatdown by Rumble that has thrown the light heavyweight division into disarray. So what did we learn from this?


Anthony Johnson Is Really, Really Good

Pretty straightforward here. Anthony Johnson just worked over a guy who was commonly ranked as a top-five light heavyweight. You aren't doing that unless you're something special.

He isn't quite a contender...yet. There happens to be that pileup of Alexander Gustafsson, Daniel Cormier and Rashad Evans (oh, and I guess Dan Henderson) all ahead of him, and each of them is inarguably closer to the belt.

Johnson, It feels like the sky is the limit.


Phil Davis Is Not a Top Light Heavyweight

So I picked Davis to win this fight in lopsided fashion. I figured Davis would have the strength advantage and would be able to use that to plod out a clean decision win.

That did not happen, though. Johnson lit him up standing and had absolutely no regard for Davis' takedowns. He had no fear of anything in Davis' arsenal, and it showed from the start of the fight to the end.

The fight was so incredibly lopsided that it's hard to really buy into him beating any top light heavyweights right now.


Rumble Is Now a Matchmaking Nightmare

Pretty easy to break this down. You pretty much have to rank Johnson at No. 5 or No. 6 after such a lopsided beating. That puts him behind Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Rashad Evans, Daniel Cormier and (maybe) Dan Henderson.

All of them, with the exception of Teixeira (assuming he loses to Jones) are booked up right now. 

That means he is forced to take a fight with somebody ranked below him. Could it be Chael Sonnen? Jimi Manuwa? Ryan Bader? 

I don't know...none of those matches is very appealing, though.


The Light Heavyweight Division Is Suddenly Exciting

The 205-pound division has been ugly for a long, long time. When Jon Jones ran through the entire top 10 within 18 months, he left it with no particularly interesting contenders and very few prospects.

But now Daniel Cormier is here. Alexander Gustafsson is a beast. Rashad Evans is (or at least was, before his knee injury) back in form. Glover Teixeira is around.

And now Rumble?

That's a lot of compelling names, and that is something we haven't been able to say about the light heavyweight division in a very long time.