Teixeira Smith vs
After the massive success of UFC 249, it feels safe to say that fights will not be going away any time soon! Not only did the UFC put on one of the best fight cards in recent years, they did so safely, showcasing why the UFC is the pinnacle of the sport.
The platform that the UFC provided enabled fighters to put on a show for the millions of viewers at home, confined to their couch during the quarantine. Every camp was given access to COVID testing. Although Jacare Souza tested positive, there is no knowledge of any other camp contracting the virus since. This led to the fight card moving forward seamlessly after that breaking news.
While most are still re-watching fights from the famous event, just four days after UFC 249 (and the chaos that ensued), MMA fans have another intriguing main event to look forward to. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (33-14) and Glover Teixeira (30-7), two top ten Light-Heavyweight contenders, clash on May 13 in Jacksonville, Florida. One can only hope that they try to mimic the main event between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje at 249…
Both Smith (#3) and Teixeira (#8) come into this contest in great form. They’re also two of the most well-respected and reputable figures in all of MMA today. Smith has won four out of his last five, the only blemish on his record being the current Light-Heavyweight King, Jon Jones in a Championship bout. Glover is on a three-fight win-streak, which is the first time he’s put three wins together since 2016. This fight comes at a great time for the pair who have plans at fighting for Light-Heavyweight gold once again.
Despite the loss to Jon Jones, Smith has performed dominantly, with finishes in all four of the wins previously mentioned. This includes wins over UFC Veterans, Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and top contenders, Volkan Oezedemir and Alexander Gustaffson. Smith finished Evans and Rua via TKO, while Oezdemir and Gustaffson fell victim to Smith’s rear-naked choke. This highlighted his versatility and well-rounded game as a mixed martial artist.
Glover, on the other hand, has proved that age is just a number and has put together an impressive win-streak. While he hasn’t faced the same level of competition as Smith recently, Glover has shown consistency for the first time in several years. That said, Glover will be facing off against a different animal in Smith. At the age of 40, this is an absolute must-win if he’s to fight for a belt again.
During Smith’s rise to the top of the Light-Heavyweight division, he continuously highlighted his broadly-developed skillset. Smith has had a crazy streak and has racked up a catalogue of unique finishes. His strength and power are the obvious stand outs for Smith, but he’s also incredibly diverse in his striking. In his last nine fights, he has a head-kick KO, two elbow finishes and who can forget the knee he landed on Rashad Evans to close the show at UFC 225. Let’s not leave out the two submissions he has in his last three fights.
Strangely, at 6’4 with a 76” reach, Smith almost looks unassuming and even somewhat labored at times. He doesn’t appear to be throwing “power” strikes. However, his opponents who have felt his jab and straight right would all beg to differ. Smith is a master at finding his range and staying on the outside of punches, while quickly closing the distance when he smells blood. Although Smith is “orthodox”, his variety makes him unpredictable. He’s dominated in the clinch (as seen against Evans). He can go high and low with kicks when mixing up his striking and he has smooth and crisp boxing, which provided his foundation when he surged up the rankings at Light-Heavyweight.
In short, Smith has an assortment of weapons at his disposal and he’s hungry to fight for a title once again. Smith is also a true professional. He respects and takes every opponent seriously, which has been key to his success over the last several years. That level of respect he’s shown is probably why he comes into this fight as a slight favorite (-175).
On the opposite side of the cage, Glover also has two submission victories under his belt in his last three. This includes a Performance of the Night against Ion Cuțelaba, who Teixeira finished via rear-naked choke in the second round. And while he’s demonstrated his clinch work and BJJ in those last three fights, it would be in Smith’s best interests to not forget about the power that Teixeira still carries, even at the age of 40.
Glover has demonstrated that power against 17 opponents in the past. He can still pose a genuine threat, regardless of Smith carrying an advantage in the striking. Glover is also a second-degree BJJ black belt and has demonstrated his efficiency time-and-time again over his lengthy career. He boasts 8 submission victories across the span of his career.
On the flip side, however, Glover has had difficulties with the top tier of the division. This dates back to when he first fought Jon Jones for the Light-Heavyweight title. He’s since lost to Gustaffson and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson via vicious TKO within the space of 8 months. He then rebounded with a win over Misha Cirkunov before getting a top-10 contender, Corey Anderson, where he lost via unanimous decision.
This indicates that Glover’s better years are potentially behind him. Once a 22-2 fighter, Glover has succumbed slightly and he’s 7-5 in his last 13. Again, those losses have been to top-10 competition. So facing the current #3 contender in Smith doesn’t bode well for his chances.
Keys to Victory
The level of competition that Smith has fought over the last number of years is testament to how good a fighter he’s become. Simply put, Smith doesn’t need to change anything in his approach to this fight as he’s already fought and beaten some of the best in the division. He needs to utilize his effortless boxing and continue to keep Glover guessing. Smith will likely switch stances regularly and control the fight by moving in-and-out of range. He’s done so effectively over the last five years. Gustaffson created the blueprint for Smith when he finished Teixeira in 2017 and it’s likely that Smith will adapt a similar game plan.
Smith also has solid takedown defense which may neutralize one of Teixeira’s best weapons; his ground game. If Smith can avoid the takedown and stay out of Glover’s BJJ snare, he clearly has the upper hand in the striking department. Although Smith is a BJJ black belt himself, going to ground with Glover – one of the best BJJ Practioners the UFC has seen – is playing with fire and he would be wise to keep the fight standing.
For Glover, one might assume he will try to take the fight to the mat or engage in the clinch up against the cage. While that may seem like his best chance of having his hand raised, Smith is known for being a cardio-machine. Lunging into takedowns may very well drain the life out of Glover. As every wrestler knows, shooting for ill-timed takedowns with no success can sap the life out of you. Both mentally and physically. Teixeira needs to pick his moments and capitalize on level-changes to shoot efficiently as opposed to being over eager and aggressive with his wrestling.
Overall, this looks like an awkward matchup for Teixeira. Despite the UFC Veteran’s resume and length of service, he has typically struggled against the likes of Smith’s caliber, particularly in recent years. Smith’s cardio and solid defensive game are also likely to weaken Teixeira’s chances. And while this isn’t a mismatch, Smith has dominated tougher opponents and is still very much in contention at another crack at the Light-Heavyweight crown. Even if he is to lose on Wednesday night. That said, Smith will no doubt be hungry to add another UFC Veteran to the many notches he already has on his belt.
At the age of 40, Teixeira has a huge amount riding on this fight. If he doesn’t have his hand raised on Wednesday night, this may be one of the last times we see him compete. Particularly if Smith wins violently. For Smith, it’s business as usual. Though he still has time on his side, a loss to Glover could set him back for the next couple of years. Either way, this fight is crucial for both men at different stages in their career.
Anthony Smith via TKO (Round 2)
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