Two months after losing the most important matchup of his young career, Phil Davis is picking up the pieces and focusing on the future. Davis, who is currently in Las Vegas as one of Dominick Cruz's assistant coaches on the current edition of TUF: Live, hasn't yet thought about when he'll find his way back into the octagon, only about bringing a newer, better version of himself to his next performance.
On a Monday interview on The MMA Hour, the light-heavyweight admitted that the tension involved with the huge spotlight may have gotten to him and affected his performance.
While that led to a loss, Davis is choosing to look at the bright side, which is the opportunity to look back at his performance and address his shortcomings.
(Editor's Note: The Phil Davis interview begins around the 1:05 mark.)
"I’m glad he poked holes in my game," he said. "Because now I can fix some of those holes and know where the No. 2 guy in the world is going to beat me. Now I have a benchmark. Losing is not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world is not getting better. I’m glad I got that fight. I’m glad I got it twice, and I’m just real excited about where I’m at in my career."
Asked what some of those holes are, the first thing Davis pointed out was a desire to improve his striking. But he also acknowledged that experience was a big factor in the fight. While he was tense and anxious, he could sense that Evans was calm and relaxed.
He also pointed to his first-round trouble costing him later in the fight. He was caught in a crucifix late in the opening round and expended a lot of energy trying to escape and ensure the fight was not stopped. That only made things worse.
"I got myself into one of the situations where you've got to go all out to get out of that, and put out a lot of energy," he said. "That kind of put me behind on momentum, and from there, Rashad was just the calmer guy. He eased into the fight better. More and more, I was trying to do more to gain momentum and he was just calm and collected. He was an opportunist. He just took advantage of everything that came his way."
Davis described his performance as "all gas and no brakes," saying he never let the fight slow down to a pace where he settled in.
Despite the defeat, his excitement to return to the gym came quickly afterward. While he wouldn't offer a timeframe or potential opponent for his return date, he did offer a prediction for the upcoming title match pitting Evans against Jon Jones.
His pick? He likes the underdog Evans to snatch the belt away.
"They've trained together and Rashad knows Jon Jones' game like a teammate would," he said. "That's something only a teammate would know, so I’m going to go with Rashad. A lot of people don't give him a fair shake in this fight but it’s a pretty tough fight for both guys."
While he waits for his next fight booking, he'll be seen alongside Cruz on TUF, helping to school the team's young fighters during the 13-week run. He'll also hope to learn a few things himself. As he made clear, he hopes to leave observers with an indelible impression his next time in the octagon.
"I'm taking it day by day," he said. "The last thing I want is to give an incomplete performance. My next performance I want everyone to go, 'Wow, yes, this guy is for real.'"