With Phil Davis earning a shot at Bellator Champ Liam McGeary, how do you think that eventual matchup plays out? Can McGeary stay undefeated in that matchup?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
This is one of those fights where I’m going to have no clue how it’s going to play out, but as soon as it’s done I’ll slap my forehead and tell myself, “Oh yeah. That was an obvious result. How did I not see THAT coming.” the fact of the matter is ‘we don’t know how good Liam McGeary is.’ Period. We know what he can do. What we don’t know is, and pardon the ambiguity of this, we don’t know how good he is. We don’t know how good most of Bellator’s best fighters are because they’re always fighting inside their own pool. I like to think Pitbull is a great featherweight, but objectively, I have nothing upon which to base this hope. He’s better than Weichel, Straus, Curran, et. al., but how good are any of them? Back in the day, this was what made the MLB All-Star Game and World Series so appealing. The separation between the two leagues led to interminable debate as to which league was superior. The UFC has a twenty-plus year history on which we can base our opinions of their fighters. Lineal titles aside, right now the best in the world holds the UFC title, period. And until a UFC champion leaves the UFC as reigning champion, that’s not going to change.
So, back to the main point… What’s going to happen between known quantity Phil Davis and wildcard Liam McGeary? It’s easy to analyze the fact that Davis wants to be on top, McGeary doesn’t mind being on his back, Davis has the best submissions in Bellator’s 205 lb. division, and McGeary might want to avoid that position. But it’s impossible to know if he’s good enough to implement his own will upon a known top-seven (at worst) fighter in Phil Davis.
In short, ask me after the fight. I’ll tell you everything you need to know then.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Phil Davis might be the best signing Bellator ever made that absolutely no one will care about. Think about it, the guy has beaten a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in Lyoto Machida and a man who challenged for that belt in Glover Teixeira. He is legitimately a top ten ranked talent in his division. The UFC was hoping he would become a legitimate and comparable challenger to Jon Jones, as he also was a young athlete blessed with enormous and unique physical gifts. Unfortunately for the UFC, and for anyone hoping Jones would find a Randy Couture to his Chuck Lidell, Davis capped out his skill set and never became anything close to what someone would want to see against Jones.
That said, that skill set is pretty formidable. Liam McGeary is a fine fighter, and before Davis came over he may have been expected to get a few title defenses under his (championship) belt. That is highly unlikely to happen now. While McGeary rather handily dispatched Tito Ortiz, even the long past-his-prime Huntington Beach Bad Boy had the strength to push McGeary around a bit. Ortiz has nothing on Davis, who has a fine wrestling pedigree and is immensely strong. To do a little bit of MMA math here, McGeary beat Emmanuel Newton in five rounds, in an earned decision in what was a competitive fight. Davis manhandled Newton like a small child in a one round-submission victory.
Both Newton and Ortiz showed they could get by McGeary’s reach and take the fight to the ground. Granted, McGeary doesn’t mind being on his back nearly as much as most fighters, as he constantly throws up submission attempts and uses his long limbs to keep away from damage. Davis has almost as much reach as McGeary, and McGeary is not going to have nearly as much fun on the ground when Davis takes him down, as Davis is going to be looking for submissions from the top as he tries to finish the fight. Davis is also going to be able to use his massive strength advantage to punch some of those strikes through, mitigating a lot of the attacking that McGeary will want to do from the guard position. Davis is too strong, too talented, and just too good. He’ll submit McGeary, take Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Title, and become a boring big fish in a boring small pond for a while.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think either comes out ready to win and dominates McGeary or lays a total egg and gets dominated. Davis is an all-or-nothing guy. He either looks great or looks like crap. In this case, though, I think he’ll be ready to fight because of his new environment and I think he controls McGeary and then submits him. I think he grinds him down in the first few rounds and then works towards the submission. I’ll take Davis at his word when he says he’s reinvigorated.
ALEX WILLIAMS, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Liam McGeary comes close to submitting Phil Davis, but can’t quite catch him. By Pride or old-school UFC rules, McGeary deserves the decision. By modern scoring, however, Davis does enough standing and on the ground to grind out a close points win.
CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Bellator has made a huge mistake signing Phil Davis. Davis is obviously head and shoulders better than anyone on their roster. He’s also once of the most awkward and boring fighters ever. I do not care that he submitted Emanuel Newton, which Liam McGeary failed to do in 25 minutes, nor that he knocked out Francis Carmont, although I was quite shocked. Davis beat a former champion in Newton whom hadn’t been training as hard as you’d expect a UFC prospect to train, let alone a division champion. Then stated in the past rather than training he expected the Universe to take care of him. Which means that Newton definitely needs to cut back on the marijuana tokes. Phil Davis may be a kind and affable guy but there isn’t anything that makes me want to see him fight.
As far as Liam McGeary, his reign as champion and undefeated fighter is close to the end. Davis will out grapple any type of offense that McGeary can even think to mount. McGeary was easily taken down and controlled by a senior citizen in Tito Ortiz. What would make anyone think that he’s stand a chance against an athletic and explosive guy like Davis.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This is a fight that I’m looking forward to. Who knew Davis could be involved in a fight that sounds intriguing? As far as submission specialists go, Davis has faced Lil’ Nog and Vinny Magalhaes, but never was in any danger with either of them. Lil’ Nog was past his prime and ended up getting drubbed by Davis’ wrestling, and he only ended up on the ground one time with Magalhaes before getting back to his feet relatively quickly. Considering Magalhaes is a poor striker, Davis was able to use his length and outpoint him. Will he be able to do so with McGeary? I don’t think so.
If it was as simple as that I’d favor McGeary, but it’s much more complicated. I expect Davis won’t have issue in going to the ground with McGeary; he isn’t the type to sit in his opponent’s guard and pound them out as Emanuel Newton and Tito Ortiz both tried to do to McGeary. Davis looks for side control or his opponent’s back, hunting for a submission while doing a fantastic job of staying out of trouble himself. I don’t know what McGeary has to offer outside of his dangerous guard to counter Davis’ wrestling and grappling.
McGeary is a smart fighter, and I’m sure that he’ll come up with something to combat Davis, but I don’t think it will be enough. Davis is one of the best athletes at 205 lbs. and never gets enough credit for being more than just a wrestler as his submission skills are legit. I don’t think he’ll finish McGeary, but he’ll take a unanimous decision.
[Phil Davis art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]