It took 27 mixed martial arts fights and a particularly tough loss for Marcus Davis to decide he has to get back to his roots.
The former professional boxer will draw upon his pugilistic background when he faces Ben Saunders in a featured undercard bout of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) 106 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas Saturday night.
“I’ve gone back to my pedigree and concentrated a lot on my hands and foot speed with the boxing skills,” said the Bangor native. “I think I concentrated so much on everything else, and boxing was always like riding a bike to me, that I digressed in that area.”
Saturday’s fight marks the first one for Davis to be aired live on something other than pay-per view in three years. It’s also his first UFC fight in the United States in 2½ years.
The fight will be part of Spike Network’s UFC 106 preliminary bout live coverage from 6 to 7 p.m. Live main card action coverage starts at 7 p.m.
It’s also Davis’ first fight since a bitterly disappointing split decision loss to Dan Hardy back in June.
“The guy I just fought, who I thought I beat, and Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and ESPN said I beat, is getting to fight for a title now so no, I don’t think about anything every day more than that,” Davis admitted. “That’s the definitely the fight that haunts me.”
It’s also the fight that’s spurring him to make some changes he thinks are for the better.
“It’s that whole would’ve, could’ve, should’ve thing,” said Davis, 36. “I should’ve beaten him up with my hands rather than being set on my wrestling attack. I’m going to be a different fighter.”
Besides taking a more purposeful and motivated approach to training, Davis worked on adding a new dimension by revisiting old fundamentals.
Garth Crane, Davis’ coach, timed him throwing 160 punches at their training facility in Brewer. He took 47 seconds the first time. When they broke camp, he’d shaved 18 seconds off that time.
“I started out throwing 3.4 punches per second. Jab, cross hook, uppercut, and jab cross was my combination,” Davis said. “At the end of camp, I was at 5.5 punches per second.”
Maybe the guy who calls himself “the Irish Hand Grenade” should change that to the Irish Machine Gun.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Davis (21-6) believes he’ll be able to put his newfound speed to good use against the younger, taller Saunders (7-1-2), who is 26, 6-3, and 170.
“I’m going to be so much stronger than him when it comes to clinching. He’ll have that reach, but I have my boxing timing and I feel like I’m faster with my footwork than he is,” Davis explained. “That’ll get me inside quickly and be able to get off two or three punches before he can get off one, realistically.”
Davis believes he also has the edge in power and inertia.
“Doing toe to toe, I’m smothering him and if we’re in the clinch, I have a lower center of gravity and it’s easier for me to grab around his waist. I have a good body lock,” he said. “I just have to make sure he doesn’t get around or grab my neck and hold my head.”
“I’ve got to watch out for his kicks and keep my hands up. I would love it if he throws a punch at me because that’ll help me close the distance and get me in.”
Davis, who is fighting his third bout in a four-fight UFC contract, has altered his long-range plans and knows this is a key fight for him.
“It can’t be just a win. It has to be a decisive win,” said Davis, who has four wins by submission and two by knockout.. “I’m too old for decisions. I want people to walk away from this one saying ‘wow.’
“I always gave myself this time limit or specific plan. I don’t do that anymore because I’m just getting better,” he said. “It makes no sense to stop when I’m doing that.”