Phil Davis may not have wowed the masses, but he passed a major test in his natural progression as a professional mixed martial artist.

An NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State University in 2008, Davis trudged through what amounted to a baptism by fire and took a unanimous decision from Pride Fighting Championships veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the UFC Fight Night 24 main event on Saturday at the KeyArena in Seattle. Davis swept the scorecards 30-27 and undoubtedly grew from the experience.

A late replacement for injured former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, Davis kept his perfect record intact and likely vaulted himself into the Top 10 at 205 pounds. Still, besting Nogueira was no easy task. Even the preparation took its toll.

“I was falling apart when I was in this training camp,” Davis said. “I had all types of injuries. I didn’t know if I could make this fight. I just stayed prayerful.”

Davis did not let adversity discourage him, as Nogueira shut down his takedowns in the first round and kept the fight upright, where the Brazilian had a distinct advantage. Davis switched from a double- to a single-leg takedown attack in the second and third rounds and enjoyed far better luck and swung the momentum in his favor. Near the end of round two, he grounded Nogueira, transitioned to a rear position and grinded away with punches and knees.

“I know he’s tough,” Davis said. “He’s resilient.”

The 26-year-old Harrisburg, Pa., native again put the Brazilian on his back in the third round, and though his offense was limited to sporadic punches from inside Nogueira’s crafty guard, he did more than enough to sway the scorecards in his favor. Nogueira, who turns 35 in June, has dropped back-to-back bouts for the first time in his career.

Anthony Johnson dominated former welterweight title contender Dan Hardy with superior strength and wrestling, as he grounded the Team Rough House representative at will and pitched the equivalent of a shutout in the co-headliner. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Johnson, who made a triumphant return from a 16-month layoff.

Johnson knocked Hardy to the ground with a head kick inside the first minute, and it went downhill from there for the charismatic Brit. Blessed with a considerable size and strength advantage, Johnson leaned heavily on his amateur wrestling background and grounded his mohawked foe repeatedly throughout the one-sided 15-minute bout.

Hardy sealed his own fate in the third round, as he drove for an ill-advised takedown and again wound up on his back. Johnson went to work from the top, transitioned to Hardy’s back and twice threatened to finish him, first with an arm-triangle choke and then with a neck crank. Hardy did not go away, but Johnson closed out the most significant victory of his 12-fight career with some powerful right hands on the ground.

Amir Sadollah file photo

Sadollah forced Johnson to wilt.

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 winner Amir Sadollah struck DaMarques Johnson into second-round submission from the mount in a featured welterweight matchup. Exhausted and battered, Johnson asked out of the fight 3:27 into round two.

After a competitive first round, Sadollah found another gear in the second. The supremely conditioned Brooklyn, N.Y., native attacked the body with knees and went to the head with textbook multi-punch combinations. Johnson, who stepped in for an injured James Wilks on two weeks’ notice, wilted under the relentless pressure.

With a little more than two minutes left in the second round, Sadollah clinched with his fatigued foe, swept his feet out from under him and moved to the mount. From there, he secured wrist control with no resistance, tied Johnson’s right hand around his own neck and unleashed a volley of short but powerful elbows that resulted in the submission.

“I want to be the best. I want to fight the best,” said Sadollah, who posted his fourth win in five outings.
“That’s why I’m here. I love this.”

Chan Sung Jung submitted former WEC featherweight title contender Leonard Garcia with a second-round twister, as he avenged his controversial April defeat to the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative in a featured showdown at 145 pounds. Garcia, his body painfully contorted, tapped out 4:59 into round two.

Jung, a late replacement for injured “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 semi-finalist Nam Phan, dominated the rematch. The 24-year-old Korean Top Team representative took down Garcia with roughly 90 seconds remaining in round one, threatened him with an armbar and later moved to full mount. In round two, Jung again pushed the fight to the mat, where he dropped heavy elbows on the tough Texan. He transitioned to Garcia’s back with less than half a minute left in the second round, set up the twister in an ode to certain Brazilian jiu-jitsu savant and coaxed the tapout.

“I’ve watched Eddie Bravo’s videos on YouTube for a long time,” Jung said through his translator. The victory snapped the first two-fight losing streak of the South Korean’s career.

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