Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC on FOX 2 Preview: Phil Davis vs. Rashad Evans

The main event of the UFC’s second Fox show will feature two excellent light-heavyweight fighters in Rashad Evans and Phil Davis. Now, I’m going to spoil my prediction right away: I’m picking Evans to win. But let me take some time to illustrate why this is an extremely tough fight for Rashad Evans, to the point that I almost went against SILVA to pick Phil Davis instead.

Both Evans and Davis have sparkling records. Evans enters this fight at 16-1-1, only losing to Lyoto Machida while defeating a list of stars, including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Thiago Silva, and Forrest Griffin. Davis, on the other hand, is a perfect 9-0, which includes wins against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alexander Gustafsson, and Brian Stann. Here’s the difference: none of Davis’s opponents have come anywhere close to beating him. Nogueira was probably the closest, because he arguably won a round, but that doesn’t really fulfill my definition of “close.” Evans, on the other hand, was “rocked” by Jackson, went to a draw with Tito Ortiz that he would have lost if not for an Ortiz point deduction, and skated by Michael Bisping, Sam Hoger, and Brad Imes by split decision.

Here’s another point in Davis’s favor: his statistics on Fight Metric are absurd. His SLpM (significant strikes landed per minute) is 3.39, which is good, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Davis’s SApM (significant strikes absorbed per minute) is 0.38. That is not a typo. Let me say that again: in his career, as tracked by Fight Metric, Phil Davis has been hit by 0.38 significant strikes per minute fought. That translates to two strikes landed PER ROUND. In fact, here’s how many strikes each of Davis’s UFC opponents has landed against him:

  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – 8
  • Tim Boetsch – 7
  • Rodney Wallace – 2
  • Alexander Gustafsson – 0
  • Brian Stann – 5

Just absurd. ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON landed ZERO significant strikes against Phil Davis.

In fact, while rummaging through all the statistics for this fight, there are only two statistics I’ve found that favor Rashad Evans to win. The first is takedowns landed per 15 minutes, and I suspect the only reason Evans lands more than Davis is because Davis’s opponents don’t get up after they’re taken down.

The other is SILVA.

Now that I’ve clearly laid out the argument for Davis, let me explain why I’m still picking Rashad Evans to win. The reason Phil Davis’s striking numbers are so amazing is simple: he takes his opponents to the ground. I can only imagine how difficult it is to land a strike Fight Metric would consider to be “significant” when an extremely good wrestler like Davis is in top position. Sorry, arm punches to Davis’s latissimus dorsi aren’t good enough. But here’s the thing: Rashad Evans will be, by far, the best wrestler Phil Davis has ever faced in professional MMA.

Take another look at the list of opponents Davis has fought. Brian Stann’s achilles heel is wrestling. Alexander Gustafsson successfully defended four out of five takedown attempts from Davis. Rodney Wallace landed a lot of takedowns in his brief UFC career, but against the wrestling-challenged Jared Hamman and Brian Stann. Tim Boetsch is a decent wrestler, but not at Rashad Evans’s level in the slightest. And Antonio Rogerio Nogueira defended seven out of 11 Davis takedown attempts.


I’m picking Rashad Evans to beat Phil Davis, because I think Evans will represent by far Davis’s biggest challenge in the wrestling game. And while Davis has better overall striking numbers, I think when these fighters are at striking distance, on the feet, Evans will prove to be better at it. Still, I think this is an incredibly difficult fight for Rashad Evans, and whoever wins will have definitely earned a title shot against Jon Jones, because he will be able to boast that he beat the other.


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