Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis: Mr. Wonderful Goes Too Deep, Too Soon
Current UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been forced out of his first title defense against Rashad Evans at UFC 133 because of a torn thumb ligament. Instead of remaining on the sidelines for an even longer stretch of time, Evans will stay the course as a headliner against replacement prospect Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis in what will more than likely be a contender fight.
Despite being yet another hurdle in Evan’s journey back to gold, fighting and defeating a guy like Davis is a blessing in disguise. Yes, former light-heavyweight champ and 17 fight veteran with one loss, Rashad Evans, a competitor who has a back catalogue of battling (mostly defeating) the best 205-pounders the UFC has to offer, will beat Davis come UFC 133.
It’s a facetious mouthful, I know.
I’ve given my boy and Sprawl-N-Brawl Radio co-host Jason Schielke’s pro-Davis piece time to marinate or fester (depending on what side of the fence your own) for a day now. He has made his case for a Davis victory and I’m here to provide reasons why hell freezing over has better odds of happening in Vegas.
In all seriousness, Jason makes a convincing argument built upon strong points throughout his article, but let’s investigate the insurmountable evidence that paints a completely different picture in favor of Evans.
Just peaking at each fighter's records, it doesn’t take a Steven Quadros type of fan to realize who has, not only more experience, but also better experience squaring off against top flight competition. Leading up to his first professional loss, Evans won a split over Michael Bisping, knocked out Hall-of-Famer Chuck Liddell and stopped then champion Forrest Griffin via devastating ground and pound.
After suffering his own knockout loss, finding himself immortalized as a victim in another fighter’s highlight reel as he was limped over after getting steamrolled by Lyoto Machida in their title fight, Evans bounced back from the loss with a victory over Thiago Silva and Rampage Jackson.
Counter to Davis’ own desire to take the slower, more necessary, steps in building his career in the octagon, he has jumped at the opportunity to headline an eliminator bout against a seasoned veteran after only accumulating nine professional fights. His small record has gone untarnished in the UFC, but opponents like Tim Boetsch, Rodney Wallace, and Alexander Gustafsson are hardly the crème of the crop.
This young prospect is hindering his ability to grow into a complete, proper divisional contender by leaping over vital steps in fighter evolution to rush into an opportunity that would certainly be waiting for him down the road once he had further developed his arsenal and experience.
Competing against a living legend like Antonio Nogueira in a main event slot for the UFC was a great learning experience and undeniably a feather in his cap—though it was evident after his performance that Davis is not ready for somebody like Jones. That type of fight pushed Davis in the right direction, but the pressure can’t be compared to what a No. 1 contender headliner against a former champ on a Pay-Per-View event will bring down on the young fighter.
Who makes the better argument?
Another crucial part of the puzzle is Evans’ speed and technical advantages matching up against Davis. A big part of Rashad’s success can be attributed to how well he mixes his quickness with his technique, whether he is executing a take-down or throwing the perfect hook—those are two characteristics that complement each other very nicely.
Nobody has to explain how power or force is derived from mass and acceleration to Chuck Liddell—please reference UFC 88.
Davis’ striking prowess will have to play a lot of catch up in order to avoid the danger Evans’ own striking brings to the table. Overall, Davis has shown poor punching defense and sloppy counter striking ability, to add to his underdeveloped offensive stand-up game. Davis has never knocked out or even stunned any of his opponents in the UFC, all his victories have been grinded out by superior top control or via submission.
When comparing each fighter’s main advantage—Davis’ wrestling and Evans’ striking—it becomes very lopsided. Evans has more of a striking edge than Davis can say about his wrestling advantage.
Therefore, Evans’ speed and striking abilities should trump his younger foe’s chances of utilizing his reach and upper strength.
Overall, after the calculations have been made, Evans’ collegiate wrestling base will keep him upright long enough to tap into his footwork, speed, angles and striking, allowing him to catch the slower, less developed Davis on the chin for a late first-round or early second-round KO victory.
There are too many uphill battles in this matchup for Davis to overcome at his current level in the game. Mr. Wonderful has ventured too deep, too soon.
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