Check out about 30 seconds of any Phil Davis match , and it's obvious why the kid is college wrestling's latest hot MMA prospect. He's a four-time All-American who just won his first national title as a senior. The Penn Stater is an athletic freak, with gi-enormous arms and surprising power for his lanky 197-pound frame. Throw in plenty of personality (he swears he's a sewing addict) and it's obvious why Team Takedown, a year-old organization that "hires" former wrestlers and pays them a salary and living expenses, is after Davis hard. "He's probably our No. 1 target," says TT founder Ted Ehrhardt. "He could be a really good one."
Davis may be the top target, but he's not the only one. Here are two more prospects, according to an informal poll of college wrestling coaches, MMA trainers and fighters with a wrestling background.
J.D. Bergman, Ohio State: He just lost in the NCAA finals. But he's a long, lean heavyweight who moves well for a big guy. Here's a clip of him defeating Davis last year at 197 pounds . Plus, if you saw the NCAA championships this year, he does an amazing Governator. "He would do well," says one coach of a top-five program. "You gotta be mean to make it in MMA. He looks and sounds nice, but I have no doubt he'd be good at punching people in the face."
Mark Perry, Iowa: Perry first became famous when he beat Oklahoma State star Johny Hendricks in last year's finals. Hendricks, one of the NCAA's best wrestlers of the past 20 years, had pounded Perry seven straight times before being stunned in the title match. Hendricks has gone on to a 3-0 start in MMA, training with Randy Couture's gym as a member of Team Takedown. Current teammate Eric Bradley already is envisioning a Perry/Hendricks rematch, this time in a cage, with punches allowed. "That would definitely sell," says Bradley, a former Penn State wrestler who's now fighting for Showtime's Elite XC. "Perry is so flexible and good in scrambles that he'd be a legit MMA contender." Or maybe not. After insisting on being anonymous, one college coach said this about Perry: "You saw how much injury time he needed in this year's national title match, right? I'm not sure he has the mentality to fight."
Wrestlers in MMA
On Saturday night's UFC pay-per-view, Kenny Florian repeated what quite a few message boarders mistakenly say about the amazing Georges St.-Pierre: that he's one of the best wrestlers in the UFC. Uh, no. Not even close. Now let's get the standards clear here. Say every UFC fighter put on a singlet and entered a wrestling tournament. No threat of punches or kicks. Just wrestling — takedowns, escapes, back points, etc. So while GSP did take down former NCAA champ Josh Koscheck twice in their MMA bout, and he does indeed work out with the Canadian wrestling team (by the way, take a look at world wrestling rankings once and try to find Canada), Koscheck would maul St.-Pierre in a real wrestling match. I'd put the score at about 17-2. GSP, and many other fighters fans have accepted as being good wrestlers, has solid wrestling skills in a fight. On a mat? Nope. Don't believe me? Listen to Bradley. "Everybody makes the mistake when they see a takedown, that that guy's a great wrestler," Bradley says. "But there are so many variables in an MMA fight that you can't just evaluate a guy's wrestling ability because he hits one double-leg takedown."
THE FUTURE FOR ST.PIERRE
Speaking of GSP, Mike Sloan from Sherdog gives a good look at what should be next for St. Pierre. Based on pure talent and logic, I agree — Jon Fitch should be GSP's next fight. My gut says we're going to see Serra/St. Pierre III first, though, and I can't say I entirely disagree. They have split two fights, after all. Here's an idea for a summer fight card: Have GSP fight Fitch in the main event, with Matt Serra against bitter rival Matt Hughes on the undercard. Even if Hughes beat Serra, the UFC could probably still make Serra/GSP III.
On last week's Ultimate Fighter, contender Jesse Taylor says he's been told he resembles famous former UFC ref Big John McCarthy. He's right. Compare for yourself.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Favorite quote of the week comes courtesy of Luke Cummo in the latest issue of Real Fighter Magazine: "There is not a sports drink formulated by any scientist that will hydrate you more than your own urine. When it comes to fight time, the day of my fight I don't eat a single thing — all I do is drink my own urine until I defecate pure urine. That's how I know that my digestive system is completely empty." Yikes.