Liam McGeary (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Liam McGeary vs. Phil Davis: Who Benefits Bellator MMA the Most?

Bellator 163 features an excellent title contest between current light heavyweight champ Liam McGeary and challenger Phil Davis. The fight promises to be must-see TV, but a win from which fighter would provide more for the promotion?

McGeary has been the champion since February 2015, when he defeated Emmanuel Newton. The Englishman followed that performance up with an impressive finish of MMA legend Tito Ortiz. Although he’s been out of action since the Ortiz fight, McGeary has been nothing short of sensational inside the Bellator cage.

McGeary, whose record stands at 10-0, has only gone the distance once in his MMA career. Included in those finishes are a pair of inverted triangle chokes, a rare feat in MMA. He also has as many (T)KO finishes as he does submission wins, proving he’s a well-rounded fighter.


However, his run as champion has been marred by injuries. A knee injury has not only kept McGeary out of the cage, but also effectively out of the public eye. While Bellator was busy setting ratings records, McGeary was on the sidelines. Now that his knee is fully recovered, McGeary has a chance to remind fans just how good he is.

Davis, a guy MMA fans know very well, stands opposite McGeary. “Mr. Wonderful” was one of the key figures during his time in the UFC. An NCAA Division I wrestling champion, Davis entered the UFC’s ranks with quite a bit of hype. However, he came up short each time he tried to crack into title contention. It was those losses, combined with a decision-heavy style, that led to the UFC’s decision not to re-sign Davis.

After joining Bellator, Davis finished former champ Newton and knocked out fellow UFC castoff Francis Carmont to announce his arrival on the title scene. He cemented his place as a top contender with his win over star Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. The win set up Davis for a showdown with McGeary.

If McGeary emerges victorious at Bellator 163, it’ll provide more validity to Bellator’s homegrown roster. Since he won the title in the pre-Scott Coker days, McGeary is viewed as one of the “old Bellator” champions. Davis isn’t considered elite by most fans and analysts, yet a McGeary win over “Mr. Wonderful” would show that the best of Bellator can beat the top guys in the UFC.

McGeary is English, too, which helps with any international expansion plans Bellator may have in the works. The promotion likes to travel across the pond every year, and McGeary would be an easy sell to headline a London card.

Davis is a recognizable name for Bellator to market. He has no qualms about self-promoting, either. It’s very valuable to have guys willing and able to help with promotion. This makes Davis an invaluable asset if he were to capture the gold. He would also have wins over three former champions, a nice bonus tidbit for the marketing department.

Bellator seems to value ratings over the idea of pure sport, so it’s reasonable to believe the company is secretly hoping for a Davis win. The organization spent quite a bit of money to sign him. Now, it has put him in a position to grab the Bellator belt. As fun as McGeary is to watch, it’s a moot point if Bellator can’t get the MMA masses to tune in.