The familiar odor of humble pie filled the Octagon on Saturday night as Johnson stuffed every takedown and handed Davis the worst beating of his professional career. All three judges scored the fight 30-27 for Johnson.
“I had nothing but respect for him, but I also knew I had to take my respect,” Johnson said at the post-fight press conference.
Johnson wasn’t even a byline heading into the co-main event bout. The only nugget of interest was derived from Davis’ increased infatuation with UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“You want me to label someone UFC-worthy outside of the UFC. I just don’t feel like that would be reasonable,” Davis told MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani earlier in the week, when asked about Johnson. “My biggest concern is that Jon Jones will pull out of his [fight with Glover Teixeira.]”
If Jones pulled out of the fight with Teixeira, Helwani agreed to give Davis the nickname “Nostradavis.”
Davis ultimately proved to be no Nostradamus at UFC 172. Jones defeated Teixeira in dominant fashion in the main event, while Davis slowly watched his two-year title campaign go up in flames against Johnson.
It was all but a done deal that Davis would breeze through Johnson to secure a spot in line behind Alexander Gustafsson as the next No. 1 contender for the Light Heavyweight title. Pulling a page out of Chael Sonnen’s book, Davis managed to make the entire event about his feud with Jones.
But Johnson refused to play the role of Davis’ stepping stone to the big dance. He punished Davis on the feet with heavy strikes, while simultaneously neutralizing his world-class wrestling. It was, without a doubt, the greatest performance ever turned in by Johnson, who recently resigned with the UFC.
Twitter exploded on Saturday night, as fighters reacted to seeing the No. 4 light heavyweight in the world get dominated by a fighter outside the Top 10.
@Anthony_Rumble bro you were born to be a bully just like your Pitbulls! Badass fight.... Psalms 23— Diego Sanchez UFC (@DiegoSanchezUFC) April 27, 2014
Johnson looked like a beast in that fight phil couldn't do anything! #UFC172— John Maguire (@MaguireTheOne) April 27, 2014
I think I am a jinx... I thought Davis would win this one... clearly not. Great fight by RUMBLE. #UFC172— Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon) April 27, 2014
Really strong performance from rumble Johnson. 30-27 decision without question. I liked that fight. #ufc172— Sarah Kaufman (@mmasarah) April 27, 2014
This is looking like a major upset— jimi manuwa (@POSTERBOYJM) April 27, 2014
I don't know who ate @Anthony_Rumble but he looks awesome!— Nathan Quarry (@NateRockQuarry) April 27, 2014
Rumble has shaken the LHW division, no pun intended. #wow— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) April 27, 2014
Where does Davis go from here?
That’s a question Davis will have to answer for himself in the coming weeks. There is a fine line between being more outspoken and losing perspective on the goal ahead. Davis tried to skip a rung while climbing the UFC ladder.
The end result was him landing flat on his face.