I’m busier this week than I thought I would be so unfortunately I won’t be able to give previews of all the fights for UFC 163. What I can do is give previews for the main event and co-main event, and then provide all of my FPR-based predictions on Friday.
What I’ve seen online are a lot of people thinking Phil Davis has no chance of beating Lyoto Machida. The thought process goes something like this: “Machida is easily the better striker, and his takedown defense should be good enough to keep the fight standing, so… how does Davis win this?” When I look at the numbers I see a fight that is more competitive than advertised.
If Davis wins this match, he almost certainly does so with takedowns and grappling. Per 15 minutes, Davis lands 2.76 takedowns at 48% accuracy, which is good but not great. Machida’s takedown defense is very good at 79% but there’s a decent chance that Davis can take him down. Dan Henderson, Jon Jones, Quinton Jackson, Sokoudjou, Kazuhiro Nakamura… they all took Machida down. They all have very good wrestling/Judo but so does Davis. The difference is unlike those fighters (except Jones) Davis has excellent submission grappling and may be able to keep Machida on his back after landing a takedown.
Davis is also excellent at shutting down his opponent’s offense. In seven out of nine UFC fights Davis has been hit less than ten times, mostly because of his ability to land takedowns and smother his opponents on the ground. If he can take Machida down then he can simply decline the striking match altogether. Machida is no slouch on the ground by any means, but as long as Davis is in top position he has the advantage for sure.
That’s the case for Davis keeping this fight competitive. Now here’s the case for Machida winning the fight. Machida is a master of timing and distance. If he doesn’t believe Davis is a threat to hurt him standing he’ll focus on stopping the takedown, and that should make Davis’s job very difficult. If Davis has to shoot from 6-10 feet away Machida will defend easily.
Machida also hits much harder than Davis. If Davis gets desperate and rushes in Machida could easily knock him out. Machida has landed 14 knockdowns over his MMA career while Davis has landed exactly zero.
For me, the best indicator of Machida winning this fight is striking efficiency. Machida lands 57% of his strikes while Davis lands just 39%. In his last fight Davis landed just 29% of his strikes against Vinny Magalhaes. That begs the question: if Davis lands such a low percentage of strikes against a fighter like Magalhaes, how will he hit a fighter as difficult to strike as Machida? We might see Davis land something like 20 out of 200 strikes in this fight.
As long as Machida keeps this fight standing it’s his fight to lose. This fight will be won or lost based on Davis’s ability to take Machida to the ground. I think Davis has a better chance of doing that then a lot of people anticipate. With the way fights are judged… all Davis needs to do is land a takedown in two rounds and hold top position for a good portion of those five-minute intervals. Of course, this fight is also in Brazil, and the judges might be inclined to give a close decision to Machida.
With that said this is a bad style match for Davis. In theory Machida should be well equipped to counter anything Davis tries and that makes him the clear favorite to win.
Pick: Lyoto Machida by decision