The last time a UFC champion had a title defense was February 22 of this year when Ronda Rousey defeated Sara McMann at UFC 170, and the last time a title was on the line was in March at UFC 171 when a new welterweight king was crowned. Since UFC 171, and in between UFCs 170 and 171, there have been six events total where the stakes were high, but the hardware was out of the picture. Tomorrow, Jon Jones, one of the few uninjured UFC champions, will take to the cage to face Glover Teixeira, a man who hasn’t lost a fight since Chuck Liddell was the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion—three years before Jon Jones started his MMA career.
It’s no secret that Jones is the overwhelming favorite. The big question going into Saturday’s light heavyweight showdown is whether or not any effects from Alexander Gustafsson’s mauling of Jones—either mental or physical—will linger. Leading up to the fight, Jones has been distracted, making excuses, and generally circling the wagons in his camp. However, there has yet to be an opponent to have his hand raised against Jones when the fight is over. Only Gustafsson has made Jones look human. However, as Chris Weidman showed the world, once you make an MMA idol look human, once you’ve made a god bleed, other fighters smell the blood in the water. There’s no un-ringing that bell.
Glover Teixeira has been easy to overlook fight week, especially with the intense media glare reflected off of Jones, Dana White’s fetish for putting his foot in his mouth, and Hurricane Rousey. But make no mistake, Teixeira is a unique challenge for Jones. As I mentioned yesterday, if Gustafsson represented a physical challenge (in terms of genetic gifts), if Machida represented a stylistic challenge, and if Shogun represented the veteran challenge, no one has yet to represent the challenge of brute power that Teixeira will issue. We’ve seen Jones get hit and keep coming against Machida, but Machida didn’t have Teixeira’s power. We’ve see Jones get hit repeatedly against Gustafsson, but Gustafsson didn’t have Teixeira’s power either. Of course, Teixeira has to get close enough to utilize that power
Given everything I’ve seen from both men, I think Jones still has the advantage and the arsenal to make quick work of Teixeira. That being said, I’m picking Teixeira in the upset. Jones has proven he can get taken by surprise. Vitor Belfort caught him in a bad armbar. Gustafsson surprised an 80% Jones and sent him to the hospital. If Teixeira can surprise Jones, I think he might be able to pull off the improbable. One of the few occasions I’m letting my gut overrule my brain.
In the co-main, Phil Davis has been trying too hard the last two weeks to stay relevant outside of the cage in the 205-pound picture. He’s trying so hard to poke the bear that is Jon Jones, the only thing people are discussing about his opponent Anthony Johnson is whether or not Johnson will make weight. The problem is that neither Johnson or Davos are doing much to sell their own fight. Unlike the main event, this matchup should play out exactly as the betting lines expect. Davis is the superior wrestler and has had a better quality of opponents while Johnson has been learning to adjust to his new weight class. With Davis’s focus on Jones instead of Johnson, there is an outside chance that Johnson could level Davis; however, I’ve already got my upset pick set in stone.
As for the rest of the undercard, look for Jim Miller to have a stellar performance against a late addition in Yancy Medeiros. Miller is a handful for most everyone in the 155 pound class, and his armbar against Fabricio Camoes was so beautiful, it belongs in the Louvre. I only hope he returns to Bad Moon Rising as the walkout song of choice. The Hollies was a nice change up in his last out, but whenever I hear CCR I no longer think of American Werewolf in London. I think of Jim Miller.
Solid card up and down. I expect Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Takanori Gomi to be a fun fight and for Benavidez and Elliott to go a hard three rounds. As always, feel free to come back to ridicule my picks as I am proven wrong.
My “of the night” predictions:
- Fight of the night – Joseph Benavidez/Tim Elliott
- Performance of the night 1 – Jim Miller
- Performance of the night 2 – Glover Teixeira