Where does Glover Teixeira’s KO win over Rashad Evans put him in the UFC Light Heavyweight Title picture? Should the UFC book him against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson next? Why or why not?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Glover Teixeira’s KO win over the #7 ranked Rashad Evans puts him a “Rumble” Johnson fight away from a title shot. Much like Evans’ KO of former champion Chuck Liddell, Teixeira’s stoppage of the former Light Heavyweight belt holder is his signature win to date. While Evans is aging, he’s still among the best in the world at 205 pounds and was a legitimate champion, albeit for a short time. At 36 years old, Evans has lost some of the speed that made him such a dominant fighter. Teixeira, who is also 36, is aging much better, as speed was never a huge factor in his fighting style. He’s improved his wrestling and ground game, and his heavy hands only seem to be getting heavier. A three fight winning streak, punctuated with Saturday’s starching of Evans, has him a likely fight away from a second crack at the belt.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is a logical opponent to match up against Teixeira next. While Johnson himself has a great claim to a title shot, Daniel Cormier’s injury means an unfortunate wait for Rumble if he’s insisting on his next fight being for the championship. A returning Jon Jones will be taking on Ovince Saint Preux this weekend, and the winner will face champion Daniel Cormier sometime later this year. Best case for Rumble would be Cormier returns for UFC 200, worst case is probably around November at Madison Square Garden. In any event, “Rumble” could potentially sit on the sidelines until early 2017, a good amount of time to go without a paycheck in a sport where your clock is constantly ticking as your athletic prime passes you by. If “Rumble” wants to get paid, a fight against Teixeira is the only real choice for him at the moment, due both to previous opponents and current bookings. It’s also a potentially explosive fight that could be a great treat for viewers.
There is a downside to putting this match together though. Assuming that Jones recaptures his belt, the Rumble vs. Jones fight is one that a lot of people still want to see. Johnson has managed to tag almost everyone he’s fought recently, including current champion Daniel Cormier. Could he be the first to legitimately beat Jones by landing one of his powerful shots? A fight against Teixiera isn’t a guaranteed victory by any means. A loss could move him out of the title picture long enough for Jones to leave for Heavyweight before taking on the KO-happy former Welterweight. A rematch of Jones and Teixeira could sell, but it’s not nearly as intriguing as a Johnson fight would be. Note, this is all under the assumption that Jones beats Cormier. If Cormier were to somehow defeat Jones in their rematch, we’d probably get Jones vs. Cormier III right after, meaning Rumble’s time on the sidelines could be a complete waste.
If I’m the UFC, I might be tempted to match Teixeira with former two time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson. While The Mauler is coming off a loss (two of them, in fact), and the UFC doesn’t usually like to match winners and losers together, he’s really the only other opponent that makes sense for Teixeira. He’s highly ranked, and currently without an opponent. A win over Gustafsson could still be enough to get Teixeira a title shot after Johnson, and it doesn’t burn either one of them as a challenger. A Gustafsson win also isn’t a huge loss for the UFC, as Jones has often spoke about a rematch with the big Swede, and this would be a fine way to begin justifying that fight again. Ultimately, this might hinge on what Anthony Johnson wants to do. Waiting for a title shot is fine, but if things go poorly for him, he might lose a lot of time sitting on the sidelines. The fans with if he squares off against Teixeira, but a fight against Gustafsson would be a nice consolation prize if Rumble takes a pass.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think that’s the best scenario, putting him against Rumble. UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier is going to fight the winner of Jon Jones vs. Ovince St. Preux so Johnson will be waiting a while if he gets the next shot guaranteed. As a Rumble fan, I’m good with that, but the UFC might decide to have him fight again before getting the title shot. It would also be a damn exciting fight between Teixeira and Johnson and would solidify the winner as the true #1 contender.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Teixeira is kind of floating in no-man’s land with Rumble still floating out there. His earlier loss to Jon Jones makes him an unfavorable candidate to receive another title shot once the uncrowned king recovers his belt. The problem is that he is good enough that he will likely derail any current up-and-comer on the horizon looking to earn their own title shot. The narrative might be different if Daniel Cormier somehow pulls off the upset and holds onto his belt against Jones (seeing as how Cormier already disposed of Rumble), but if that were to occur I see a rubber match being made between Jones and Cormier rather than Teixeira receiving a shot which still leaves Teixeira floating in no-mans land.
With that being the case, I think it is a no-brainer to make the fight between Teixeira and Rumble; it will clear up any potential questions of who would receive the title shot once Jones and Cormier take care of their business. It could be another year before Rumble gets his title shot with Jones and that is far too long to have him sitting on the sideline. It does have risk as there is a large contingency of fans even more excited at the potential fight between Jones and Rumble than the much hyped rivalry between Jones and Cormier and a Teixeira win would rerail that possibility, potentially giving us a fight we’ve already seen before that doesn’t have many (if any) excited. But it is stupid to have your top assets sitting on the sideline and Rumble is a hell of an asset with his KO power capable of showing up on a highlight reel in any given fight. While it wouldn’t be a pay-per-view headliner, it could serve as a pay-per-view co-main event or as a headliner of FS1 or on big FOX as an easy sell as a #1 contenders bout. And that isn’t even mentioning the potential excitement the bout offers as I have a hard time believing one or the other wouldn’t go to sleep as both are heavy hitters.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I’m firmly in the Teixeira vs. Johnson camp, because I don’t think Teixeira has a ghost of a chance against Johnson. Teixeira’s name value is as high right now as it’s ever going to be, so a win by Johnson over Teixeira will mean more than ever. So, Johnson disposes of Teixeira while the Jones/Cormier/St. Preux thing settles itself out, and then Johnson’s the next guy to get a title shot. And if I’m seeing things wrong and Teixeira upset Johnson, then there’s literally nothing more Teixeira could possibly do to have redeemed his way into another shot at Jones. I’m sorry. I meant to write ‘into another shot at Jones, Cormier, or St. Preux’ there. How presumptuous of me.
[Glover Teixeira art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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