CHICAGO -- Unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Phil Davis has not faced much adversity in his brief mixed martial arts career, and he sees that as a positive.
Rashad Evans, his opponent on the UFC on Fox 2 card tonight at the United Center, isn't so sure about that.
"When you get hit with a good shot and you don't know if you're coming or going, you don't know why the ground is moving, you don't know if the referee hit you or someone threw something from outside the octagon that hit you. Until you've dealt with that in a fight, it's really hard to tell the kind of character you really have," Evans said.
He promises to be the first to test Davis, who is taking a big step up in competition and exposure against the former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion in a main event on network television.
"He's in deep water and I'm the shark," Evans said.
Davis, 27, was a four-time All-America and 2008 NCAA champion wrestler at Penn State. He made the transition to mixed martial arts and has racked up nine wins in short order mostly using his wrestling skills, including five conclusive victories in the UFC.
"Why would I worry about how I would handle adversity if the way I handle that in the first place is prepare and strike first?" Davis asked. "You don't plan for things to go wrong and then (try to turn it around). I plan for things to go right the first time."
Davis already appears to be passing his first test in the spotlight. He has held his own in the war of words with Evans, who has shockingly chosen to attack Davis on his strengths.
"If I wrestled you in college, I guarantee I would beat you," said Evans, who was a junior college champion and then a decent wrestler at Michigan State. "If we wrestled right now I guarantee I would beat you. Your technique is trash. You won a college championship off junk."
Davis quickly dismissed the claim, calling Evans a ".500 wrestler" who "competed" in college. He also wore his Penn State singlet to Friday's weigh-ins to remind Evans of his achievements.
"I encourage imagination and it's good that he has that, but no. He'll never beat me in wrestling. Not thumb wrestling. Not anything of the sort," he said.
Davis did, however, give credit to Evans for a good line when he said Davis looked like the result of comedian Arsenio Hall and former NBA player John Salley having a baby.
It's all part of Evans' plan to mentally defeat Davis before the fight begins.
"Phil is a nice guy. He's not really a fighter. If you ever talk to him, he's so soft-spoken and always smiling," Evans said. "I want to say as much as I can to hurt his feelings because he's sensitive. I already know how Phil's mind works and I know he's a sensitive kind of guy. I think that me saying something is going to be icing on the cake."
Evans, 32, remembers his first time headlining a major event and says Davis has no idea what to expect.
"The reality of the situation hit me and it was just so much bigger than I thought it was going to be," he explained. "I think Phil is going to have to deal with some of the same pressures and we'll see if his mind is right."
Davis has yet to show any signs of cracking. In addition to the verbal sparring, Davis knows that fighting on Fox in a top-contender bout at this stage of his career is far ahead of schedule.
"I think it would be beyond very ambitious to say I saw this happening so soon. I didn't know nine wins could get you to a No. 1 contender fight, to be honest," he said. "I'm very glad, very thankful, that I've made this path for myself. I'm just blessed to be where I am."
The bout headlines the second UFC event on Fox, but is the first official card in the seven-year deal between the organization and the network. The heavyweight title fight that aired in November -- Junior dos Santos' first-round victory over Cain Velasquez in Anaheim, Calif. -- was essentially a test run before the deal formally went into place in January.
Both the UFC and network hope to surpass the nearly 9 million viewers who tuned in to watch that fight.
While just one fight aired on that broadcast, three fights will be a part of tonight's show. Michael Bisping takes on Chael Sonnen to determine the next challenger for Anderson Silva's middleweight title. Also, Demian Maia meets middleweight prospect Chris Weidman.
The card airs live on Fox (Cable 5) at 5 p.m. The entire undercard will be shown live on Fuel (Cable 318) at 1:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.