EXCLUSIVE (Part 1) | Vinny Magalhaes on UFC 159 Fight: “I Don’t See Anything Special in Phil Davis”
This Saturday, Vinny Magalhaes will take on number 8 ranked UFC light heavyweight contender in a UFC 159 main card bout the two have been discussing for quite some time. Sunday night, just days before he is set to fight, Vinny took some time to talk with BJPenn.com’s Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio about the lead-up to Saturday night.
With a bit of confident trash-talking coming from Phil Davis (10-1), the perception of this fight is that Magalhaes (10-5) called out the former Penn State wrestler. When asked about how the fight came to be, however, Vinny explained that the animosity was just a misunderstanding.
“I have to be honest,” said the Brazilian Magalhaes, “it might have sound[ed] like a call out, but it wasn’t really. I think it was right after his fight against [Wagner] Prado in Brazil. I posted on my Twitter or something that I would like to fight Phil Davis at some point. I’m pretty honest, I didn’t mean to say, ‘I want Phil Davis to be my next fight,’ but you know, at some point in time. Two months later, you know what happened to Forrest [Griffin] getting hurt, I felt that was my chance to say [to myself], ‘well, I might be getting that fight sooner than I wanted.’ When Forrest backed out of the fight, I texted Joe Silva and Dana [White] and said, ‘Look, there’s no way for me to take this fight in three weeks notice, but if you guys want me, I can fight Phil like in February or whenever he’s available later, just give me two months, three months for training.’ At that point then it was like, yeah, then I was putting myself available for this fight. Phil took that as me calling him out. Fine. So we start circling back and forth on Twitter, at first just saying, you know, ‘I want to fight Phil Davis…’ and then he takes that a little bit too personal, and he starts talking all kinds of smack. I was like, ‘Fine, man, there’s nothing better for me than talk[ing] smack,” because I can hype something up and get what I want- which in this case was the fight. So at first, it had nothing to do with calling him out, I just wanted a fight. I just wanted to fight. Like I said, at first I just wanted to be fighting Phil at some point; so he just made things better for me, and he just made the fight available right away.”
All the trash-talking aside, this fight marks an important night for Magalhaes, who will be taking a big step up in comptetition. He is coming off a six-fight winning streak, all six of which were early stoppages. Despite Davis’ experience fighting guys like Rashad Evans or Alexander Gustafsson, Magalhaes feels confident for Saturday night.
“I don’t have a fear that he’s going to take me down and hold me down,” said Magalhaes. “That’s why I wanted the fight. As far as the striking goes, I feel like we’re pretty even and [that] I have some advantages as far as results. Even though I haven’t fought the guys he’s fought, he can argue that, at least I have dropped some of the guys I fought, and I’ve knocked some guys out too… He has more fights in the UFC, definitely. But me as a fighter, and me as an opponent, I try to see like who are the real challenges that he had in his career. Rashad [Evans] of course, a former champion… that was the best guy [Davis has] fought so far, and he got completely outclassed. Take that one out- it was a loss- then there’s the guy who he’s beat, at this point one of the very best guys in the division- that was [Alexander] Gustafsson- that was Gustafsson’s second fight in the UFC. Phil did nothing but out-grapple the guy, who at that point wasn’t as good at grappling as he is now… Those are the two fights, Rashad and Gustafsson… I watched all those fights, but there’s nothing that convinced myself that he’s a better fighter than me. I’m probably not going to talk about those two fights with Prado, those fights were jokes… Prado should not even be in the UFC. You know, a lot of people might be thinking that’s my situation, but for me, if I was to fight Prado, I would think, ‘I have to beat this guy. This guy should not be competing at this level.’ So it’s hard for me to say, [Davis has] got all this experience and all this hype behind him… So I don’t see anything special in Phil Davis as everybody else sees.”
What it comes down to, for Vinny, is the development of both their games. Put bluntly, Magalhaes believes his main advantage lies in how he has improved as a fighter- where he believes Davis has remained relatively the same.
“I think Phil has been in the UFC for about four or five years now” he explained. “From what I’ve watched of his videos, from first fight to last fight, there was some improvement… but I feel like it’s almost like- if you look at the video- you almost see the same guy. Little change, but you almost see the same guy. He looks more comfortable, but you still see lack of technique in certain areas…then I try to compare myself to what I was four years ago… you cannot even compare. Four a years ago, I straight up sucked. I was just a jiu jitsu guy, if I couldn’t take the fight to the ground, there was no way for me to win the fight. It’s that simple. Most of the time, I could not even take the fight to the ground, I just had no aggress[ion], I didn’t have wrestling, I didn’t have the attitude of going in there and taking the guy down- I can’t just pull guard nowadays. Back then… if I cannot take the guy down, I’m going to have to strike, which I suck at. Everything changed from the last four years. Even though Phil has changed, I don’t think he’s changed as much as me, meaning that I feel like I have way more improvements than he has. So I feel that’s my advantage as well. People keep comparing, like, ‘Vinny got knocked out by [Ryan] Vader, what he’s gonna do? He’s gonna do this and that.’ That was five years ago. You can’t compare a guy four or five years ago to what he is now. I’ll give an example: BJ Penn, first BJJ class he was a white belt, didn’t know anything; four years later he was a BJJ world champion as a black belt. In four years, you can develop so much in so many things, you cannot compare anybody what they were four years ago to what they can be now.”
Leading up to UFC 159, Phil Davis stated in an interview that his wrestling will trump Magalhaes’ jiu jitsu because his Brazilian opponent is bound to rules which he, as a wrestler, can break. Magalhaes, who holds multiple world titles in Brazilian jiu jitsu and grappling including an ADCC championship win over Fabricio Verdum, responded that in mixed martial arts, those kinds of comparisons are useless.
“Well I think anybody our size can finish people on our feet,” said Magalhaes, “as long as you have the right technique and as long as you feel comfortable. There’s no secret on that, you know, my game plan is going to be always take the fight to the ground and get the finish there. But you’re going to start standing, and depending on what I feel, if I feel I have the advantage and I can punch with him and force him to shoot, if not I feel like I can drop him too. I’m following the MMA rules: at first I’m going to try and punch you in the face, if it doesn’t work, why not try to take the fight to the ground. Is he a better wrestler, and can he avoid a takedown? Yes he can. Can he always avoid a takedown because he’s a better wrestler? No, because he was a better wrestler than Rashad too, and Rashad took him down at least 5 or 6 times. So I don’t know what he’s trying to say when he makes the little comparisons, because I think it’s just stupid.”
Looking beyond his upcoming fight, Magalhaes talked about wrestling generally in the sport of MMA. It seems, in terms of scoring, the advantage goes to the fighter in top-position. In regard to this, Magalhaes said, “I’ve won rounds fighting off my back. Most of the judges, I would say 95 or 98 percent of the judges, they’re going to give it to the guy that’s on top. They’re going to give it to the guy that gets the takedown. To give an example, like last night, there was the [Francis] Carmont fight. I thought he lost that fight- once again, because I thought he also lost to Tom Lawlor. But he got the takedown yesterday, you know, with no damage from top, just a quick takedown, and maybe that was why the judges ended up giving the win to him, which I though was pretty unfair. I still feel like wrestling counts too much. When you think about it, wrestling, it’s nothing but put[ting] somebody on his back, but it’s not for damage. Unless you’re talking about a big slam, it’s not for damage. It’s just to pick where you want the fight to go. Striking is for damage, submissions [are] for damage- it’s for finishing. So those two should be counted way more than takedowns. Let’s say somebody fights me, somebody takes me down, how are you going to say that’s an advantage for the guy on top? He takes me down, I’m going to be glad to be on my back. So I don’t see why the rules give so much points, so much credit, to the guy that gets a takedown, because some people want to be fighting on the ground. I don’t get the rules, and I think it’s a little messed up when things happen like what happened last night.”
No matter how he feels toward the judging, Vinny Magalhaes has done considerably well in his last six fights to make sure the fight does not end in the judges’ hands. With six straight finishes, he will be looking to do the same against collegiate wrestling champion Phil Davis. Be sure to watch the two fight at UFC 159 this Saturday on a stacked PPV card headlined by the UFC light heavyweight title fight between Chael Sonnen and champ Jon Jones.
You can listen to the entire interview with Vinny Magalhaes here. Also, be sure to check out the second half of the interview where he talks about the last season of The Ultimate Fighter from the perspective of a coach under Chael Sonnen.