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UFC Jacksonville preview, ‘Smith vs Teixeira’ predictions

UFC 235: Open Workouts Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After cranking out one of the best line ups in recent memory, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will return to its regular “decent main event and not much else” brand of ESPN+ fight cards, which are low on name value but typically high on fireworks. Since the promotion is backed up after missing more than a month of action (thanks coronavirus), fans are getting a rare Wednesday night fight card topped by the light heavyweight showdown between Anthony Smith and Glover Teixera.

In the UFC Jacksonville co-main event, scheduled for May 13, 2020 inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, light heavyweight contender Ovince Saint Preux will pack on the pounds to collide with veteran heavyweight bruiser Ben Rothwell. The fact that “OSP” is competing out of his weight class on short notice should give you an idea of how chaotic the matchmaking process must have been as the promotion tries to work around the coronavirus restrictions.

Before we get to the main and co-main event analysis, be sure to check out the complete UFC Jacksonville preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Smith vs. Teixeira” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s crunch some numbers.

205 lbs.: Anthony Smith vs. Glover Teixeira

Anthony “Lionheart” Smith

Record: 33-14 | Age: 31 | Betting line: -175
Wins: 18 KO/TKO, 12 SUB, 2 DEC, 1 OTHER | Losses: 8 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 365 of 733 (50%) | Takedown attempts: 3 of 14 (29%)
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Submission win over Alexander Gustafsson

Glover Teixeira

Record: 30-7 | Age: 40 | Betting line: +145
Wins: 17 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 571 of 1303 (44%) | Takedown attempts: 20 of 57 (40%)
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: Decision win over Nikita Krylov

I guess the first question I have regarding Anthony Smith as we head into this mid-week headliner is what version of “Lionheart” we should expect. Smith has been out of action for nearly a year thanks to a broken hand, one that required two surgeries (and voluntary electrocution) to correct. Not to be all doom-and-gloom about it, we just don't know what’s going to happen the first time he lands something flush against his opponent’s skull, the kind of battle conditions you just can’t simulate in training camp. I’m less worried about ring rust or conditioning issues, as Smith has always been a consummate professional throughout his UFC career. If the hand proves to be of no consequence, then I don’t see how “Lionheart” loses this fight. Smith is 4-1 since jumping up to light heavyweight and all four of his wins have come by way of knockout or submission.

Glover Teixeira is also 4-1 over his last five with three nasty finishes. Not bad for a fighter who turns 41 in the fall. The Brazilian has been able to hang around the Top 10 — and in many cases the Top 5 — throughout his UFC career simply because he’s dangerous wherever the fight goes. Teixeira has power in his hands and world-class jiu-jitsu skills, giving him 25 finishes in 30 wins. We also can’t discount his championship experience. Like Smith, G-Tex went five rounds with Jon Jones in their UFC 172 headliner several years back. I was more forgiving of his knockout losses to Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson than I was of his unanimous decision loss to Corey Anderson, which happened less than two years ago. That’s a fight Teixeira needs to win to prove he’s still a title contender and at this stage of his career, I’m not breaking out the party hats for submissions over Karl Roberson or Ion Cutelaba.

I don’t consider Smith to be as refined as Teixeira, technically speaking, but he doesn’t have to be. “Lionheart” is nine years younger, far more athletic, and enters this contest with a signifiant size advantage. Without a dominant reach, I don’t expect the Brazilian to out-box his foe, nor do I think his offensive wrestling is strong enough to make it the deciding factor. Fact is, Smith is competing in his prime. He’s shown tremendous composure against some of the top names in the division and has a punishing clinch. If Teixeira was 30 instead of 40 this might be a different pick. I just can’t shake the feeling that UFC Jacksonville is the event where G-Tex finally shows his age.

Prediction: Smith def. Teixeira by technical knockout

265 lbs.: Ben Rothwell vs. Ovince Saint Preux

“Big” Ben Rothwell

Record: 37-12 | Age: 38 | Betting line: +120
Wins: 28 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 4 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 6 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Striking accuracy: 416 of 976 (43%) | Takedown attempts: 7 of 22 (32%)
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: TKO win over Stefan Struve

Ovince “OSP” Saint Preux

Record: 24-13 | Age: 37 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 8 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Southpaw
Striking accuracy: 460 of 1073 (43%) | Takedown attempts: 9 of 44 (32%)
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission win over Michal Oleksiejczuk

I’m not sure I fully understand why this fight was booked, since the outcome has absolutely no impact on the heavyweight division. Ovince Saint Preux doesn’t even belong anywhere north of 205 pounds but he was asked to throw down with Ben Rothwell because ... I dunno, maybe the promotion was just desperate to backfill some of the holes left by Gian Villante and Ion Cutelaba instead of just waiting a few extra weeks. I guess the true blame goes to coronavirus, which has made training and preparation a difficult task for several top fighters. Nevertheless, here we are, and it’s time to make sense of this odd-couple match up. We already know what to expect from “Big Ben” because this is his home. But we don’t know if Saint Preux will be slower — bogged down by the extra weight — or quicker; using a smaller, speedier frame to dance in and out of danger. Having a decorated career as a collegiate athlete would suggest the latter, but Saint Preux is 37 and hasn’t taken the field at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in more than a decade.

The big talking point for this contest is the submission game. Saint Preux made a career out of the Von Flue choke, which is now being referred to as the Von Preux choke. Rothwell is no submission slouch himself, having tapped Josh Barnett at UFC on FOX 18. If you know anything about grappling, you’ll know that’s a big deal. That said, every fight begins on the feet and trying to keep a prodigious brute like Rothwell in a compromising position long enough to work for a shoulder choke seems unlikely. Possible? Of course. Plausible? Ehhh ... maybe if “Big Ben” gets rocked on the feet. One of his problems over the last few years has been his inability to get out of first gear. Rothwell was bounced around by Junior dos Santos for 25 minutes at UFC Croatia, then seemed content to just mail it in against Blagoy Ivanov and Andrei Arlovski. No question Rothwell is better than what a lot of his losses have shown, but he continually struggles to prove it.

I’m expecting a competitive fight, partly because it’s three rounds but mostly because the awkward contrast of styles may prove challenging for both combatants. Saint Preux looked pretty horrendous in some of his recent losses, leading to questions about his durability in the twilight of his UFC career. But each time he gets to the precipice of “done,” he roars back with a lights-out submission, like he did against Michal Oleksiejczuk last September. You can make a similar argument for Rothwell, who planished Stefan Struve in late December, though I just think “Big Ben” is so unpredictable that not even he knows which version of himself is going to show up. Look for a close fight that may prove to be a lot more fun than it has any right to be, ending with Saint Preux on the receiving end of a “Big” bomb.

Prediction: Rothwell def. Saint Preux by technical knockout

Remember, the rest of the UFC Jacksonville main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Jacksonville fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.

For the rest of the UFC Jacksonville fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.

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