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Canadian Alexis Davis looks to shock MMA world by dethroning Ronda Rousey

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The diagonal scar on the bridge of Alexis Davis's nose seems par for the course for a UFC fighter. The story behind the mark predates cage-fighting, however.

"It was from when I was a kid, actually," the Canadian bantamweight admitted with a smile. "I was playing around with my sister. I say she pushed me, but she says I tripped."

The 29-year-old from Port Colborne, Ont., who fights out of San Jose, has had her share of fight cuts that have morphed into scars. But they are hidden nicely by her eyebrows.

The other good news is blood does not bother Davis. In fact, it can spur her into action as in a November 2013 win over Liz Carmouche when she turned it up a notch after being cut over her eye.

"It kind of wakes you up a little bit more. You're like, 'Yup, that was a good shot. Now it's my turn,'" said Davis.

Suffice to say, there's more to the soft-spoken Davis than meets the eye.

That seems to have escaped the bookmakers, who have made unbeaten champion (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey a prohibitive favourite to dispatch Davis — ranked No. 2 among 135-pound contenders — in the co-main event of UFC 175 on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Middleweight champion Chris Weidman takes on former light-heavyweight title-holder Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida in the main event.

Rousey (9-0) ranged from a 9-1 to 14-1 favourite as of Friday. The UFC had her as a 10-1 favourite.

The bookies clearly haven't been to Davis's home, which comes complete with fold-up wrestling mats stashed in the living room. When you're an elite UFC fighter and married to a fellow black belt in jiu-jitsu, you like to be able to put a theory in action when something new and exciting pops into your mind.

Davis (16-5) met husband-to-be Flavio Meier three years ago at his gym in California. An accomplished black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (his titles include the 2011 Pan-American championship for black belts) and taekwondo, he is a head instructor at the Institute of Martial Arts in San Jose.

Meier, who moved to the U.S. from Brazil in 1999, says it was love at first sight — for him. "But I had to work a little bit for her," he said.

That was three years ago. They married a year ago, with Meier's three boys — now aged four, 10 and 13 — from a previous marriage coming as part of the package.

"It's another side of her that a lot of people don't know," he said. "How caring and what a great person she is. The kids love her."

The 39-year-old Meier says Davis's healthy lifestyle and work ethic are great examples for the kids.

The whole family trains at the gym — even the four-year-old takes a kids' class. "He's got a dangerous armbar," joked Davis.

Meier says he finds it a lot easier competing himself than watching his wife fight.

"I get nervous. I don't show her but I do get nerves a lot," he said.

When it comes to jiu-jitsu, both say the other is better.

"He always says that I beat him up but he beats me up all the time," said Davis, who has a black belt in both Brazilian and Japanese jiu-jitsu.

"I'm not saying this in bias because she's my wife, but to me she is the best in the world in jiu-jitsu," said Meier. "In MMA, for sure."

The 27-year-old Rousey, however, is the UFC's resident rock star.

At the UFC's media day Thursday, more than a dozen reporters and four cameras were waiting in front of Rousey's chair in advance of the start. There was one Canadian reporter in front of Davis's station.

Davis has no complaints. The spotlight is new to her and, while not averse to it, she is still getting used to it.

"I'm just a girl from a small town," she said. "It's crazy the different steps I've taken in my life and how far I've come. All the way to California now. I'm in a video game. How cool is that? It's incredible, it's almost like unreal to me. But it's great. I love it."

Davis has enjoyed every stop of her MMA journey.

"Life's an adventure," she said. "It's taken me to a lot of places and I've met great people."

In Rousey, she is meeting a finisher. The champion has never gone the distance and her average fight time over her night-fight career is just two minutes 44 seconds.

Rousey has used her judo takedown successfully in 12 of 17 attempts in the UFC for a 70.6 per cent success rate (the average UFC takedown rate is 41 per cent.)

On the Davis side of the balance, the Canadian has never been submitted in 21 fights. She has outlanded her five previous opponents and scores well in the clinch.

Asked about the showdown, former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion B.J. Penn lists off Rousey's strengths and successes.

"What Alexis should have is a lot of hunger to be that woman and that's how she can get the job done," he said.

A veteran of the sport, Davis had compiled a 9-4 record before Rousey made her pro MMA debut in March 2011.

Davis made her pro debut in April 2007, losing by TKO to fellow Canadian Sarah Kaufman. Davis lost again to Kaufman, now ranked fifth among UFC bantamweight contenders, by majority decision in Strikeforce in March 2012.

She says the second Kaufman showcased the old Alexis Davis — "I'm just going out there and I'm just going to bang and I don't care what happens. You kind of take a lot of shots that way.''

Davis has won five fights in a row since, coinciding with her move to California and ability to take advantage of a larger and more diverse pool of training partners.

She worked with Cesar Gracie before settling at the Institute of Martial Arts, owned by eight-time jiu-jitsu world champion Caio Terra who will be in her corner Saturday along with Meier.

Davis added two-hour trips twice a week to Sacramento to her training camp this time, to work on her wrestling with Uriah Faber's Team Alpha Male. The thought is wrestling may help control the explosive throws of Rousey, who won Olympic bronze in judo.

"They always say that wrestling is like the anti-judo," said Davis.

But Davis, who speaks of Rousey with real respect, says it's hard to prepare for the champion because Rousey evolves every time she fights.

"It's like a whole new Ronda we're seeing every time," said Davis.

While Rousey is known for her armbar, she has good standup and stopped Sara McMann with a knee to the body.

"I want the fight to go to the ground," said Davis. "I just want it to go on my terms."

But she says she is comfortable wherever the fight goes. Davis has worked hard on her standup game and has good kicks, although she says she sometimes forgets to use them.

The five-foot-six Canadian believes the fight will either end in the first round or go five rounds.

The two women have shown plenty of mutual respect, exchanging a warm handshake after posing in front of the media Thursday.

Rousey and Davis are the only female fighters to go 3-0 in the UFC. But while Rousey has made movies ("The Expendables 3," "Entourage" and "Fast and Furious 7"), earned ESPY Award nominations and appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine, Davis has flown under the radar.

Asked whether she has treated herself with any of her UFC fight paycheques, Davis admits only to buying a new TV.

"We're kind of saving up," she said. "I'd like to eventually buy a house."

A win Saturday would make Davis only the third Canadian to hold a UFC title, following Carlos (Ronin) Newton and Georges St-Pierre. It would also change her world.

Despite the lopsided odds, Meier says bet on it.

"Saturday she's going to shock the world," he said. "I know this for sure."

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