On August 3 Phil Davis defeated Lyoto Machida, the number one ranked contender in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. It’s true. Davis stood in the center of the Octagon in Brazil, and listened as he was declared the winner on all three judge’s scorecards. Davis even got his hand raised by referee Leon Roberts so that everyone could see that he was the victor. His reward for the win? Sitting at the post-fight press conference and hearing that another fighter, who will be facing the tenth ranked light heavyweight, is penciled in for the next light heavyweight title shot.
That’s right, Phil Davis (12-1-0-1), who has only lost to former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans is very likely to be passed over for a title shot, and that shot is likely to go to Glover Teixeira (21-2), who’s biggest win is a unanimous decision over Quinton Jackson, in what was Jackson’s last fight with the UFC. Yes, Jackson is a former UFC light heavyweight champion, but no one, not even Jackson himself, will claim that the 2013 Rampage is the same fighter as the 2007 version that held the UFC title.
In some ways, Davis getting passed over on the very night he defeated the top ranked contender is puzzling. In other ways, it’s totally understandable.
In a perfect world, where rankings are paid more than lip service, defeating the top contender would make the victor the number one contender. We don’t live in a perfect world, we live in Dana White’s world. A world were letting a fight go to the judges is often viewed as being one step below a mortal sin.
It also didn’t help Davis’ cause that the boss took to twitter to announce that he had Machida winning the fight on his unofficial scorecard.
In Dana White’s world, winning and not sustaining a ton of brain trauma, something Davis did in Brazil, is also something that is worthy of his derision. While he did not unleash a stream of vitriol in Davis’ direction following UFC 163’s co-main event, the same cannot be said of the recent UFC on Fox 8 co-main event.
In that fight, Rory MacDonald use a solid game plan, utilizing the jab to pick apart known knockout artist Jake Ellenberger. For his performance, MacDonald heard White talk about how his “fight sucked so bad,” and how, “you don’t want to put on too many performances like that. It’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for him, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for the sport. Not good for FOX. Definitely not good for pay-per-view.”
MacDonald and Ellenberger were top five fighters going into that bout. MacDonald’s win should have had the UFC talking about him as being under consideration for a title shot. Instead, he heard how White thinks that no one will be screaming to see MacDonald fight again in the near future.
It wasn’t said, but Davis probably landed on the island of the misfit UFC fighters after his win over Machida. He fought smart, he used a good game plan, and he convinced gained late takedowns which always count in the eyes of the judges. He won.
Was the fight the most exciting bout on the card? Not by a longshot, but Davis did what he needed to do, beat the top contender in the division. For that he gets what? A pat on the back and shoved to the side.
Which brings us to Teixeira. Right now he’s one of those fighters that the UFC loves, a fighter that is being pushed as the next big thing in the light heavyweight division. Unlike Davis’ last few fights, Teixeira is “exciting”, and that seems to have more value to the promotion than just a plain old win over the top contender in the division.
However, don’t think that a title shot is all wrapped up in a bow for Teixeira. If he wants a fight when the winner of the Jon Jones versus Alexander Gustafsson bout he’s going to need to deliver, in the words of UFC executive Marshall Zelaznik, delivered at the UFC 163 post-fight press conference, “a strong win” and a “big victory” over Bader. In other words, don’t win like Davis or MacDonald.
It should also be noted that Gustafsson, the man challenging Jones for the title at UFC 165, has only one defeat in his career, a first round submission to Davis.
If Davis is looking in the mirror right now, wondering, “what’s about me?” I can’t say I’d blame him. If I was Teixeira I would ask for clarification of what exactly defines a “strong win” or a “big victory,” as some of these terms seem pretty arbitrary these days.