For the first time in his mixed martial arts career, Phil Davis encountered difficulty in taking down an opponent.
The rising Ultimate Fighting Championship star was still able to emerge victorious from his toughest test.
After going 0-for-4 in takedowns in the first round, the former NCAA wrestling champion took down Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the second, controlled the light heavyweight fight and earned a unanimous decision to remain unbeaten in the main event of the Ultimate Fight Night 24 card Saturday at Seattle.
Davis, who scored a first-round takedown in his first eight pro fights, missed on his first five attempts before completing four of his final five. He said he wasn’t surprised by Nogueira’s stout defense.
“I know he’s tough. He’s resilient,” Davis said. “He learns, and I knew I couldn’t take him down with anything I saw someone else do in the past.”
In winning a close opening round, Davis held his own in the standup against the former amateur boxer. The 26-year-old showed improved kicks as he stood toe-to-toe with Nogueira for the first half of the fight.
Still, Davis once again proved to be at his best on the ground.
Also on the card, Anthony Johnson surprised just about everyone with his work on the mat. He returned from a lengthy layoff to grind out a unanimous decision over Dan Hardy in a bout contested largely on the ground.
Though both fighters had vowed a standup battle, Johnson took down Hardy at will and used his size advantage to wear him down.
The crowd voiced its displeasure for much of the fight, but it was an impressive win by Johnson, who had been out since losing to Josh Koscheck in November 2009 due to surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Chan Sung Jung, who many observers felt was robbed in a split-decision loss to Leonard Garcia last year, did not leave his fate in the hands of the judges in the rematch.
“The Korean Zombie” forced Garcia to tap out on a twister at 4:59 of the second round, believed to be the first successful execution of the maneuver in UFC history. Jung stretched out Garcia and essentially twisted his upper and lower spine in opposite directions, forcing an almost immediate submission with one second left in the round.
Las Vegan Amir Sadollah earned his second straight win, a second-round stoppage of DeMarques Johnson. Sadollah had full mount on Johnson with one of his arms pinned across his face. He landed a series of elbows until the referee stepped in just as Johnson was tapping out.
Johny Hendricks scored the only undercard knockout, over TJ Waldburger in 1:35. Mike Russow won when Jon Madsen was ruled unable to continue by the ringside doctor due to a cut.
Nik Lentz submitted Waylon Lowe midway through the third round, and Mackens Semerzier broke a three-fight losing skid with a first-round submission of Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres. Also, Christian Morecraft choked out Sean McCorkle with a standing guillotine.
John Hathaway, Michael McDonald and Aaron Simpson won by decision.