Phil Davis beats Lyoto Machida by split decision at Bellator 245

Phil Davis defeated Lyoto Machida in a light heavyweight rematch via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) on Friday night in the main event of Bellator 245 at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun. The victory put Davis on the short list of potential first title defenses for new Bellator 205-pound champion Vadim Nemkov.

The most successful technique Davis used throughout the three-round fight was a front kick to Machida's midsection. The first time he ever started using that technique, Davis said, was prior to his fight with Machida way back at UFC 163 on Aug. 3, 2013. Davis won that bout, too, via unanimous decision.

Davis said he saw how dangerous Machida's kicks could be back then with him beating legends such as Randy Couture with a jumping crane kick. So, in order to neutralize Machida's offense, he worked on that front kick. It was successful for him then and again in the rematch.

"I really don't give guys credit for helping me develop and helping me change," Davis said in his postfight interview. "That's where I really began playing around with that one."

Machida had his own moments with kicks to the legs and body of Davis. But Davis landed hard often in what ended up being a kicking battle. Machida's lead, left leg was visibly bruised by the third round. Neither landed hard to the head over the three rounds. The majority of the offense was made up of leg kicks and body kicks.

Davis (21-5, 1 NC) has won three straight and five of his last six. His lone loss in the past three years came to Nemkov in November 2018, a very close split decision. Davis, 35, is the former Bellator light heavyweight champion, and he made it clear he's hoping for another title shot soon. Nemkov knocked out Ryan Bader to win the belt last month.

"[Nemkov is] an amazing fighter and I'm so proud of him for beating the champion and all that good stuff," Davis said. "But, you know, live it up my friend. I'm coming."

Machida (26-9) has now lost two straight. This was his return to light heavyweight after falling to Gegard Mousasi in the middleweight division in September 2019. Machida, 42, is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and had been on a four-fight winning streak prior to the past two bouts.

In the co-main event of Bellator 245, Cat Zingano made her Bellator debut, beating Gabby Holloway in a one-sided unanimous decision. Zingano (11-4), who is moving up from bantamweight to featherweight, had not fought in nearly two years, since losing a bizarre bout to Megan Anderson at UFC 232 in December 2018.

Zingano, 38, is the last fighter to beat current pound-for-pound queen Amanda Nunes. She seems to be moving in the direction of a title fight with current Bellator women's featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.

"I'm ready to lead this division, lead this promotion," Zingano said in her post-fight interview. "... I'm not here to win the bronze -- I want gold. Whatever it takes to get there."

The card's opener featured a very strange turn of events. Former kickboxing standout Raymond Daniels landed a hard spinning back kick to the groin of opponent Peter Stanonik, who fell to the canvas clearly in pain. After given time to recover, Stanonik fought on -- only for Daniels to land another very hard spinning back kick below the belt on the very next exchange. Stanonik collapsed to the mat and was crying in agony.

The bout was ruled a no contest at 1:00 of the second round, and Stanonik was transported to the hospital.

Stanonik said in an Instagram video later Friday night that he's mostly OK, suffering only a contusion to his groin area.