Taking a look at 10 storylines coming out of UFC Fight Night 24 in Seattle
PHIL DAVIS IS STILL GROWING
In the wake of Jon Jones’s tremendous rush to the top of the UFC light heavyweight division, a lot of people are expecting a similar quick climb for Davis. If his performance Saturday night is any indication, he’ll get there, but it shouldn’t be any time soon.
Davis is a tremendous talent with a very bright future, but he’s far from being a finished product. Earning a good win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is another step in the right direction, but showed that the former national champion’s striking is still a work in progress.
Some may frame his win Saturday night as a sign that the hype surrounding Davis is a little too much, but to me it as simply indicative of something Davis told me earlier in the week: he’s still green.
As he continues to develop, Davis will become a very dangerous part of the 205-pound division. I just hope people give him time to get there at his own pace.
THE NEXT GENERATION IS REALLY GENERATION NOW
We always talk about fighters like Davis as being a part of “The Next Generation,” but watching the former national champion wrestler work through Nogueira on Saturday night is a sign that the next generation has already arrived.
With each passing event we see more established names being overtaken by young upstarts. Even in youthful battles like Saturday’s Fight of the Night, the UFC is finding emerging talents like 20-year-old Michael McDonald to showcase moving forward.
The evolution of the pecking order shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Just as the current established ranks pushed out the initial collection of one-dimensional fighters who succeeded in the early days of the UFC, now the new breed of talents are doing the same.
It’s a little bit of Darwin for our mixed martial arts diet.
JOHNSON GROWING AS A FIGHTER
After 16 months on the sidelines and answering an abundance of questions about his weight, Anthony Johnson put everything aside and earned a solid victory on Saturday night.
Known primarily for his striking (and troubles with his weight), Johnson returned to his wrestling roots to dominate former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy in the co-main event of the evening. A former junior college national champion, Johnson took Hardy down with ease while using his size to control the action on the canvas.
Though he wasn’t as active as the raucous Seattle crowd would have liked, Johnson said in the post-fight press conference that getting the win was most important. The soft-spoken Georgia native also explained that he’s ready to take the next step in his development.
Instead of focusing solely on his striking, Johnson plans to use his wrestling more often, and joked about trying submissions in the cage for the first time in his career. With his enormous frame and dangerous striking, working to be more well-rounded could make Johnson a threat in the welterweight division as early as this year.
NO ONE GETS IT MORE THAN DAN HARDY
There isn’t a fighter in the sport who understands the importance of the pageantry of mixed martial arts than Hardy.
As polarizing a figure as there is in the sport, the Brit gets a big pop wherever he goes, with equal parts of the crowd cheering and booing. And there is Hardy, egging them on the whole way.
First hidden behind his trademark toothy bandana on the way to the cage, then playing up his introduction with Bruce Buffer, the charismatic Nottingham native works the room better than anyone. He’s embraced his role as the lovable bad guy, and it will keep him employed for the foreseeable future.
Now all he has to do is get back into the win column.
Former Ultimate Fighter winner Amir Sadollah looked very good in his battle with fellow TUF alum DaMarques Johnson. The Season 7 champion showed solid striking, adding more boxing to his traditional Muay Thai approach, and mixing in a handful of takedowns for good measure.
After enduring a back-and-forth first round that two judges awarded to Johnson, Sadollah came out more aggressive than he’s been since coming into the UFC. While the second started down the same path as the first, Sadollah eventually earned the upper hand, locking down Johnson in an old school, “Total Hold Down” position, dropping a series of elbows and punches through the finish.
It’s not the first time the Virginia native has looked impressive in the Octagon; his victories over Brad Blackburn and Phil Baroni were both solid. The key is taking this progress and maintaining his momentum at the next level.
He stumbled against Dong Hyun Kim earlier in his career and was dropped by Johny Hendricks in his UFC debut, so wins have been elusive against the next tier of talent. Without being able to score a win in the second level, Sadollah will never move past this point in his career progression.