Commentary

Davis' coming-out party not off, just PPD

Originally Published: March 27, 2011
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

SEATTLE -- Phil Davis extended his perfect record Saturday with a unanimous decision win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Fight Night 24. But for a day that many expected would be Mr. Wonderful's coming-out party, it didn't really feel like it.

Despite perfect 30-27 scores from all three judges scoring the fight, Davis (9-0) was far from dominant. He struggled throughout to take Nogueira (19-5) to the ground and never, at any point, had the Brazilian in serious trouble.

Following the win, Davis admitted his nerves were high headed into the fight and during the opening round.

"I had a little bit of jitters," Davis said. "I got ahead of myself and ended up out of position. It was just a matter of me taking my time and using my hands and kicks."

Under normal circumstances, Davis' performance would likely be seen as satisfactory -- certainly not disappointing. But the MMA landscape, specifically the light heavyweight division, is not under normal circumstances.

Last week, a 23-year-old named Jon Jones demolished Mauricio Rua en route to becoming the youngest UFC champion ever. Rather than feel anxious early in that fight, Jones opened it with a flying knee.

Hours before he did all this, he ran down a would-be thief in a New Jersey neighborhood.

Fair or not, Davis' performance this weekend was going to be set side-by-side with Jones. The two are athletically similar, young and, so far, haven't been legitimately beaten in the Octagon.

Of course, Davis is aware of the inevitable Jones comparisons and, rightly so, feels honored by them. But when it gets to a point where a win over an opponent like Nogueira isn't enough anymore, he believes expectations have gotten out of hand.

"I'm not annoyed," said Davis, on the Jones comparisons. "I like that people bring me up when Jon Jones comes up. You just have to let people know that I don't want to be walking in his shadow.

"Then people start to have the same expectations for me that they have of him. We have different styles. He's his own fighter. I'm my own."

Forget Jones for a moment; Davis' performance Saturday was a good one.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Phil Davis
Rod Mar for ESPN.comIt wasn't pretty, but Phil Davis did do enough to end the night with his hand raised.

After failing to take an opponent down in the first round for the first time in his career, the former NCAA wrestling champion remained calm and eventually adjusted his takedown shots into successful ones.

On the feet, Davis held his own with Nogueira, a high-level boxer. Kicks alone won him the first round when he couldn't get the fight to the ground.

The experience of standing with Nogueira for the first eight minutes of the fight and the satisfaction of working takedowns late should only give Davis more confidence heading forward.

"It's hard to find someone more seasoned than Nogueira," Davis said. "To be able to get a win over somebody as experienced as him will give me more confidence going into the next fight."

Problem is, there were expectations on Davis for this fight because of Jones. High ones. Those expectations will only grow with every win he and Jones add to their records.

Toward the end of Saturday's postfight news conference, Davis reminded everyone that his fans haven't seen his best yet.

"I'm working on everything," Davis said. "I really haven't got to the point where I perform in a fight like I do in practice. That's something the best athletes are able to do. Once I get better, you'll see a lot more variety out of me."

In other words, maybe Mr. Wonderful's coming-out party wasn't canceled -- just postponed.

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.

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