Phil Davis was looking to make a statement at Bellator 200, and ‘Mr. Wonderful’ did just that against Linton Vassell.
It had all the makings of a light heavyweight title eliminator. At Bellator 200 on Friday, former 205lb champion Phil Davis faced ex-title challenger Linton Vassell. Vassell, happy to be fighting at home in his native England, was the last man to challenge Ryan Bader for the light heavyweight title. Bader, off moonlighting in the World Heavyweight Grand Prix, wasn’t the focus for Vassell however. That was Davis, the decorated former UFC standout and wrestling star from Penn State.
Davis vs. Vassell kicked off the televised portion of Bellator 200, which took place at the SSE Arena in London, England. ‘The Swarm’ already had wins over two former Bellator light heavyweight champions, and was looking to make Phil Davis the third.
With action underway, it was Linton Vassell who made first contact, by way of a leg kick. Something he punctuated moments later with a heavier kick to the thigh. Davis answered back with a kick of his own, only for Vassell to catch the limb, and try to rush Davis, backing him up to the fence. The pair then settled down just a little, with Davis leading with a 1-2, and Vassell showing improved takedown defense as the Penn State alum was unable to get him to the ground through the first three minutes of round one. Vassell employed a few stance changes as the clock wound down, but it was Davis connecting flush, landing the most significant strike of the round. An overhand right would follow a bit later, as would a pair of knees in the final thirty seconds, giving Davis the edge heading into round two.
In the second, Vassell led with his jab but was quickly warned by the ref to keep his hand closed. Davis went to the leg of his opponent with a kick, then fired off a combo upstairs. ‘Mr. Wonderful’ was looking to find a way to close the distance, and finally did, catching a kick and scoring the first takedown of the fight. That allowed Davis to control the back of Linton Vassell, and land some heavy blows in the process. Vassell would regain his feet in short order, only to be ground into the fence by Davis. Trying to turn the tables, Linton Vassell then charged in for a single leg, stayed on it, and took Phil Davis down. Davis, however, reversed and secured top control. Vassell escaped and quickly took ‘Mr. Wonderful’ back down, only for Davis to quickly free himself.
A lot would no doubt hinge on how the second round was scored. Heading into the third, Davis might have been up two rounds, but had Vassell’s takedowns swayed the judges? Yet not long into round three, it did not matter. Not in the least. Drawing audible gasps from the crowd, Phil Davis uncorked a right head kick that dropped Linton Vassell to the canvas like a sack of potatoes. A follow-up strike was merely a formality — the wrestler, Davis, had knocked out the striker, Vassell, and by head kick no less.
Phil Davis def. Linton Vassell by knockout (head kick), Round 3, 1:05