Phil Davis played spoiler for the debut of Yoel Romero at Bellator 266 on Saturday — but it wasn’t easy.
After going three full rounds with the hard-hitting Olympic silver medalist, Davis admitted that he was “very exhausted.” Speaking to media outlets backstage at the SAP Center, “Mr. Wonderful,” a former UFC standout and Bellator light heavyweight champion, explained that “it’s weird. He sets an interesting tempo. Lots of movement, lots of feints. Everything power. Nothing, just like my boxing coach would always say, ‘you’ve got to throw some punches just to keep you honest.’ Nothing keeps you honest. He’s all power. All business.”
Davis wound up taking a split decision win in the main event. The result was not without controversy, given that most saw a dominant fight from the ex-champ; a unanimous decision had widely been expected.
One positive for Davis, who improved to 23-6 (1NC) on the night, was that he didn’t have to feel Yoel Romero’s power full-force. “Luckily, I’m kind of a little bit awkward, so I usually get hit with glancing blows,” Davis noted. “So he got me a couple times off the top of the head and off the forehead, kind of skipped across. And they still hurt. Even though they’re glancing. What does it feel like to get hit solid? Glad I’ll never know!”
Much was made of the wrestler vs. wrestler match-up in Davis vs. Romero. The former is a NCAA Division I champion, the later, an Olympian. In the end, it was Davis who had the edge in that department. Although for a moment, Davis believed he had missed his opportunity for takedowns in the fight. “Coming out for the second round, I saw he was super sweaty. I was like ‘damn, I might have missed my window.'” That’s something that Davis felt happened in his second fight with Vadim Nemkov — but he was able to find success late in the second, and again in the third, taking down Romero on multiple occasions.
When the fight ended after 15 minutes, a puzzling scene played out in the cage. Yoel Romero expressed confusion that the fight was over — apparently expecting two more rounds. UFC, former home to both fighters and where Romero fought most recently, employ five round non-title main events. Bellator does not.
Davis was unaware that Romero had expected something other than fifteen minutes. “Like some organizations do? I don’t think that that was ever communicated to me,” he told Cageside Press after the fight. “I thought it was always three rounds. But I can see if that’s what you’re used to, you could think that. Especially in the heat of the moment, ‘it’s over? It’s over? Three rounds?” But rather than voice any complaint to Davis, Romero apparently took the high road. “He’s a very humble guy, and he had good words to say after the fight,” Davis revealed.
During Saturday’s Bellator 266 broadcast, Julius Anglickas was announced as the replacement for Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in the light heavyweight grand prix. He now has a title shot next month against Vadim Nemkov. We asked Davis, seemingly surprised at the news, if he’d be willing to step back into the grand prix if necessary.
“Is that what they want? They want me to step back in? October 16, I’ll be there! Done!” he exclaimed, before admitting that “I can’t make that, I can’t make that.”
What the full Bellator 266 post-fight press conference with Phil Davis above. More post-fight coverage can be found below!