Tuesday, February 28, 2012

USA Today Sergio Non: Alexis Davis hopes to outmaneuver Strikeforce's Kaufman

Alexis Davis might have the lowest profile of the four women fighting this weekend for Strikeforce, but she figures a victory will shed some light on her.
"I just don't think I'm as well known," says Davis, who will face 135-pound ex-champion Sarah Kaufman on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. "I think maybe after this fight, it's not going to be the case any more."
In Kaufman and Davis, the bout features the Nos. 3 and 4 bantamweights in the Unified Women's MMA Rankings. Strikeforce officials expect a title shot for the winner.
While Davis-Kaufman won't be the main card on Showtime, it will cap off the preliminary broadcast on Sho Extreme (8 p.m. ET, Saturday). USA TODAY spoke to Davis last week about her upcoming fight. Excerpts from the conversation:
Q: How's training going?
Davis: Oh, awesome. I've been out in Florida for most of my camp. I've been training my jiu-jitsu with Master Dave Dayboll, where I usually do, with going down to Ft.Lauderdale and training with the guys over at Team Popovitch's.
New this time around is that I'm going to the Armory (in Jupiter, Fla.) to practice my standup.
That's quite a change. You're known more for your ground game.
Yeah. Got to throw some curveballs in there.
It's been great. There's great fighters that come out of that camp. … I want to train with the guys that train those guys like Edson Barboza, to have those huge fighters.
I'm also working on my ground game too, as well. Like you said, a huge part of my game a lot of times is to get it to the ground.
You came out of the Canadian regional scene. How'd you end up down in Florida?
My coach, Dave Dayboll, he relocated down by Stuart, Jensen Beach area. I just kind of followed him down through here and made a lot of good connections.
I still get to train back home with the guys in Canada. We have three clubs out there, and they come down here and train with the guys here, so it's good. You get all sorts of different styles and different body types. I think that's always good when you have a big fight coming up.
One of the concerns that advocates of women's fighting have had is that there just aren't that opportunities at the higher levels of MMA. Do you get any sense that might change?
It has changed already. Strikeforce having Tate-Rousey for the main event, that's huge, not just for fighters, but other promoters to see that. It's slowly been growing, but within the last year or so, it's really come along.
You're having more and more events that really putting women, not just on the card, but on the main card.
You started your MMA career with a loss to Sarah in 2007. How have both of you changed as fighters since then?
I don't even consider myself the same fighter since then.
Even just having more confidence. In your first fight -- everybody knows if you've competed in any sport -- that you (have) that nervousness, and you don't know quite know when you can use your reaction time to capitalize on somebody else. … I'm almost more clear-headed now when I come into the fight, (compared to) where everything is just like a big rush when you first start.
What was going through your head for that first pro fight?
I'd competed in a lot of jiu-jitsu tournaments in the local area where I was, so I kind of had that competitive buzz. Being able to compete in MMA was just something that was my the next step. We had guys training out in our club back home in Canada and it was something that I wanted to do automatically.
Being that I was from Canada, it took a long time to find a fight. It took me a year, year and a half to get a fight. Then to fight Sarah Kaufman, at the time, nobody really knew that name.
I think right then and there, even coming off of a loss, you find out if this is something you want to do for the rest of your life or not. I loved it anyway.
Given that it was a loss, what did you find so attractive about the experience?
I think it was just the competitiveness, the adrenaline rush when you come in there.
You do have great coaches that are on the sidelines helping you out, but when it comes down to it, it's just you and somebody else in there. The rawness of the sport.
Other fighters have found Sarah hard to take down. What makes her counterwrestling so effective?
Even just using her hands to create space and to make sure that she's timing that -- usually you don't get in close to her unless she wants you to. She's got an incredible base. Even when you watch her footwork in there, she's got a really solid base.
That, and her being able to pummel and get control a lot of the time, has been working very well for her.
Your last fight, against Amanda Nunes, was spent largely against the fence before you put her away. But Sarah doesn't mind working on the cage either; often she'll almost bully someone up against it. Where do you want Saturday's fight to take place, near the cage or in the center?
I want the fence, as well, so I don't have a problem going there.
I think it's just kind of like cornering your opponent. You want to stop them from moving, creating space. Especially me, the way that I fight, I like to get in close. I find other fighters out there, they have longer range than me, so every fight, I'm pushing forward.
Sarah seems to be one of the more physically strong women in the division. How concerned are you about her power and her ability to muscle people around?
I do agree that she does seem like she's very strong in there. But it's all going to be about how to maneuver.
It's not just trying to maneuver your opponent. You've got to maneuver yourself. It's something that I've been working a lot on for this upcoming fight.
It seemed like Amanda landed quite a few good shots on you. You seem to be willing to take punches to get your clinch. Do your coaches ever get on your case about defense, head movement, that sort of thing?
Oh, yeah. All the time. (laughing) It's something that is ongoing with me. I'm trying to work on that. I was actually laughing with the guys this time, like, "I'm going to try not to get punched in the head so much this time."
What's been the hardest thing to pick up about that aspect of the game?
For me, it's that I always move forward. It's something that I've been trying to change a lot. My game is timing: When to move forward and when it's time to create space instead of just driving, driving, driving.
Because that's the type of person that I am, that I always like to try to push forward, so it's been a little bit challenging. Hopefully I'll not go back to my bad habits.
Why do you think you're the underdog so often in your fights?
I just don't think I'm as well known. I kind of find it's a little bit, maybe, good luck for me, so I don't mind. It seems to be working pretty well for me so far.
I think maybe after this fight, it's not going to be the case any more.
Like with Sarah, she's been in a lot of these high-level bouts and she's been in Strikeforce for awhile, so her name is known. Even with Amanda, that huge knockout win; she knocks out opponents left, right and center.
So I just think I'm just not as well-known yet.
Sarah occasionally has won fights by sitting behind her jab and outpointing opponents. How do you keep her from doing that to you?
Once again, it's something I've been working on. Movement in there, not to kind of walk right into that jab, and to pick my punches, being able to know when to react.
Other than each other, your common opponent is Shayna Baszler. Have you had a chance to see Sarah's fight with her?
Well, I did when it first came on, but I always find that when you get to the fights, you get less and less videos of your opponent that come up.
But Shayna, she's a tough opponent and I'd love to see her coming back into the mix, as well.
Anything that stands out about the way Sarah handled her, compared to the way you fought Shayna?
It's different from when I fought Shayna. I was taking that fight a little bit shorter notice, and I was way out of shape.
But you know what? Sarah's fantastic at handling all of her opponents. Especially having Shayna with such a world-renowned ground game.
It seems like Sarah has spent almost as much time talking about Ronda Rousey as you and can't get the title-fight situation out of her head. Do you think Sarah is overlooking you?
It kind of seems like that, but you don't know what anyone's doing behind the scenes.
But yeah, it kind of seems she's kind of (looked) past our fight and looking forward to upcoming things. That's great for me, because the more focus that she has on the Ronda Rousey situation, the less that she's focused on me. Hopefully I can catch her off-guard.
Do you have any sympathy for what Sarah has expressed? She believes she should be fighting in Saturday's main event.
You know what? I agree with her. I totally do.
They talked to me too about fighting for the title before Ronda came along. But in my head still, I always thought Sarah first and then me second type of thing.
I do give her a lot of sympathy because I think she was kind of pushed aside. There's nothing really we can do about it now. We just have to fight this fight and see what happens next.
You've talked about not being as well-known as other prominent female fighters. Ronda promotes herself aggressively. What do you think about that approach to career advancement?
As women's MMA becomes more and more popular, you are going to get more fighters out there like Ronda. Good for her, because she got what was she was after; she got that title fight.
But it must be a Canadian side of me and Sarah, where we're kind of not like that, as much self-promoting.
Sometimes, we really should. Trying to get better and better at it. Not going to quite go the same route as Ronda went, but you really do. It's not just the sport -- it's that you've got to be able to sell yourself (so) that fans out there know who you are and they want to come see your fights, because it's business, as well, and I see that side of it.
It's all in how you're going to be able to play the game. I think more and more fighters are going to be more and more active in their self-promotion. Hopefully they go the right way about it.
Quite a few prominent female fighters do not like Ronda for the things she has said. How much do you share their view of her as an interloper?
I don't care for a lot of the things that she said either, but there's a lot of other fighters, male and female both, that I (feel) don't have high expectations for when they are being vocalized out there.
But everybody's got to play the game differently. If that's what you think is going to get you attention for your fighting, then that's what you have to do.
No doubt you expect to win on Saturday. Who do you think you will end up facing after that?
I find that's kind of a hard question to answer, only because we haven't seen what Ronda Rousey can do in those second and third rounds, even fourth and fifth. That's something that we've seen a lot from Miesha.
I think if it gets into those high rounds, even into the end of the second into the third, I think that's the more opportunity that Tate has to win. I could see her definitely pulling out the win if it gets into those rounds.
But do you think it will get to those rounds?
You know what? I think it will, because Miesha's been in the game long enough. If she can stay focused and not worry about all the mind games and everything that goes on in the background, I think she definitely has a chance to win.
I read an interview in which you cited Jon Fitch and Vitor Belfort as idols. What do you admire in them?
I love how when the UFC does the Countdowns in there. That's where, really, for Belfort I was like, watching his training camp in there and his determination that really kind of stood out for me.
For Fitch, it's how outside the cage and inside the cage, he's just like his humble guy and he just wants to go there and do his thing. He wants to win and he's not worried about all the drama and the smack talk or anything really much behind it.
That's really what it is to me.
The criticism of Fitch has been that some fans find him uninteresting? How valid is that view?
"Uninteresting," that says to me he's not out there like a Josh Koscheck or something.
He's not like a Ronda Rousey type of thing out there and trying to aggressively verbalize and sell yourself. I always think some of the stuff comes out like the WWE, how they're out there and they're smack talking, they're this and that. It's a constant battle back and forth.
He's just out there and he just wants to fight.

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