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Phil Davis: I Don't Want Fans to Think I'm Another Lay-and-Pray Fighter

Becoming an NCAA wrestling champ and four-time All-American at Penn State prepared Phil Davis (7-0) well for a career in mixed martial arts, but there is one thing that surprised him when he went from the wrestling mats to the cage.

"When you're at home watching the UFC and you see a guy get elbowed in the face, you think, Oooh, that poor guy, he just got elbowed in the face," Davis told MMA Fighting. "But I'm here to tell you, that hurts your elbow. You don't think it would, but it hurts your elbow. When you calm down, stop sweating, get your shower and change, you will think, Man, my elbow really hurts. I'm telling you. It's surprising."

In his two years as a pro, the undefeated Davis has had plenty of experience with being the one who delivers those elbows.

Being on the receiving end is still something he's mostly unfamiliar with during his time in the cage, which might help explain his answer when you ask if he ever stops to consider what his opponents' faces must feel like when he's busy icing his elbow.

"No...well, you I don't," he laughed. "I'll have to ask next time."

Next time for Davis will be this Saturday night, when he takes on another former collegiate wrestler in Tim Boetsch (12-3) at UFC 123 in Detroit, Mich. Davis has no problem admitting that Boetsch will probably be the best wrestler he's faced in the UFC. "The Barbarian" wrestled at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, only about 30 miles from Davis' alma mater, and Davis said it helps him to know what he should expect out of Boetsch.

"He's what I like to call a typical Pennsylvania guy: tough as nails, strong as heck, and he won't quit. So what are you going to do?"

What Davis plans to do, he said, is give fans the show they didn't get to see that last time he fought, when his decision victory over Rodney Wallace at UFC 117 left him feeling unsatisfied.

"It just wasn't a great fight, you know. I just felt like it was kind of an off night. I went out there, did what I needed to do, but I couldn't get a finish. And I felt like that was a guy I should have gotten a finish on. I left kind of feeling like, I guess I won, but I don't really feel like a winner."

Simply winning isn't enough, said Davis. Not when you come from a collegiate wrestling background and you're striving to be known as a guy who does more than just grind out boring decisions.

"I don't want the fans to think I'm another one of those guys who just lays and prays and does nothing. I'm more than capable of putting on an entertaining fight, and that one just wasn't all that entertaining."

Of course, there's a danger inherent in trying too hard to entertain. A wrestler who gets away from his strengths and tries to give the fans a slugfest on the feet is just asking for trouble, and if he gets himself knocked out he can't count on much sympathy from the people who wanted to see him stand and bang.

It's an added pressure when you carry an undefeated record, as Davis does. Or at least it would be if he allowed himself to think about it, which he claims he doesn't.

"You can't think of yourself as undefeated, because there's a losing side to someone being undefeated. I think of it as, every time I get in the cage, I'm 0-0. It doesn't matter if it's my hundredth or millionth fight. What's important is always this fight."

It's a smart approach, especially since MMA fans seem to think the same way. The good news is, the ones who were bored with his last effort will be perfectly willing to forget all about it if he can put on a show against Boetsch on Saturday. Davis just has to make sure it's a show that still ends with him in the starring role.

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