This evening at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we are set to see a card jam-packed with Brazilian talent. In one of the main cards that evening, we will see two Brazilians sling leather in a Light Heavyweight showdown that could very well emerge as "Fight of the Night" once the dust settles at the HSBC Arena.
Glover Teixeira (18-2, 1-0 UFC) is coming off a huge Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut, overwhelming Kyle Kingsbury in less than two minutes with heavy strikes and then finishing him with an arm triangle. Teixeira comes into this bout with a ton of hype behind him, but while his overall skillset may be formidable to most light heavyweights, it leaves much to be desired.
Despite being very good at what he uses best, his striking, Glover isn't some kind of world beater. He struggles when presented with good head movement, and he can allow himself to wing punches too much, opening him to attacks. That's not to say this isn't effective, as 11 of this man's 18 career victories come by way of (technical) knockout, but when presented with a solid challenge standing, I could definitely see him creating a brawl, and opening himself to punishment from his opposition.
Glover's style loses finesse as the fight progresses, as he will either step off the gas or begin to throw punches with descending technical skill as the fight drags on. He is a quick starter, but becomes clear that he's running low on steam after some big exchanges. This kind of style lends itself to either exciting or horrible fights, but luckily, in Glover's case, it conforms to the former. He's a fighter accustomed to taking the center of the cage, and he'll push fighters even when he is tired.
His ground game, like his striking, can be very, very devastating. He sports excellent ground striking, and will go for submissions when available. Though his ground game is not quite as good as it could be, and his primary offense is definitely his striking, he isn't someone that you can take lightly on the ground.
Maldonado (18-5, 1-2 UFC) is a significant underdog coming into this fight, and that is understandable. He is coming off two consecutive losses, despite having good arguments on his side for winning both, and he is facing a man whom many were waiting to see in the UFC. He is well liked by some of the mixed martial arts (MMA) hardcore supporters, but outside of that, he really just floats under the radar.
Being a former boxer, Fabio's striking can be talked up quite a bit, despite having many clear deficiencies. He refuses to move his head, his defense is very poor, and he doesn't seem to prioritize cage position. He can also be beaten in clinches, showing susceptibility to knees from the Thai plum in both of his latest UFC fights, as well as losing dirty boxing exchanges from the over-under clinch on occasion. He is also a notoriously slow starter, as he seems to take quite a bit of time in the first round to find his range and to win exchanges.
When he can get off on an opponent, he is vicious, using an array of short hooks to several target areas as a way to punish opponents. His namesake among many fans is built up on his utilization of body strikes, which are in fact quite good, and he uses these to great effect. He was clearly doing significant damage with them in his respective losses to Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac. Despite being so good at this one aspect, Maldonado shows time and time again that his defense is very shoddy, constantly getting tagged on his way into exchanges.
His ground work is serviceable, as he knows his way around, but not to any significant extent. His bottom work centers mostly around achieving guard and then getting back to his feet, or to score a sweep with which he can get on top of his opponent. He rarely goes for takedowns, and he spends little time on top. Maldonado's ground game centers mostly around him getting back onto his feet, and it is not much to look at in terms of submission offense.
When you take a good look at these two styles, you can clearly see that they complement each other in a sense. Both have some clear deficiencies standing, which is their preferred area of MMA, and while their ground work isn't something to overlook, it's nothing to fear. To see Fabio come in as such a big underdog here is a bit strange, as both fighters' styles lend themselves to a very hotly contested bout.
Where Glover is a quick starter who slows down as the fight progresses, Maldonado is a very slow starter who turns up the pressure as the fight drags on. Both have good chins, but they don't always protect them as well as they should, and that could be a problem when they come into contact with a real bruiser.
When these two fighters step into the cage tonight, they will be in front of a very happy crowd, whose national pride they share. They will lay it all on the line, and when two skilled sluggers like these two come together, the only product can be fireworks. Maldonado and Teixeira favor a high offensive output, and that's what we'll see come fight time. They'll both eat heavy hits, and so long as one of them doesn't go down early, their fight should be hotly contested and quite entertaining.
Maybe even the UFC 153 "Fight of the Night."