Expectations can be dangerous things. The first step to a letdown, after all, is excitement.
It sometimes feels like the fight game is stuck in an endless cycle of anticipation, hype and disappointment. We love to build a guy up, make him a legend in our own minds and then tear him down when he doesn’t live up to the advertising we’ve created for him.
This week it’s Phil Davis’ turn to be the straw man.
Davis came into Saturday night’s Ultimate Fight Night 24 main event against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira dogged by unfair comparison’s to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and under the weight of unrealistic expectations that Davis might be the guy to someday give the champ a run for his money. Long story short: Davis won the fight, defeating the more experienced Nogueira by unanimous decision.
He just didn’t win it quite impressively enough for the rest of us.
The former NCAA national champion at Penn State struggled in the early going to put Nogueira on the mat and ate a series of counter left hands while trying to set up his double leg shots. Aside from some wicked kicks, Davis’ standup looked like about what you’d expect from a guy who’s only been a pro MMA fighter for a couple of years. In a word: rudimentary.
After seemingly losing the first – seemingly, because he actually ended up winning 30-27 on all three scorecards – Davis righted the ship, switched over from doubles to single leg takedowns and essentially outwrestled Nogueira for the final seven minutes of the fight. From anyone else, you might say it was an impressive comeback performance, which showed the rookie’s stick-to-it-tiveness and provided another milestone on his road toward contendership.
From Davis, it’s been met with more disapproval than anything else.
In the wake of the fight, the MMA media has authored a series of “enough is enough” pieces about him, crying out that it’s time to put the brakes on Davis’ personal hype train. Odd, since it was the MMA media who shoveled all the coal in the first place. Davis is no Jones, we’re told now, and it’s premature to think he could be on any short list of potential future challengers.
Well, no duh. That’s what Davis himself has been telling us all along.
None of the hype has come from the fighter himself, nor has it come from the UFC. It’s all been imposed on him by outsiders. Throughout it all, Davis has maintained that he is in no rush to become a top contender. He even said in the cage after the fight he was not surprised that Nogueira turned out to be such a tough opponent and made no reference whatsoever to his upcoming plans in the Octagon.
Davis’ future, it seems, is something the rest of us were trying to plan for him. Now it’s us, not him that needs to reevaluate our priorities.
Chad Dundas writes about MMA for Crave Online, CagePotato.com and Versus.com. He lives in Missoula, MT.