Brazilian knockout artist, Glover Teixeira, looks to take out Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight kingpin, Jon Jones, in UFC 172's main event this Saturday night (April 26, 2014) at Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.
For years, Teixeira was viewed as the best 205-pound mixed martial arts (MMA) prospect outside of UFC. A potent combination of knockout power and submission savvy, he won 15 straight regional fights after a rough start (2-2) to his professional career.
Then, Teixeira finally got his visa issues sorted out and wasted no time entering UFC, where vicious victories over Kyle Kingsbury and Fabio Maldonado earned him a step up in competition. He proceeded to smash Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, James Te Huna and finally Ryan Bader.
Currently on a five-fight win streak, Teixeira has clearly earned his title shot. But, does he have the skills to capitalize on this opportunity?
Let's find out:
He may not be the most technical striker, but Teixeira is a bruiser with heavy power and solid hand speed. He carries the nickname "Hands of Stone" for a reason, wasting little time stalking his opponent with hard punches.
As Teixeira pursues his opponent, he often uses the left hook to walk his opponent into his right. Outside of his left hook, Teixeira doesn't use his lead hand much. He'll occasionally jab, which he did with some success against Jackson, but he really is just trying to line up his right hand.
There's a good reason Teixeira is so intent on landing his right hand. The man throws his right hook with a ton of force and it rarely takes more than one to drastically alter the fight.
Teixeira often looks to land his right hand over the top of his opponent's jab, which is an excellent counter. He also leads with his right hand frequently, using the left hook to finish the combination. If he's feeling particularly aggressive or sees an opening, Teixeira will attack with extended hook combinations while alternating between hands. This is especially dangerous for his opponent if he gets trapped against the fence, as his foe is forced to risk running into a hook.
In addition to his right hook, Teixeira uses the right uppercut well. Teixeira's barrage of hooks can make it difficult to safely circle away, so ducking under appears to be a good option for his opponent. If Teixeira picks up on this, he'll begin mixing in an uppercut, hoping to time his opponent's lowering head and increase the impact. Teixeira does an excellent job staying in close when he throws the uppercut, which helps him stuff counter punches and really rip into the punch.
Teixeira doesn't use a very extensive number of punches, but he does mix his targets well. With either the left hook or right straight, Teixeira likes to attack his opponent's body. He'll even jab to the stomach if he needs to open his opponent up. When Teixeira fought "Rampage," he used body shots perfectly. Jackson's style revolves around blocking his opponent's head shots and returning with hooks of his own, which he couldn't do against punches to the mid-section.
In his match with Ryan Bader, Teixeira showed off his veteran composure. "Darth" had a speed advantage and managed to counter Teixeira with a hard left hook. As Teixeira recovered, Bader lost his cool and swung three looping right hands in a row at Teixeira. Unlike his opponent, Teixeira stayed calm and countered, knocking Bader down and quickly stopping the fight.
Despite his boxing-centric attack, Teixeira kicks hard and fast. When he does kick, he throws to the leg or head. The Brazilian almost always throws his kicks after a boxing combination, which is a good trait. He usually turns to his kicks if he recognizes that his opponent has moved out of punching range too quickly, allowing him to still do some damage.
In terms of defense, Teixeira showed that he's rather hittable against Ryan Bader, who's hardly the sharpest boxer in the division. More than anything else, it seems that Teixeira is quite willing to risk exchanging punches, as he has a serious power advantage over a majority of the division.
However, against an opponent that can avoid Teixeira's shots and pick his own, this mentality could be a problem.
Teixeira has yet to do a ton of defensive wrestling inside the Octagon, but he looks quite talented when taking his opponents down. The Brazilian is very strong but still has some speed, allowing him to either overpower or out-maneuver his opponent.
When shooting in on his opponent, Teixeira always starts with a single leg. He usually finishes by quickly rotating his opponent with his head on the inside. If his opponent keeps his balance, Teixeira will switch directions and drive through him. Normally, his opponent is on the mat by now, but Teixeira can also switch to a blast double leg if he's still having difficulty.
Of all his UFC opponents, Teixeira most used his wrestling against Jackson, easily throwing "Rampage" to the mat with all of these takedowns. However, his most impressive wrestling moment may have been his single leg of Ryan Bader, a two-time All-American wrestler.
Once he takes his opponent down, Teixeira is spectacularly dangerous with his ground and pound. The Brazilian is not content to work within his opponent's full guard and instead passes to at least half guard. Once he's in a position that he knows he can control, Teixeira will posture up above his opponent and throw heavy strikes.
If Teixeira can secure a mount, the fight is basically over. He climbs very high on his opponent's hips, limiting his ability to bridge and knock the Brazilian off of him. In addition, his tight hips prevent elbow escapes while allowing him to posture. From there, he starts to hammer away with punches and elbows. In the UFC, Teixeira's continual punishment from the mount position -- and most others -- eventually forced the referee to call off a tremendously brutal match against Fabio Maldonado.
Teixeira has not had to defend many takedowns inside of his UFC career, but he has done well so far. Jackson and Kingsbury were tired and hurt when they attempted shots, but it's still a promising sign that neither could penetrate his hips very well. Similarly, Bader's lone attempt at a single leg was easily shaken off.
A second degree black belt, Teixeira has shown nothing but solid jiu-jitsu inside the UFC. He has five total submission victories, and there are rumors that his grappling game is more dangerous than his stand up.
All of Teixeira's submission victories are some form of choke. He has a couple of rear naked chokes, which is fitting considering how strong his control from mount and back mount is. He can usually just pound his opponent out from a dominant position like that, but some fighters will choose to give up their necks rather than absorb the punches.
Teixeira's hip control from mount is a large reason that he is effective with the arm triangle choke. As his opponent squirms and bucks, Teixeira remains unmoved and still able to land punches. This causes further panic, and Teixeira can take advantages of opportunities that are bound to open up.
This was perfectly illustrated in his submission win over Kyle Kingsbury. Kingsbury is an exceptionally strong man and large 205-pounder, but his desperate attempts to bump or turnover did very little. Normally, a man the size of Kingsbury can always create space if he really tries, but he was unable to move much at all. Stuck halfway into a bump, "Kingsbu's" arm was left in a dangerous position. Teixeira simply latched on and squeezed, quickly finishing the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained product.
It also seems likely that Teixeira has a very powerful squeeze. Every time he has secured a grip onto an opponent's neck, he's managed to quickly earn a tap. For example, Teixeira controlled a front headlock as James Te Huna tried to stand up following a takedown. Te Huna, also a fairly large light heavyweight, couldn't get his head out and was dragged back to the mat without much difficulty.
From there, Teixeira decided to jump guard. He made things easier for himself by trapping one of Te Huna's arms with his legs, allowing the New Zealand native only a single arm to defend himself with. He then sat up into the arm-in choke, properly cutting off blood flow. Barely able to defend against the monster of a man wrenching on his neck, Te Huna had little choice but to submit.
Best Chance For Success
As with almost all of Jones' opponents, Teixeira faces the very difficult task of trying to enter the lengthy range of "Bones." He doesn't have the technical striking nor length to maneuver his way in like Gustafsson did, so he'll have to force the exchanges.
The key to forcing Jones to fight at Teixeira's preferred range will be a combination of intelligent pressuring and leg kicks. Teixeira needs to walk Jones into the fence, where he can attempt to clip Jones with a wide hook. Jones showed in the Gustafsson fight that he doesn't react to punches particularly well, and one as powerful as Teixeira's could seriously throw off his game. The best chance he has of landing such a strike will be when Jones cannot retreat backward or hold range with kicks, also known as when Jones is pinned to the fence.
Jones will inevitably circle away from many of Teixeira's attempts to force him into the cage. When he does, Teixeira should do his best to land a leg kick. Gustafsson had some success with leg kicks but abandoned them, and Teixeira does kick hard enough to affect Jones' movement. If he can make the champion slow down, it will be much easier to get close to him.
As he pressures, Teixeira's jab slip to right hook could work wonders. Jones occasionally paws with the jab when being pressured, which is the perfect time for Teixeira's favorite counter punch.
Indeed, one right hook could change everything.
Will Teixeira upset the young champion or will Jones continue to cement his legacy as the best Light Heavyweight of all time?