Despite a depleted fight card, UFC on FOX 19 tonight (Sat., April 16, 2016) still possesses international appeal. With a main event headliner between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contenders Glover Teixeira (24-4) and Rashad Evans (19-4-1), UFC on FOX 19 remains a can't miss.
As two of the very best at 205 pounds, Teixeira and Evans are both aiming to lock down a key victory to push them to into immediate title contention. With top names like Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson currently in line to challenge for a championship, Teixeira and Evans must maintain perennial success if they want to stay afloat.
For Evans, 36, a loss this weekend will consequently send him on an uncharacteristic career downfall. Having posted a mere 2-3 record over his last five outings, with victories coming against Middleweight defector Chael Sonnen at UFC 167 and aging veteran Dan Henderson at UFC 161 via split-decision, "Suga" has to tap into his old self in order to steady a turbulent ship this late into his UFC tenure.
As for Teixeira, 36, he's looking to build off a current two-fight win streak, with victories coming against Ovince Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night 73 and Patrick Cummins at UFC Fight Night 77, in order to separate himself from the rest of the divisional hopefuls. With a 7-2 promotional record to call his own, the Brazilian knockout artist has been one of the more underrated title contenders over the past few years.
In preparation for tonight's Light Heavyweight clash, we take take a closer look at what each fighter needs to do in order to capture victory and start 2016 off with a bang.
1. Trust in his ground game...
As the owner of the most takedowns in UFC Light Heavyweight history (50), Evans is one of the best wrestlers the division has to offer. He's athletic, utilizes quick bursts, and knows how to finish a shot.
But despite Evans' excellence, Teixeira is more than capable of competing on the ground with anyone at 205. With a slew of submission finishes scattered across his 14-year career resume, the Brazilian has been known to suffocate opponents from top position. He may find it more difficult to hold down someone as seasoned and disciplined as Evans, but Teixeira is a big body with a lot of offensive pressure.
If he can outpoint Evans in the first few exchanges on the ground (assuming the action gets there), he could take the veteran out of his game. From there, the 36-year-old may be able to flip Evans over, take his back, and secure a fight-ending choke, which is exactly what he did to an even more athletic OSP back at UFC FN 73.
2. Stay heavy in the pocket...
Teixeira is undoubtedly one of the most skilled boxers at the Light Heavyweight level. He's precise, smooth with his combinations and counters, and understands when to unload his lethal power.
But opposite a more athletic fighter like Evans, Teixeira is going to have to remain patient from the outside. Evans is most likely going to be lighter on his feet and looking to utilize his quickness, which means the Brazilian can't get caught up in a game of cat and mouse.
Instead, Teixeira needs to either work inside on his own accord or draw Evans into the same unforgiving environment. With some of the heaviest strikes around, especially when it comes to uppercuts and body strikes in the clinch, Teixeira could easily end Evans' night early if he can stay heavy in the pocket.
For a complete breakdown of Teixeira click here.
1. Avoid the clinch...
Outside of maybe Daniel Cormier's nasty uppercut game inside the clinch and Jon Jones' short elbows, there isn't any other Light Heavyweight fighter more dangerous in close quarters than Teixeira.
If Evans wishes to keep his head on straight early in the fight, he's going to have to play the angles and pick his shots from the outside. Getting into nose-to-nose exchanges with the hulking Brazilian is the last thing "Suga" should want to do, especially if he can land some straight strikes from long distance.
Avoiding the clinch and circling away from Teixeira's counters are the best ways for Evans to frustrate his dance partner. But considering Evans needs to impress in order to reestablish his divisional worth for a potential title shot down the road, he may feel forced to exchange power shots inside and look for a flashy knockout finish.
Hopefully that is not the case.
2. Be the aggressor...
With the aforementioned clinch avoidance in mind, Evans must utilize his athleticism, intelligence, and level-changing to dictate the pace of the fight, be the aggressor, and throw Teixeira for a loop.
In order to successfully put pressure on the Brazilian striker, Evans must threaten with his wrestling early on. If he can establish doubt in the mind of Teixeira and make him second guess his own movements, then he could very well rule the cage Saturday night.
It will most likely be a sticky situation at every turn, but Evans must be calm, calculated, and callus at the same time. He must unload on Teixeira early in the fight but know when to back off to avoid any potentially disastrous toe-to-toe encounters.
For a complete breakdown of Evans click here.
Prediction: Teixeira via unanimous decision
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 19 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining preliminary card on FOX at 6:00 p.m. ET before the FOX main card start time at 8:00 p.m. ET.