One the main card of UFC 159 under the not-so-anticipated match between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen for the UFC Light Heavyweight title, there is a fight that could make grappling nerds rejoice. VInny Magalhaes and Phil Davis will meet in a clash of Light Heavyweight prospects. While Davis is certainly the more accomplished fighter, both are 28-years-old with a great deal of potential.
Davis is already a top 10 Light Heavyweight because of his hard-fought win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in March of 2011. Since then, Davis then was dominated by Rashad Evans on Fox, had a No Contest with Wagner Prado due to an eye poke, and then won an easy victory over Prado in a rematch in October of last year.
Magalhaes entered the UFC early in his career through The Ultimate Fighter Season 8, where he made the finals but lost to Ryan Bader by knockout at the finale. Magalhaes then lost a decision to Eliot Marshall and was let go from the UFC. Magalhaes spent the next two years developing his skills in a variety of promotions, including the Russia based M-1. Magalhaes returned to the UFC on the last card Jones headlined with a quick submission of Igor Pokrajac.
Both men have some serious grappling accomplishments, Davis is a 4-time All American NCAA wrestler who has been learning jiu jitsu very quickly. Magalhaes is an ADCC champion and multiple time medalist and is one of the most dangerous Light Heavyweights in the world on the ground.
While fans of MMA grappling are praying to the fight gods that this match ends up on the mat, it is generally assumed Davis is going to use his wrestling to keep things standing and then strike with Magalhaes.
Davis has fairly fluid footwork and has fantastic speed on the feet. He will throw fairly simple, but effective punching combinations with a pawing jab lead. Davis also throws a good number of strong, if a little awkward, kicks. By no means is Davis a dangerous striker, but he is serviceable on the feet. Much the same could be said of Magalhaes, who throws straight punches in fairly simple combinations and will flip out a kick from time to time. The deciding factor on the feet will likely be Davis' movement and fluidity, allowing him to control the distance and rhythm of striking.
When it comes to takedowns, clearly Davis has an advantage. He is flat out explosive with his shot on the legs and once he is in on a double leg he tends to finish. The struggles Davis has had in the past with takedowns against Nogueira and Evans came more from his inability to properly set up takedowns than finishing ability. Magalhaes, while not a wrestler, should not be overlooked in the takedown department, and he has an array of takedowns from the clinch including some good throws and trips.
On the ground both are great grapplers, but Magalhaes is just a different level. Magalhaes has worked with an array of great grapplers including Robert Drysdale, Eddie Bravo, Royler Gracie, and Vinicius Aieta. Vinny prefers to work from the top, working his way towards the mount and then finishing with the armbar, his preferred submission. Magalhaes is equally dangerous from the bottom, mixing together sweep attacks with submissions from his very aggressive guard.
Davis is more of a specialist, working best from the top and attacking mainly from side control. He works a great kimura, straight armlock, and americana series, and if his opponent tries to scramble he latches on with a very quick anaconda choke. He is extremely dangerous to just about any grappler, but if they can avoid his strengths Davis can be made to look very average in his weaker positions, like off of his back.
While most fans likely hope this fight hits the ground at some point it seems the most likely way this fight plays out is that Davis keeps the fight standing and tries to outbox the Brazilian. If this is the case this could be a fairly forgettable fight in which either fighter could come away with a fairly tepid decision win. If Davis wishes to make a statement and engages Vinny on the ground fans could be treated to a high level grappling match, but that seems unlikely.
Fight Prediction: Phil Davis by Decision