By Todd Stanford
The Daily Item
BALTIMORE -- It was a rough night Saturday at UFC 172 for fighters with a Pennsylvania connection.
Northumberland resident Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch lost by submission; Hollidaysburg native Charlie Brenneman hit the canvas thanks to a brutal second-round KO; and Harrisburg's own Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis lost by unanimous decision to Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.
Of the three, only Davis went the distance inside the cage at the Baltimore Arena. Still, his loss was the biggest upset on the card.
Long a top-tier light heavyweight -- with wins over Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira to prove it -- Davis was perhaps a victory or two away from a title shot against Jon Jones (who also won Saturday via a unanimous decision over Glover Teixeira).
But Johnson, the muscular former welterweight who is competing at a more natural weight class since moving up to 205, made a triumphant return to the UFC with a one-sided beat-down of the former Nittany Lion.
Although renowned for his wrestling (he was a national champion at Penn State) and submission ability, Davis' weakness is in the striking game, which just happens to be Johnson's strength.
Johnson, himself a former juco national wrestling champ, never let Davis take him to the ground. As a result, he battered Davis to the tune of 30-27 on all three scorecards (i.e., all three judges awarded him every round).
"I've always believed in my wrestling," Johnson said afterward. "We just never got to see it because I was always knocking people out. I knew my wrestling was pretty good. Everybody just underestimated it."
The loss will especially sting for Davis, one of the most affable fighters in the sport. He's upped his "talking" game of late, taking multiple shots at Jones this week. Johnson clearly saw this as a slight, and used it for motivation.