Despite a substandard 1-2 pace in the UFC, stone-headed boxer Fabio Maldonado (18-5) has become a bit of a fan favorite, or at least widely respected. The Team Nogueira rep began his MMA career in 2000 and posted a mediocre 2-2 clip, then took a few years off to try his hand at professional boxing in 2002. In the boxing ring, Maldonado seared off to a 8-0 start and then decided to compete in both boxing and MMA concurrently until he got the call from the UFC in 2010. Maldonado's professional boxing record stands at an impressive 22-0 with 21 (T)KOs though, granted, his competition wasn't stellar.
After returning to MMA, Maldonado went on to win 15 of his next 16 before appearing in the Octagon. That stretch included a pair of rousing TKOs over former UFCer and current Bellator banger Maiquel Falcao and was marred only by grappling renegade Alexandre "Cacareco" Ferreira, a one-time UFC contestant who's won 17 of 18 by submission. Arriving with a bang, Maldonado picked off English kickboxer James McSweeney with a 3rd-round barrage of what would become his signature style of short whirring sledgehammers. The dual decision losses that followed to Kyle Kingsbury and Igor Pokrajac were both exciting and highly competitive affairs albeit doubt inducing to Maldonado's ceiling as a fighter.
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The Pit Fight Team's Glover Teixeira (18-2) has long been touted as destined for the big leagues. When Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou took Pride Fighting Championships by storm with outrageous knockouts of top veterans Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, many eyes were fixated on the sole blemish on Sokoudjou's record, who seemed utterly invincible at the time. That blemish was Teixeira, who blitzed Sokoudjou by 1st-round knockout on a 2006 WEC card just a few months before Zuffa purchased the brand.
Like Maldonado, Teixeira's MMA career actuated in average fashion with a 2-2 split, but he's gone on a rampage since then with 18-straight wins and, even more impressively, finishing 17. The big selling point with Teixeira is that, in addition to his seething knockout power, he's also a credentialed submission grappler and holds a win over Dean Lister on points. Teixeira's double-threat offense was on full display in his Octagon debut against Kingsbury: he floored him with a short right, pounced on his back, transitioned to mount and tapped him with an arm triangle.
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The hype-train is rolling hard for Teixeira, and for good reason. In addition to his volatile medley of striking and submissions, he hasn't been defeated since 2005, his only losses came in his 1st and 4th professional fights (one of which was the UFC's Ed Herman) and he's finished 16 of his 18 wins with a nice blend of 11 TKOs and 5 submissions.
That's worth getting excited about. Another crowd pleasing aspect is that Teixeira throws his punches with the same reckless abandon that his teammate Chuck Liddell was known for, i.e. ungodly overhand loopers and crushing counter hooks that are fully intended to inflict great bodily harm. Not much of a kicker, Teixeira is mostly a boxer but his style is accented heavily by his brawling mentality.
Maldonado is also categorized as a boxer, but not a typical one. While the way he embeds himself deep in the pocket, lowers his head and chambers off unending salvos of short and tight-arcing hooks oozes a pure boxing essence, the rest of his arsenal does not. As outlined by in-house striking whiz Jack Slack, Maldonado's conduct with range fighting and defense leaves a little to be desired, particularly in his absence of head movement (and defense in general) and lack of angles and protection when closing range.
That's not a terrible, demeaning critique either ... Mirko Filipovic was once the most feared striker and knockout artist in MMA in spite of wielding a drastically limited arsenal of strikes (2 strikes, really: left high kick and left straight) and the same could be said of Wanderlei Silva, who accrued a mile-long body count with little in the way of textbook fundamentals, as well as his stateside counterpart, Chuck Liddell.
In MMA, effectiveness is all that matters. Maldonado's boxing background is hugely effective to his in-fighting. Opponents just aren't accustomed to being put on the cage and methodically carved up with a steady drizzle of short punches. And let's define "short" in this instance: Maldonado's kill zone can be envisioned by holding an extra large medicine ball to your sternum. His hands remain within that imaginary circumference and, in a crouched stance (for balance and power) with his elbows glued tight to his sides, he whirs a maelstrom of tight hooks and uppercuts to the body and head.
Keeping his arms bent and torquing heavily from the hips, Maldonado might not dazzle onlookers with one-shot power, but he can squeeze off 10-12 punch combinations to multiple targets and his relentless volume of pelting blows can add up in a hurry. And, still, he's finished 12 of his 18 wins by TKO, so I think the trending outlook that Maldonado lacks punching heft is quite overblown, much like the pre-2008 complaints about Nick Diaz were. He's just more of a volume striker.
Having hopefully reinforced his exceptional talent with in-fighting, Maldonado's weakness is range striking. He not only relies almost exclusively on his hands but rarely needles any long or straight punches from the fringe, leaving him with a very defined impediment in striking range. That's far from uncommon but his aforementioned absence of darting footwork, unpredictable angles and level changes make closing the distance -- a must in order to achieve his preferred fighting range -- a risky endeavor. Thus far his iron-shod chin has seen him through -- however, letting a cascade of punches bounce off your head in exchange for assuming your preferred striking range is a futile equation.
Especially against the incendiary detonation of a striker like Teixeira, who has a workable mixture of striking fundamentals (head movement, footwork, angles and timing) to accent his swing-for-the-fences mentality. The benefit of that approach is that Teixeira can also be adept at in-fighting and close-quarters mauling without being encompassed by it.
With Maldonado's one specific range established, that leaves Teixeira with a clean advantage out on the fringe and a monumental one on the ground. Additionally, his striking and submission combo is highly formidable in the clinch, which is Maldonado's area of specialty. Having the ability to go tit-for-tat in Maldonado's strongest location with a similar level of skill, more power and the added benefit of constricting Maldonado's neck with chokes should serve Teixeira just fine.
The betting lines are in agreement with Teixeira scooting out in front by a wide margin in the neighborhood of -350 to -400. Having more weapons in more areas simply leads to a higher chance of victory.
My Prediction: Glover Teixeira by submission.