Another in a long line of fights I wish we could see in a no-gi arena, as well, UFC 159 showcases 2008 NCAA champion Phil Davis and ADCC/World Jiu-Jitsu Champion Vinny Magalhaes.
Fight Breakdown: When it comes to BJJ accolades in MMA there are only a handful guys who can match Vinny Magalhaes in honors. Vinny’s a world champ in every competition that matters, submitting a who’s who of both the MMA and Sport BJJ crowd. If there’s one area in MMA you absolutely, positively do not want to mess around with Magalhaes it’s on the mat in any capacity. This is where he’s going to take the fight if possible, too, and makes no bones about it. Considering he owns a pair of flying armbar wins in a single BJJ tourney, one against current UFC middleweight Chris Weidman, Magalhaes’s ability to grab submissions from any spot in the cage has to be taken fairly seriously.
And Phil Davis is a wrestler who really loves the ground game.
That’s why this fight is awfully interesting. Is Davis, an accomplished wrestler with a slick submission game of his own, good enough with his top position to put a choking onto Vinny? Or will Vinny drag him into the deep waters and drown him there?
Look for Vinny to try and ugly this up, baiting Davis to take him to the ground. Davis’s stand up has improved significantly over the past year but he’s still a ground guy first. It’s the one difference between him and Jones in their development; Jones took to striking and Davis to the ground game. Davis is a functional black belt on the ground because of his wrestling pedigree and his athleticism. He has fast hips and is incredible powerful; if he gets top position he’s going to make you tap because he’s good technically and remarkably powerful in his movements. He catches a lot of guys that way, including Alexander Gustafsson and Tim Boetsch.
Vinny’s ground game is good enough to counter this, though, and my guess is that this fight plays out similarly to Davis/Lil Nog. Davis will stand and trade with Magalhaes and slowly work his takedowns, if at all. Magalhaes’s ground game is substantial and I don’t think Davis will test those waters unless it’s for a quick takedown into mount; he’s not going to play guard with him for any extended period of time. Look for this to be more of a kickboxing match than anything else; we’re going to see scrambles as Davis tries to get better position or get out on the ground and Vinny to drag him there.
Why it matters: A win here and Davis moves up the ranks into the fringes of title contender-ship. He hasn’t faced Jon Jones yet and if Jones walks away with the strap Saturday night Davis can get a shot sooner than later. He’s a new face and the UFC is trying to get more fresh faces in the title mix instead of repeating challengers.
Magalhaes vaults from being in that weird spot where contenders begin and prospects end to being in the mix, especially with a finish.