Phil Davis was the man who convinced Scott Coker to bring Bellator MMA to Penn State, and Friday at Bellator 186, he had debuting BJJ expert Leo Leite standing between him and glory in front of the PSU crowd.
Bellator 186 touched down at Penn State on Friday, bringing with it PSU alum and former Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis. “Mr. Wonderful” was returning for the first time since dropping the belt to Ryan Bader at Bellator 180. He’d be looking to get back in the win column against Brazil’s Leo Leite, a jiu-jitsu champion undefeated in seven professional MMA bouts.
With the crowd heavily in the corner of Davis, a decorated wrestler who was an NCAA Division I All-American four years running at Penn State, the stage was set for the former champion to make a triumphant return. Leite, meanwhile, was looking to play spoiler.
The atmosphere at the Bryce Jordan Center was electric as Davis made his way to the cage. Davis opened the action with a kick, and worked his jab early, occasionally threatening a level change. The pair then clinched against the cage, with Davis pressing his weight against Leite, who would attempt a trip that nearly paid off. Davis would stay up, however, working knees, and briefly drop the Brazilian, who immediately tried to grab an ankle. With Mr. Wonderful escaping, the action went back to the fence briefly.
At the midway point of round one Davis looked the fresher of the two, and was clearly the better fighter on the feet. He was soon walking Leite down, connecting with a number of punches and coming close with a head kick. Leite would manage to give Davis a small scare with a counter, but Davis remained in control. Leite would land a leg kick late in the round, but was mostly ineffective against the former champion early.
Davis opened the second connecting early, later going to the body with a kick. An eye poke paused the action to allow the doctor to take a look at Leite, during which time Davis worked the crowd a little. Once back underway, Davis would again have the edge on the feet, and used his wrestling to fill any gaps. Crucially, to the midway point of the fight, he had stayed away from the danger of Leite’s submissions. As the round wore on, Davis was connecting more and more, with a lead left consistently finding a home.
In the third, with a “Lets Go Phil” chant going early, Davis walked down his opponent, looking for an opening. Leite, at this point, was going to need a finish. Ultimately, the difference was Davis’ ability to avoid the ground game, get the better of Leite on the feet, and show a strong fight IQ, evading most of the counters his opponent could muster. Davis would finish the third round still landing clean on Leite, and picked up the unanimous decision victory in the end.
Phil Davis def. Leo Leite by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)