Sherdog’s 2019 Beatdown of the Year

By: Brian Knapp
Jan 4, 2020

There are times when it becomes painfully obvious that a fighter has bitten off way more than he can chew. Such was the case for Thomas Gifford in the 2019 “Beatdown of the Year.”

Dana White’s Contender Series alum Mike Davis knocked out the woefully overmatched Gifford in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 161 lightweight prelim on Oct. 12 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Davis drew the curtain 4:45 into Round 3 after having administered one of the worst beatings in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.

A short-notice replacement for the injured Brok Weaver, Davis did his business on the feet, where he smashed the Factory X representative with explosive multi-punch combinations that had the audience groaning in discomfort and ESPN+ viewers with weak stomachs pressing their pause buttons. To his detriment, Gifford refused to go away. Davis unleashed on him at every turn and appeared to be closing in on a merciful finish on numerous occasions. Finally, in the closing seconds of the third round, he delivered a left hook-right hook combination that sent Gifford crashing to the mat face down.

The metrics were staggering. Davis connected on 139 significant strikes across 14-plus minutes, and despite the fact that he accepted the fight on just four days’ notice, he outlanded Gifford 67-36 in the first round, 39-24 in the second and 33-28 in the third. Nearly 70 percent of the strikes he landed did so to the head. Davis—who bested Kamaru Usman (def. Tyron Woodley), Khalil Rountree (def. Eryk Anders), Corey Anderson (def. Johnny Walker) and Billy Quarantillo (def. Jacob Kilburn) for “Beatdown of the Year” honors—believes he missed an opportunity to put Gifford out of his misery sooner.

“[In] the first round, I could have executed,” he said. “I could have been a little more accurate and connected on my elbows and those strikes when he fell to the ground [and] finished it a little earlier.”

The 6-foot-1 Gifford appeared to be in grave danger at the end of the second round, where he stumbled back to his corner after absorbing a volley of knee strikes and punches. His situation had gone from bad to worse to downright dire and only deteriorated from there.

“I actually didn’t think he would come out for the third round,” Davis said. “I thought at the end of the second I hit him with a couple hooks and he was wobbly and he was barely making it to the side, so I was like, ‘Don’t get up. Don’t get up.’”

However, Gifford did rise for Round 3. Davis knocked down the Arkansas native twice in the period, once with a devastating leg kick. The increasingly desperate Gifford made a pass at an Imanari roll, then slowly returned to his feet. Sensing a finish was once again within reach, Davis blasted Gifford with punches that sent him crashing to the canvas in a prone position. He was unconscious before he struck the mat, prompting legitimate and widespread concern for his well-being. Though referee Andrew Glenn—he was pulled from his remaining assignments on the card—and Gifford’s handlers were criticized for failing to intervene and allowing the prolonged assault to continue, Davis understands the brevity of such a decision.

“If I’m able to stand up and swing my hands,” he said, “please let me fight. Let me put my heart to the test.”

In recording the knockout at 4:45 of Round 3, Davis became the second lightweight in UFC history to author a strike-induced finish with 15 seconds or less remaining in a three-round fight. Rashid Magomedov was the other, as he stopped Elias Silverio with punches 4:57 into the third round of their UFC Fight Night 58 affair in 2014. Giffords was released by the UFC in November after going 0-2 with the promotion, his loss to Davis having come on the heels of a decision defeat to Roosevelt Roberts on April 27. Nevertheless, he has at least one fan left on the roster.

“I give the man heart props,” Davis said. “Man, he is tough. Anyone who has to fight him in the future, good luck, because he’s not going down.”
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