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UFC 172: Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

UFC 172: Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Before Jon Jones defends his illustrious title opposite Brazilian powerhouse Glover Teixeira at UFC 172, two more light heavyweights will wage war as part of Saturday's main card.

    On one side of the cage will stand Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis, a top contender who is searching for a trademark finish to catapult an already near-perfect UFC career.

    On the other side will stand Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, a former UFC welterweight standout who has reshaped his career as a 205-pound knockout artist.

    As one of the very best wrestlers in mixed martial arts right now, Davis serves as the perfect antidote to Johnson's heavy hands and free-swinging ways.

    It should be a tremendous matchup leading up to the championship main event and truly has the makings of a bout for the No. 1 contendership, should there be an impressively dominant finish.

    Here's Davis vs. Johnson in an always entertaining head-to-toe breakdown. 

Striking Versatility

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    Felipe Dana

    Davis is not Jon Jones on his feet, but he most certainly can mix it up.

    Whether it's lunging in and out of strikes, creating distance with his athleticism or throwing head kicks with relative ease, the natural wrestler does more than just grind.

    For him to be effective opposite a one-punch specialist like Johnson, whose versatility is limited by an aggressive style of punching, Davis will have to stay patient and keep Rumble guessing.

    Assuming he can continue to evolve as a complete striker who is capable of landing leg kicks, crisp jabs and damaging body shots, Davis could very well beat Johnson where he feels most comfortable.

    Advantage: Davis

Striking Power

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    Capable of stopping any light heavyweight in his tracks, Johnson possesses titanic power in both of his hands.

    In the past, he displayed his power potential as a 170-pound contender who always found it exceedingly difficult to cut weight. However, he managed to batter opposing welterweights.

    Now, after maturing as a professional and understanding his role in the sport, Johnson has re-emerged as a knockout guru at light heavyweight. His ability to carry his power over from one weight class to another shows how naturally brutal his offensive explosions truly are.

    That's not to say a guy as athletic and big as Davis couldn't land one punishing blow, but he'll never measure up to the ill-willed fireworks that Johnson packs in each and every one of his punches.

    I guess that's why he has finished four of his last five fights by knockout or TKO.

    Major Advantage: Johnson

Takedown Ability

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    Gregory Payan

    As a decorated NCAA standout who can drag any opponent to the mat, Davis' wrestling prowess inside the cage is simply too bewildering to handle.

    Throughout his 10-fight UFC career, he has managed to be taken down only four times. His knowledge and superior execution of wrestling techniques of all kinds has led fellow divisional contenders like Alexander Gustafsson to seek his tutelage.

    Considering how impressive Gustafsson was in his five-round championship war with Jon Jones, I guess Davis was able to instill some well-used skills.

    Johnson does possess a background in wrestling and has the overall strength to get back to his feet when taken down, but he's in for a rude awakening if he thinks Davis isn't going to take this fight to his own domain.

    Major Advantage: Davis

Submission Game

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    As one of the best up-and-coming submission specialists in the light heavyweight division, Davis poses a threat for any fighter who is unable to stay off his back.

    Considering Davis also incorporates one of the most active wrestling games in the sport today, Johnson better be ready to defend his transitions.

    That may be a defining problem for Rumble.

    Even at smaller weight classes like middleweight and welterweight, Johnson has been unable to get away from being tapped. As a matter of fact, three of his four career loses have come by way of rear-naked choke.

    I'm sure he'll be working on his submission defense for a guy like Davis, but don't sleep on Mr. Wonderful using his elite grappling skills and overall athleticism to gain an advantage early and often, especially considering Johnson has a track record for gassing when pressured.

    Major Advantage: Davis

Intangibles

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    Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

    Whether or not Johnson has what it takes on paper to defeat an athletic freak like Davis doesn't really matter.

    It honestly never does.

    The fact of the matter is that Johnson is one of the hottest fighters on the planet. His hands are made of stone, and his chin is made of granite. One close encounter with him, and Davis could very well find himself looking up at the Octagon lights.

    That ability to end a fight with one vicious blow is what we call an intangible. Johnson has it, and Davis really doesn't.

    That doesn't mean Davis can't end the fight by submission or TKO, but he's been criticized in the past for failing to produce a career-defining moment, which means he just doesn't have what it takes to explode and kill like Johnson does.

    Not to mention, Rumble will be carrying a lot of momentum with him to the cage, as he makes his promotional return this weekend.

    Advantage: Johnson

Verdict

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Through all the raw power and media-driven hoopla surrounding Johnson's return to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 172, Davis will ultimately do what is necessary to leave victorious.

    We've seen him get past elite strikers like Lyoto Machida and Alexander Gustafsson, so it would be silly to think he'll be unable to push through a one-dimensional knockout artist like Johnson.

    Is Johnson capable of landing one major blow that would leave Davis motionless? Absolutely.

    However, as arguably the most athletic light heavyweight of all time, Davis will be able to handle Johnson's power.

    His wrestling and grappling skills will serve him well to take this fight to the grind early, tire out those powerful arms of his opponent and work his way to an impressive decision victory over a dangerous puncher.

    However, if Davis decides to score points and doesn't lean toward the finish, his chances of a divisional title shot may go out the window. That's why he needs to be impressive and play it safe at the same time.

    Prediction: Davis via unanimous decision

     

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