UFC 172: Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson preview and the prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Phil Davis looks to make a better impression against Anthony Johnson than the one against Lyoto Machida at UFC 172. Who makes it out of this unlikely LHW matchup with title shot implications?

Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson Light Heavyweight

Man. These guys are super explosive and athletic. This should be the blackest, er...I mean...explosivest fight on the card. Damn I think something's stuck in my throat.

Don't think I didn't catch that. To be fair, your subconscious has a hard time distinguishing meaningful adjectives when that's the only adjective used by Goldberg and Rogan to describe black fighters. Obviously, these fighters are more than just the sum of their ACTN3 genes.

ACTN3?

Duh. The alpha-actinin skeletal muscle isoform 3 gene that allow muscle fibers to contract rapidly instead of relying too heavily on oxygen to generate energy.

Yea but they ARE explosive and athletic.

So is Luke Rockhold but Rogan and Goldberg will probably talk about how technical and precise he is.

Discussions about racial coding aside, isn't Anthony Johnson that dude who always misses weight?

Yes. He weighed in at 197lbs for a middleweight (!) contest back at UFC 142 against Vitor Belfort. Since then he's done well for himself, going 6-0 since. One of those wins included Andrei Arlovski.

I'm not really sure what to make of that fight. It was kind of weird because Arlovski is not a good fighter at this point in his career, but he looked good(ish) in that fight against Johnson. And so did Johnson.

As for Phil, he still has only one loss on his record to Rashad Evans, but many feel like he should have taken his second to Lyoto Machida. Davis seems like a fighter who should be contending, but his performances have lacked the usual prospect sheen to them.

So there's an actual possibility that Anthony Johnson could fight for the LHW title?

Well you don't call a card the most stacked card and not have fights with title shot implications. I don't think. Round 1 is where this fight will be one. Anthony Johnson is a front runner. But he's a very very good front runner.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, trainers and camps seem to think there's something actually logical about the following mathematical formula: moving down in weight = success. In point of fact, it's all about styles. Johnson is a massive guy. But he needs to avoid scrambles. He more he has to navigate in a fight defensively, and the more he has to deal with fighters equally fast, the harder it is for him. At higher weight divisions, his speed is more pronounced.

He's very good at chambering that left high kick from his traditional stance. It's one of the most effective strikes you'll see from any striker; frankly, it's a joy to watch him use it. Davis will need to be on the look out for that one precise strike, which is much easier said than done.

Johnson at +195 sounds like an explosively good bet then.

It does and it doesn't. One of the problems Davis has had is that he can't seem to commit to his strikes. He doesn't have any discernible power, so he has trouble asserting himself on the feet.

It's a bit of a paradox though.

Davis is fine technically. Although I don't take as much from his win over Machida as some do, even if we disregard the questionable decision altogether. On the surface, Phil did a pretty good job of hanging with Machida, which was the initial shock. After all, if Davis would win, he would win by top control. Instead the fight was competitive precisely because Davis did not get blown out on the feet and managed to land strikes of his own.

That bodes well for Davis. If he can handle Machida's striking, surely he can handle Johnson's.

The problem with that loose math is that the styles aligned perfectly for Davis. Phil has a patient way of doing business on the feet. He prefers to stay at range, doesn't overcommit, and has a solid leg and general kicking attack at his disposal. Machida was never gonna look good on the feet against Davis (or look dominant I should say).

'Rumble' is obviously different because he's a lot more aggressive. However, he throws his strikes without letting momentum discombobulate himself. He keeps his shoulders square, and doesn't rush in strikes despite being volume heavy. This could look a lot like the Machida fight in other words.

Yea but didn't Johnson get submitted by Rich, frikkin Clementi?

And Anderson Silva lost to Luiz Azeredo. But yes, Johnson will have his hands full of Davis is in top control because his grappling his elite. And this is why I pick him.

Anything else to add?

Yea. Davis could win the title, and this would still be the best Phil Davis moment.

Mr. Wonderful by Decision.

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