It was one of the most impressive performances we’ve seen in the UFC this year… Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson’s dismantling of Phil Davis — who, lest we forget, is a legitimate top-8 light heavyweight — from beginning to end. Actually, to be perfectly precise, Rumble beat Davis like the rented mule of a red-headed stepchild. He stuffed the D-1 national champion wrestler’s shots like Davis was a freshman stepping onto the mat for the first time, brutalized him with crisp counter punches, and, unlike his first stint in the UFC, maintained a calm, methodical pace throughout the fight. I doubt Johnson will be allowed to jump the line for a title bout with the Great One (Jon ‘Bones’ Jones), but I know that’s a scrap worth seeing down the road.
Davis was beaten in every single phase of the fight, from wrestling to striking to gameplanning, and by the end of the first round it was clear that he had no answers for Rumble. We can point to a number of identifiable factors here, from Davis’ failure to develop anything resembling power behind his strikes (for which we can partially blame his camp, Alliance, which emphasizes movement over proper weight transfer), to his inability to set up his shots with punches, to some real regression in his wrestling game. Whatever it was, however, Davis might have hit his ceiling with his current camp and training partners. With less than six years of experience under his belt, he’s still young enough to drastically improve, and for the sake of a thin light heavyweight division, I hope he does.
As for the Light Heavyweight title defense, the UFC sets them up and Jon Jones knocks them down. In another era — 2008-2009 (amazing, great years, by the way…), say — Glover Teixeira might have been a champion: he has the wrestling, the boxing, the underrated submission game, the power, and the athleticism. Today, he’s just another name on Jonny Bones’ ledger, another warm body to be dominated. There shouldn’t be any doubt at this point that he’s the greatest light heavyweight of all time, and the battle for pound-for-pound best is a two-man race between Jones and Aldo. That’s not to say that he’s perfect – the defensive holes at boxing distance are still there, although they’re getting smaller – but his ability to deliver glorious violence at every single slice of range is awe-inspiring and nearly unparalleled. Simply put, when we watch Jon Jones, we’re seeing one of the greatest of all time. Hate him if you like — nobody ever said you had to like a fantastic fighter – but never forget how special he is.
As for Teixeira, I’m not sure any athlete in the history of combat sports, from ancient Greek pankratiasts to present-day light heavyweights, could have beaten Jones tonight. With that said, it’s hard to deny that this was a huge setback for Glover. At 34 and with twelve years of experience under his belt, it’s unlikely that he’s going to be able to make a run for the top, and even if he does, would anybody pick him to beat the champ? This was his shot, and it didn’t go his way.