PICKING A FIGHT – UFC FIGHT NIGHT 47

Pardon my absence from the premises as of late fellow Donnybrookers, but with the news of Josh Grispi, the ridiculousness that is War Machine, and the injury to Jon Jones, it’s been a pretty miserable time to write about MMA.

Regarding the War Machine news, I didn’t want to give it more ink than what’s out there. I didn’t have the fight in me to point out to the “alpha male” War Machine fans that nothing screams “alpha male” quite like beating up your girlfriend and then cowardly going on the lam. I didn’t have the pluck to debate people who think Christy Mack’s line of work prevents her from being treated like a human being and not being beaten to near death.   I lost the inclination to hear two sides of the story because if you saw the pictures of what War Machine did to Christy Mack, you know there is nothing about the other side of that story that could have justified him putting hands on the woman he supposedly loves.

There simply wasn’t anything worthwhile to mention regarding the combat landscape.  Even the silver lining of Cathal Pendred donating his portion of Mike King’s forfeited Fight of the Night performance purse to a Children’s hospital wasn’t enough to pull me out of the MMA doldrums.  Though good on Cathal. There’s a reason that guy has a following, and I’m starting to think it has less to do with his fighting abilities and has more to do with him being a good dude.

Yes, this is Cathal Pendred pulling a George Costanza rescuing a beached baby dolphin.

Yes, this is Cathal Pendred pulling a George Costanza and rescuing a beached baby dolphin.

And Robin Williams died.  And the news out of Ferguson, Missouri gets worse and worse. And it just felt like a good time to take a hiatus.

Similarly, the UFC has taken a powder and been on hiatus since July 26, one of the promotions longer breaks in recent history.  For the contingent of fans decrying the oversaturation of UFC events, the last three weeks have been Xanadu.  For everyone else, it’s been shark week, which apparently is just as staged as the WWE. So this Saturday’s free UFC event from Bangor, Maine, live on Fox Sports 1, is a welcome return to form for everyone who watches fights.  Everyone except Maine’s own Tim Sylvia.

In the main event, Ryan Bader locks horns with Ovince St. Preux which does little in the way of advancement with a Bader victory and barely moves the needle with an OSP win. Bader is the favorite, so it will be interesting to see what game plan he implements. Will he stand with the unorthodox of OSP, or will he control OSP on the ground?  For OSP, Bader represents a clear step up in competition, so he shouldn’t expect to Von Flue choke Ryan Bader.  It won’t be that easy.  What everyone should dread the most about this match-up is the likely abundance of references to OSP’s “athleticism” or his being “an athlete.”  They will come fast and furious. Do not make a drinking game out of it, or you will likely not make it out of the second round.

In the co-main, Gray Maynard steps in for an injured Abel Trujillo to take on Ross Pearson.  Maynard may be the bigger fighter, but if Pearson can avoid the takedown and keep things standing, look for Pearson to capitalize on Maynard’s perceived inability to take big shots.  For Maynard, one too many hardline KOs have left many fans wondering if he can still take a shot.  However don’t dismiss Maynard’s ability to give shots, primarily when he shoots for a takedown.  If Maynard gets back to his takedown roots, he could make Pearson’s night a long one.

The Fight Night 47 card also sees the return of Sara McMann, the one-time UFC Women’s Bantamweight contender and Olympic medalist who hopes to rebound after a one-sided shellacking by Ronda Rousey earlier this year.  McMann is the overwhelming favorite for a reason.  She’s a wrestler, and she’s a top flight grappler. Look for McMann to secure the takedown at will and land big shots en route to a referee stoppage.

As always, feel free to come back to ridicule my picks as I am proven wrong.

IN THIS CORNER: A PROFILE OF GLOVER TEIXEIRA

Glover Teixeira before his fight with Ryan Bader.

With Jon Jones focusing on Chuck Liddell, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, himself, and everybody but his opponent Glover Teixeira, it seems like now would be a good time to revisit just how Teixeira got to where he is, co-headlining a main event at UFC 172 and what Teixeira can expect from the champ.

ON PAPER

  • Teixeira started his MMA career in 2002 with a loss, believe it or not, in the WEC.
  • In fact, Teixeira fought 4 times under the WEC banner.
  • Since his MMA debut, Teixeira has only lost one other fight in the 24 matches under his belt.
  • In the 2+ years Teixeira built up his undefeated record in Brazil, only 1 of his fights went to decision.
  • In his 5 fights with the UFC, only 1 win has been by decision.
  • Teixeira has more wins on his record than Jon Jones has total fights.
  • Teixeira has never fought past the 3rd round.

BETWEEN THE NUMBERS

Teixeira is a quiet guy.  He doesn’t smack talk.  He doesn’t try to sell himself.  He doesn’t belittle his opponents. He’s a marketing firm’s worst nightmare.  Despite his affiliations with former champ Chuck Liddell, Teixeira’s climb to the contender’s position, while a quiet one, has been earned of his own merits, most of the time by decimating his opponents.

Much like Jones, Teixeira is a finisher with 12 wins via KO/TKO and 7 coming by way of submission. The quality of competition, however, is where both Jones and Teixeira diverge.  Jones has notable wins against Lyoto Machida, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Rashad Evans. For Teixeira, notable wins over Rampage Jackson, Ricco Rodriguez, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou strengthen his resume.  The two share similar wins against Ryan Bader and Rampage Jackson with Teixeira getting the slighter edge on the quickest time to finish their shared competition.

From 2007 through 2010, the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship title became a hot potato among Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, and Shogun Rua, with few of the title holders able to hold on to the belt for more than one defense.   Meanwhile, Teixeira was building his reputation in Brazil as a finisher. Often, viewers to UFC events would hear Joe Rogan opine about Glover Teixeira and the visa issues that prevented him from competing in the UFC and adding depth to its light heavyweight division.

When Teixeira was finally able to debut in the UFC, he was quick to impress, submitting Kyle Kingsbury less than 2 minutes into the first round. Since then Teixeira has shown has shown he is an intelligent and consistent fighter, for the most part.

THE BAD

Take his ridiculous fight against Fabio Maldonado in Brazil. Maldonado lured Teixeira into a brawl after Teixeira had dominated him on the feet early.  It was enough to get Teixeira’s attention, but the fact that Maldonado put him in a bad spot in the first place raises a red flag. Maldonado has one speed: zombie.  He moves forward. Much like a zombie apocalypse, it’s easy enough to plan for. To see Teixeira get lured into Maldonado’s kind of game is troubling even though Teixeira was able to get out of it ultimately.  It doesn’t fall into pattern though, until you look at his fight against Ryan Bader.

In the Bader fight, Teixeira was dominating on the ground until, as he did in the Maldonado fight, Teixeira got suckered, this time, into chasing his opponent. Bader lit him up, briefly, before being floored by a Teixeira bomb.  The question remains though: does being baited twice prove a pattern?

THE GOOD

In his fight with Rampage Jackson, Teixeira pressed the action and stood his ground.  When Rampage attempted to get close, Teixeira took him down at will.  With Rampage’s reputation as a hard hitter, Teixeira took no chances allowing him to find a range.  It showed his intelligence and dominance.  Using both in a fight is a hard rope to walk, and in his fight against Rampage, Teixeira made it look effortless. His controlling performance against Rampage aside, Teixeira has shown two things that happen when he does get into trouble on his feet:

  • It’s temporary.
  • He KOs/TKOs the guy who put him in trouble.

Maldonado was so crushed by Teixeira’s power, the doctor didn’t allow Maldonado to continue his fight against Teixeira. Ryan Bader pushed Teixeira against the fence and unleashed a barrage until Teixeira saw enough of an opening to touch Bader just once, forcing him to turtle up on the canvas.  That’s the power Teixeira wields.  It’s atomic.

THE UGLY

Of course, none of the people on Teixeira’s ledger have the physical gifts of Jon Jones. For Teixeira to get inside and touch Jones’s chin, he has to pass the miles of highway that is the Jones reach.  And that’s a long ride to reach the destination. He has to avoid the “oblique” kicks that Jones throws to keep his opponents out of range. He also has to be ready for the creative way Jones implements attacks.  They come from odd angles and at odd times.

In short, the things that Glover gets criticized for in his performances will likely be a non-factor in the championship fight with Jon Jones. Glover won’t get suckered into a brawl with Jones because that’s not what Jones does. Knowing that, does it give Teixeira carte blanche to make the fight ugly?  Does Teixeira attempt to bait Jones into thinking that Teixeira can be baited into a brawl, allowing Jones to get close enough to unload?  Probably not.  Jones scares the bejesus out of most people not named Alexander Gustafsson, and Jones’s opponents respect his abilities too much to allow him to get that close; however, that’s exactly the kind of blueprint that Teixeira’s mentor followed so well.  Chuck Liddell was a counter striker that used his wrestling to keep the fight standing, made his opponents wade into his range, and then uncorked on them with power counter shots.  Liddell’s success with that blueprint is one that might justify Teixeira going retro in his fight on Saturday and taking a page out of the past in order to beat Jones.  Jones, in his countless distractions leading up to the fight, has even been vocal about Chuck Liddell this week, going so far as to challenge the retired former lightweight champion, further endearing himself to MMA fans everywhere. Does Jones see something about Teixeira that gives him pause so much so that he’s sniping at Teixeira’s camp? Maybe Liddell, John Hackleman, and Glover Teixeira know something the Vegas oddsmakers don’t.

If Gustaffson represented Jones’s test against a physical threat, Machida represented Jones’s test against a technical threat, Belfort and Sonnen represented Jones’s test from the outside threat of smaller opponents, surely Teixeira represents Jones’s biggest test against the threat of raw power. The more Jones keeps talking about Chuck Liddell, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, and social media snafus, the more you have to wonder if he’s had adequate time to cram for the kind of assessment that is Glover Teixeira.  If not, here’s hoping he at least has planned an excuse.