Heavy-handed slugger, Ovince Saint Preux, is set to challenge former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title challenger, Glover Teixeira, this Saturday (Aug. 8, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 73 inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Saint Preux is clearly one of the division's best athletes. He was a college football player and devoted himself to mixed martial arts (MMA) full time after graduating. His athleticism has likely slowed his technical development a bit, but it's also allowed "OSP" to create some spectacular finishes.
Recently, Saint Preux seems to be hitting his stride. He's finished his last two bouts via first round knockout and appears to have his timing down.
Will that be enough to defeat the dangerous Brazilian?
Let's take a closer look at his skills and find out:
While Saint Preux's striking can get very sloppy at times, he's a very dangerous strike nonetheless. He's at his best when looking to counter strike -- the man does have an 80-inch reach after all -- but his wild punches are also difficult to deal with, simply because any one of them could finish the fight.
To understand St. Preux's offense, it's important to note that he's mostly a one-handed fighter. From the Southpaw stance, "OSP" leads with long straights or reaching hooks. When he's the aggressor, Saint Preux is positively lunging into these strikes. On occasion, he'll shoot out a jab, but that's something of a rarity.
Oddly enough, Saint Preux has been playing around with the orthodox stance as well. Despite the switch in stance, Saint Preux will still throw his left hand almost exclusively, just in the form of lead hooks and jabs rather than long distance power punches.
When forced to lead, St. Preux's technique sometimes goes out the window. Suddenly, he's throwing himself out of his stance and off-balance. Plus, he has the habit of only throwing one or two strikes at a time -- unless he's wildly flurrying -- which can become predictable and easy to time.
If Saint Preux wasn't able to strike at such a great distance, this would get him countered far more often than it already has. Despite his range, Saint Preux still found himself getting smacked with Ryan Bader's jab and left hook while reaching for the wrestler.
The best tool in Saint Preux's stand up arsenal is his strong left roundhouse kick. Opened up against opponent's of the opposite stance, Saint Preux capitalizes on the best two aspects of his game: Length and power. "OSP" can land hard kicks to the body or head from well outside his opponent's range. He even managed to break Ryan Jimmo's arm with one of these kicks when "Big Deal" went to block a high kick.
There's a clear impact on these kicks, and his opponents definitely feel them, blocked or otherwise. In this way, St. Preux is often able to maintain distance, as his kicking feints have to be respected.
In addition, Saint Preux has attacked with some other kicking techniques. He's clearly been working on his front snap kick, which digs the ball of the foot or toes into the mid-section. Against fighters with a bent posture -- most notably Patrick Cummins, who Saint Preux kicked with this technique a few times -- this is particularly exhausting and often forces them to stand straighter.
Besides his kicking, counter punching has quickly become one of the strongest aspects of Saint Preux's game. His last two knockout victories have basically come via a single counter punch, though neither case was particularly technical.
Instead, Saint Preux capitalized on his opponent's known flaws with excellent timing and power. The fading "Shogun" Rua's striking defense has been shockingly bad lately -- though it did improve decently for his last fight -- as the Brazilian recklessly swung without any setup at all. On the other hand, Cummins simply has nothing to offer on his feet. The only threat he offers is the takedown and top control, so "OSP" could afford to miss on a few looping uppercuts before finding his target.
Neither counter punch was tight, but they landed with power. Sometimes, that's all that matters.
Defensively, Saint Preux has some seriously flaws that his length has thus far allowed him to (mostly) get away with. His hands stray far from his chin, and St. Preux's head movement and footwork aren't good enough to make up for this. Worse still, when he swings wildly, his chin often comes up into the air.
A state runner up in high school, "OSP" has shown a solid mix of physicality and technique in wrestling exchanges. Both offensively and defensively, Saint Preux is an above average wrestler.
Though he rarely sets it up with punches, Saint Preux has a very nice double leg takedown. He really runs through the shot, which is a very popular style of shot for MMA. Notably, he managed to land the double on Ryan Bader a couple of times, changing levels directly after escaping from his back and catching his opponent off-guard.
In the clinch, Saint Preux's strength shines through. He's able to manipulate his opponent's body around even when he's at a disadvantage in terms of leverage. Once he secures his grip and pushes his opponent against the cage, "OSP" will look for an inside trip or simply throw his opponent to the mat.
From the top position, Saint Preux is at his most dangerous. His length allows him to create great amounts of power without standing or gaining a dominant position, as his finish of Cody Donovan shows. In addition, he's still quite dangerous when he can stand above his opponent, as he likes to dive into the guard with a big left hand.
Defensively, Saint Preux is an interesting case. In pure wrestling exchanges, he's actually quite talented, as Saint Preux is very quick to sprawl his hips to the mat when in position. However, Bader and Cummins both found success by timing Saint Preux's lunges, which throw his feet way out of position. When this happened, Saint Preux could do nothing except go for a ride.
Outside of that, Saint Preux's only wrestling issue was fatigue. As he slowed down in his five round battle with Bader, the All-American wrestler was repeatedly able to out-work "OSP" even after his initial shot was stuffed.
To his credit, Saint Preux's ability to work to his feet is quite impressive. At times, he'll turtle and simply stand up as if his opponent isn't trying to hold him down. Alternatively, Saint Preux will look for the switch or attempt to wall-walk back up to his feet. Against Cummins, "OSP" was extremely effective at springing back to his feet after being taken down, as he never allowed Cummins to establish top position.
It's been difficult to get a full read on Saint Preux's jiu-jitsu skills, though his recent bout with Bader helped a bit. On one hand, he's been able to win with some flashy techniques like the calf slicer -- of which there's no video -- but he also seems to just force a fair percentage of grappling exchanges.
From the top, Saint Preux seems pretty solid with his guard passing. Once he's standing over his opponent, he does a decent job mixing in attempts to throw the legs by with his punches. Plus, he transitions well in dominant positions, rarely giving his opponent (other than Gegard Mousasi and his brilliant jiu-jitsu) an opportunity to reverse position.
In his bout with Nikita Krylov, Saint Preux managed to pull off a nasty Von Flue choke. At first, I largely wrote this off, as Krylov's grappling appeared awful. Krylov has since proven that's not the case -- it's certainly strange but has also been effective -- so more credit should definitely go towards St. Preux. Regardless of the circumstance, Saint Preux finished the move properly by cinching his hands and dropping his shoulder into the throat.
Against Ryan Bader, we saw Saint Preux's bottom game for the first time since his loss to Mousasi. In that bout, it quickly became apparent that Saint Preux is not much of a guard fighter, as Bader moved into side control at will.
Defensively, St. Preux deserves some credit for surviving the grappling assault of Mousasi a few years back. Mousasi had a tight kimura attempt that "OSP" managed to scramble out of and also passed Saint Preux's guard several times. Regardless, "OSP" managed to either recover guard and scramble back to his feet each time. Against a grappler of Mousasi's caliber, that's an impressive accomplishment for a green fighter. Plus, while Bader is hardly a submission ace himself, St. Preux was never threatened from the dominant positions his opponent achieved.
Best Chance For Success
In this bout, it's important that Saint Preux do two things. For one, he needs to stay relaxed and keep his pace measured, much like he did opposite Cummins. This is a five-round fight, and Saint Preux cannot afford to slow down while Teixeira is still throwing heat.
Both because it's his strong suit and because it will help him conserve energy, Saint Preux should certainly look to maintain distance and counter. He's the far superior kicker, so there's no reason for him to chase after Teixeira and run into an overhand or takedown.
Instead, Saint Preux can damage his opponent from the outside and force him to walk through heavy shots to land. Teixeira is fairly predictable with his overhand, and "OSP" has proven that he can game plan for predictable fighters. If Saint Preux is smart, he'll be looking to land his left hook or uppercut as Teixeira throws his right, much like Bader did to drop the Brazilian.
Will St. Preux continue his climb to the top of the division or is Glover Teixeira still a force to be reckoned with?