Alexis Davis is a walking study on the dynamic contrasts that exist in combat sports.
Outside of the cage, the Ontario native falls on the quieter side of the spotlight, nearly to the point of the shy variety. She is quick to produce a smile and the ever-polite wave, as she takes in those elements that move at a rapid pace around her. It's not that Davis can't keep up with the speed her career is moving at, but more along the lines she's learned the value of observation.
Yet, once the cage door closes, she's as gritty as they come. The California transplant has a career littered with rock em' sock em' affairs, and on those nights—like her action-packed tilt with Sarah Kaufman back in 2012—Davis has no trouble donning the crimson mask of battle, just as she is equally comfortable with handing them out to her opposition.
Davis simply loves to scrap. There is something that comes alive inside of her when the conflict begins, and she has no problem leaving the trash-talking and Twitter beefs for those who are perhaps better-suited.
The 29-year-old knows that what happens inside the Octagon matters, and her efficiency inside the cage has allowed her to climb the ranks of the women's bantamweight division. Her tenacity has earned her three consecutive victories in the UFC, and that run has brought her to the doorstep of the biggest opportunity of her career in a showdown with superstar Ronda Rousey.
At UFC 175 this Saturday night in Las Vegas, she will attempt to dethrone the reigning queen of the 135-pound fold and take her shot at being the first person to derail the rocket-fueled trajectory of the former Olympic judoka turned MMA phenom. So far no one has even come close, but all things are said to have their moment, and Davis believes hers will come on Saturday night.
A shot at championship gold is an opportunity years in the making, but Davis still feels like she's just getting started.
"It does feel like a long time coming, but at the same time it doesn't," Davis told Bleacher Report. "I've put in a lot of work to get where I am, but how many people can say they have been in the UFC for a year and earned a title shot? This will be my fourth fight for the UFC and I'm already fighting for the title.
"This has all been kind of surreal. When I first started in a small town of Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada—most people don't even know where that is—to living in California and fighting for a world title. It has just been crazy, and you almost have to pinch yourself sometimes."
While the women's bantamweight division is still relatively new to the UFC stage, the fighters involved have wasted no time in making it a weight class to watch. In addition to Rousey's dominance, a handful of competitors have consistently engaged in high-caliber bouts that have kept stride with—and in some cases eclipsed—their male counterparts on various fight cards.
Of that collective, Davis is certainly a member, and her three wins inside the Octagon steadily carved out her place in the title picture. Yet, in a game where self-promotion can serve to rapidly elevate a fighter's profile, she has been content to do the work in the belief that the biggest opportunity will materialize as the result.
Although she never shouted from the rooftops for a title shot, she never took her eyes off the prize at the top of the mountain.
"I've always looked to fight the best people possible because that is what I got in this for," Davis said. "That's why I got into this sport. I don't just want to fight anybody...I want to fight the best. I want to fight whoever is at the top, and I'm going to get that opportunity at UFC 175.
"I'm so excited for this fight because she is exactly the type of fighter you want to face. I want fights like the one with Sarah Kaufman where it's going to bring out the best in me, and I know this is one of those fights. I know she's going to bring it. I know she's going to be coming forward regardless."
While the matchup between Rousey and Davis will feature two high-level grapplers, Davis isn't necessarily set on the idea that the champion is a "one-trick pony." Throughout her title reign, Rousey has shown an ever-evolving striking attack and an increasing willingness to trade leather on the feet.
Those skills were certainly on display in her most recent title defense, as she scored a first-round stoppage victory over Sara McMann after she landed a vicious knee from the clinch that put her fellow Olympian on the canvas. The win over McMann was Rousey's first of the non-armbar variety, and Davis believes it is a sign of how rapidly the champion's game is evolving.
Davis knows she has to be ready for anything on Saturday night, and she's confident she'll be prepared for whatever Rousey brings.
"I almost feel like you don't know what to expect from her anymore," Davis said. "Of course everyone is always saying armbar, armbar armbar, but she's put a ton of work into her boxing and clinch work. She is coming off a knockout victory in her last fight, so it's a case of having to be ready for everything. I'm going to have to be fully prepared for this fight to go anywhere and I'm confident that I am."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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