On the preliminary section of Bellator 201 this Friday, fans will have the opportunity to witness the welterweight division’s greatest prospect, California’s own Joey Davis (3-0 MMA).
“Black Ice” gained notoriety in the combat sports community after his undefeated run in NCAA Division II wrestling, where he won four national championships for Ohio’s Notre Dame College. Davis is the only Division II wrestler to accomplish this feat, making him the undisputed greatest of all time in that domain.
But Davis is much more than a blue-chip “Wrestling to MMA” prospect. First-rate coaching and years of hard work have transformed him into a smooth, devastating striker.
MMASucka was fortunate to be able to speak to Joey Davis before his upcoming bout. Check out the GIFs and analysis of Davis’s complete game, as well as unique insights from the mind of a future champion.
The Style of Joey Davis: Intelligent Destruction
While Davis doesn’t believe in labeling himself with a “fighting style” so early in his career, he seeks to emulate the greats.
“If I was trying to be like a fighter, I’d probably be like Ben Askren, or a Georges St-Pierre style. I believe for taking less damage, they have the best style, and the best fight IQ.”
Longevity and defense are top priorities for Davis and his coaches at Team Bodyshop.
The team is led by Davis’s uncle, the highly accomplished MMA veteran Antonio McKee.
“He’s programming us, it’s like a computer-style fight game,” Davis said of his uncle. “It’s crazy how it works out.”
Davis has been supported by his team since the start of his athletic career as a child.
Bodyshop has quietly amassed a stable of killers; Aaron Pico, A.J. McKee, Brandon Halsey, and Kevin Ferguson Jr., or “Baby Slice“, to name a few.
“We’ve got the best training in the world,” he said. “My coaches are developing me into the type of fighter where I can do anything. It helps me so much; it helps my mind because I’m very confident in my abilities.”
To observe McKee’s masterful coaching at work, let’s take a look at the striking, wrestling, and grappling demonstrated by Joey Davis in his combat sports career.
Stealth Bomber Striking
In his wrestling career, Davis was fantastic at utilizing his reach to get to different entries and finish takedowns. That physical intelligence has transferred to the stand-up arts. A power striker, Davis employs his frame to tag opponents with force, before slipping away untouched.
–vs. Keith Cutrone–
All expectations were shattered in the professional debut of Joey Davis. Anticipating a pure wrestler, fans were pleasantly surprised by his smooth, educated boxing game.
Cutrone was befuddled from the jump. On the outside, he was continually surprised by the distance Davis was able to work from. In tight, exceptional head movement and footwork kept Davis clear of any attacks.
Lead right hands and leaping left hooks were his preferred weapons.
Even after a dominating beatdown, Davis stayed humble as always. Impossibly high standards are expected in a champion of his caliber.
“If you watch my first fight, I threw about a total of 15 punches. Most of them landed, but they didn’t really do damage. I mean you can watch the fight, you see I’m trying to figure my way out.”
–vs. J.T. Roswell–
While Davis’s striking ability was now more appropriately scouted, Team Alpha Male‘s Justin “J.T.” Roswell was in for a nasty surprise.
A perfectly placed back kick to the liver sent Roswell’s gameplan out the window. Badly hurt, Roswell rushed to grapple with the legendary wrestler. It was ill-advised.
This would not be the last we saw of that kick.
–vs. Ian Butler–
A college wrestler at Lindenwood University, Ian Butler brought experience and grappling chops against the rapidly developing skillset of Joey Davis.
Butler sought to take the fight to Davis, moving forward consistently. Early on we saw Butler’s pressure stifled by jabbing and distance management.
“In my third fight, I was probably the most skilled,” Davis said. “I’m getting better and better, it’s scary.” Davis remarked he used his growing fight IQ to time the forward motion of Butler for an intercepting back kick to the liver.
Slamming his heel to the liver, Davis melted the insides of Ian Butler before dropping bombs from above to finish the fight.
Becoming a state champion in California is a herculean task. California uses a one-class system, meaning there is only one tournament for every wrestler in the state. Compare this to Pennsylvania: Even the often heralded “greatest wrestling state” uses a two-class system with a much smaller population.
A three-time finalist and two-time California state champion, Davis stood out as one of the top recruits in the nation. Of course, he would go on to rule Division II for four years without suffering a loss.
While most wrestlers are fluent in a number of techniques, you don’t often see them implemented with variety against elite competition. Davis was able to show off his extensive bag of tricks in every stage of his wrestling career.
Most impressive is the pressure and pace Joey puts on his opponents. At 174 pounds, you start to see a lower attack rate and slower matches from many athletes. Check out the ridiculous, non-stop motion of Davis in chasing these go-behinds.
–vs. Keith Cutrone–
Cutrone’s main strategy was to run at Davis, attacking in straight lines. Otherwise, he was standing still with his feet flat on the ground. While Davis has a number of offensive wrestling options, Cutrone was begging for double legs.
–vs. J.T. Roswell–
After being stung to the liver, Roswell thought it wise to rush into the clinch against Joey Davis. With his back against the cage, Davis was still able to get double underhooks, lock his hands and take Roswell for a ride.
The most noticeable difference in the game of Joey Davis from fight to fight is his ground and pound assault.
–vs. Keith Cutrone–
After feeling Davis’s power on the feet, Keith Cutrone focused on tying up wrists and controlling posture on the ground, in order to minimize damage.
But even when he was flat on top of Cutrone, Davis found ways to create space and land damaging strikes, including a nice shoulder smash.
In his next fight, it was like night and day.
–vs. J.T. Roswell–
Just months later, Davis had totally reworked his ground and pound game. “In my second fight, it’s a completely different person. I’m like a whole nother creature, an animal.”
It was largely a change in mindset.
“I didn’t care about his style. I didn’t care how he was feeling.”
A truly kind soul, it doesn’t come naturally for Davis to hurt without mercy.
“I have a lot of feelings, I don’t know why,” he explained. “I care about a lot of people.”
Against Roswell, he was ruthless.
Freely posturing up, Davis landed smashing elbows that lacerated the face of Roswell.
Desperate to escape, Roswell opened his guard, allowing Davis to pass and rain down horrifying strikes from side control and the crucifix position.
Davis walked away like it was another day in the office.
NEXT FIGHT: vs. Craig Plaskett at Bellator 201
Bellator is not rushing the development of one of their most valuable athletes. On Friday, June 29th, Joey Davis will be taking on Hayastan‘s Craig Plaskett.
While Hayastan is primarily known for its judo players, Plaskett is more of an outfighting striker. Despite his clear advantage, Joey is not taking his opponent lightly.
“The Grasshopper!,” Davis remarked on Plaskett’s nickname. “I’m pretty sure he’ll be hopping around, throwing jabs, throwing kicks. I’ve just got to stay calm, stay patient, and pick my shots.”
The preliminary bouts will be aired on Bellator.com, so there’s no excuse to miss the next development in the career of “Black Ice.”