I think it’s fair to say that even though the Phil Davis Vs Rashad Evans fight wasn’t the most thrilling encounter, Rashad was able to prove that he was an all around more compotent fighter than Phil. I believe there were quite a few components that made this the case but one that may not have been immediately obvious was Phil Davis’s less than perfect footwork.
I hate to pick out the negative aspects like this, especially with an obvious potential talent like Phil but it makes for an interesting technical observation and it’s also an important part of the progression in MMA that we naturally critique ourselves and others in the quest for improvement.
If you watch Phil’s footwork in detail you will notice that he continuously brings his feet together as he moves around. For example, when Phil is retreating he naturally moves his front foot toward his back foot first and reduces the width of his stance causing temporary instability before then moving his back foot back into position. In more extreme cases he actually physically crosses his feet over one another. Ideally Phil should be moving his back foot first to widen the stance and thus move into a more stable position before returning the stance to its usual width by moving the front foot. I do absolutely understand that it’s difficult to stay disciplined with your footwork when you’re under pressure but with Phil it seems to be more that this is habitual and it’s become natural for him to move this way.
As a result Phil Davis’s general movement during the fight looked awkward and he is often putting himself into a weakened position. This leaves him vulnerable to attacks that effect his base (especially ironically wrestling takedowns) and means that he isn’t able to deliver strong counter attacks or quickly switch direction / momentum.
I do believe that this contributed greatly to Phil’s lack of success but had this been noted by Rashad Evans or his corner during the fight they could have potentially made Phil pay much more for this ill discipline. Rashad Evans stuck mostly to a striking game rather than trying to hit many takedowns probably assessing that they would be difficult to achieve against a great fellow wrestler like Phil. However, I believe that had Rashad blended more takedowns, especially driving double legs, into his attacks he may well have had a lot of success as he would have had a good chance at catching Phil at a time when his base and stance were poor.
Footwork is incredibly important in MMA and it has to be continually checked and corrected. As with any fundamental MMA skill like this you have to be disciplined enough to get this drilled into yourself early. If a core skill like this is just left to develop naturally there’s a big chance you may develop some nasty habits that are tough to get rid of later down the line.