Seven years after their first encounter, Phil Davis and Lyoto Machida will square off once again in a high stakes bout at Bellator 245.
Let’s go back a minute to 2013.
Phil Davis was building his way back to title contention and was in the midst of dispatching back-to-back Brazilian contenders. That night on August 3, Davis was set up as a Brazilian slayer who was facing his greatest challenge to date in attempting to slay Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. Through a strong three rounds, Davis used his physicality but Machida met his attack with shots of his own. In the end, Davis was awarded the victory in a controversial decision in his opponent’s native Brazil that Dana White publicly criticized.
Will we see another massive head kick from @PhilMrWonderful?!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) September 6, 2020
Davis went on to go 1-2 against top contenders afterward before signing with Bellator where more immediate opportunities were available. In the end, the move ended up being the right one for “Mr. Wonderful” as he went on a four fight win-streak that included being a part of a cross-promotion event with Dream and culminated in winning the light-heavyweight title. Following the loss of his title in 2017 to Ryan Bader, Davis would win four of his next five. A victory on Friday would be his third straight and build his case for a rematch with Vadim Nemkov.
Back in 2013, Lyoto Machida was on a rebuild of his own. Following his road to the title as an undefeated contender in 2009, a 1-3 stretch had taken much of the shine off the “Machida Era” as the competition had evolved to deal with his once mystifying style. That said, he was on a two fight win-streak and still a major factor in the division as he went into the co-main event with Davis at UFC 163. After coming up short, Machida would find a second life at 185 pounds in the UFC but would leave for Bellator in 2018 to find more immediate opportunities similar to how Davis did.
The last time we saw @LyotoMachidaFW in the cage he put on a clinic!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) September 11, 2019
Machida’s Bellator start immediately made an impact. After wins over Rafael Carvalho and Chael Sonnen in marquee fights in Hawaii and New York, the Brazilian entered a title eliminator with Gegard Mousasi in September where he came up short against his former foe. Now in his first fight of 2020, Machida finds himself with another big opportunity. A win over Davis would make him the biggest name in the division behind Ryan Bader to face new champion Nemkov. With many paths available, getting a big victory reminiscent of his glory days could be enough to secure him his first shot at Bellator gold.
Stylistically, the two bring many of the same weapons they did to the first match-up. Davis will look to use his physicality to tie up Machida and wear him down in the clinch and with ground-and-pound. Machida in comparison will be looking to keep the fight at a distance by getting in-and-out with precise shots and avoiding exchanges with Davis. Several years removed from the first bout, the biggest difference is that Machida has spent the last several years establishing himself as a middleweight. After going through the changes to perform optimally at a lighter weight class, will Machida find difficulty dealing with the larger athlete in Davis?
Currently, the three likeliest options for champion Vadim Nemkov’s next fight are a rematch with Ryan Bader, a bout with new signee Corey Anderson, or a fight with the winner of Davis vs. Machida. Of the three, the Davis and Machida winner would stand out as arguably the most competitive at this juncture. With the fight with Bader being one-sided and Anderson coming off a loss in his last bout, either Machida or Davis would figure as the toughest competitor available for the title. The fight is even bigger for Machida considering that he has yet to face Nemkov.