Light Heavyweight combatants Glover Teixeira vs. Ryan Bader have been awarded the primus at tonight's UFC, their fate and future to be determined ad gladium. The analysis of said collision awaits herein. Be it received as either worthy of reprimand or a refreshing relief, I've decided to bypass the tradition of my flowery intro regarding the fighters' history and career whilst wilting under pressing time constraints.
Upon falling in two of his first four outings, Brazilian Glover Teixeira (21-2) has rocketed skyward with an unblemished string of ruthless victories and accomplished the feat by way of an excessively toxic combination of ruggedly effective striking and stellar Jiu-Jitsu. While that pair of traits has defined Teixeira's legacy, his underrated wrestling has been pivotal in surpassing the make-or-break trials of fighting at the lite level.
Though his record stands as one of the most impressive in existence, it is conspicuously devoid of opposition with stifling wrestling prowess; a more finite but equally authenticating test for any soaring prospect. That hole will be filled this evening by athletic wrestle-boxer and TUF 8 winner Ryan Bader (15-3), who's also a three-time Pac 10 champion and two-time All-American wrestler at the Division 1 level.
But both fighters represent unique and foreign aspects to one another. Bader solidified his status and diversity by upending top-shelf submission grapplers in Vinny Magalhaes and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and the latter poses quite a formidable striking acumen to complement his ground savvy. So while Teixeira will get his first taste of not only a capable offensive wrestler but one of the division's best, Bader must adapt to the same style of opponent he's overcome in the past, but one who's extraordinarily more venomous and volatile on the offensive end.
Since the term "offensive" is specifically emphasized among the new challenges each will face, much of the focus rests on how either will address them defensively -- and that adds significant appeal to this match up. Teixeira, while altogether untethered by concerns of being broadsided by a power double and blasted off his feet, has been afforded the luxury of sitting down on his strikes to load up power and stringing together a multitude of swarming combinations. Like wise, Bader has been able to throw his hands freely and with considerable confidence while setting up his entries and level changes in order to impose his overbearing wrestling.
These subtle differences will require a change in strategy that rests heavily on the defensive end: Teixeira must maintain a semblance of balance and awareness while uncorking his thunder to improve his chances of insta-switching to sprawling, evading or physically resisting Bader's takedowns; "Darth" is tasked with the same type of management, only he'll have to be vigilant in moving and protecting his gourd while assaulting Teixeira with setup strikes on his way in.
It's anyone's guess as to who can best accommodate these variables, but, due to Teixeira's lack of experience against competition of a similar breed, Bader will be more familiar with the approach and has less changes to affect. Of course, that's only based on what we've seen -- Teixeira could have a killer sprawl-and-brawl, but simply has yet to apply it, or he could just steamroll Bader on the feet and have no need for it. Still, Bader's ideal mentality for this fight is not far astray from the one that accrued his career-defining wins over Nogueira and Magalhaes.
From a strictly hands standpoint, Bader and Teixeira prefer probing jabs and monstrous right crosses and left hooks. The left hook has been a valuable weapon for both fighters though it's more prominent and devastating in Teixeira's arsenal. While Bader is typically a boxer, Teixeira fits the kickboxing mold and intersperses kicking techniques to accent his handiwork, though the latter is largely responsible for the length of his body count.
Footwork and cage motion, aspects integral to maximizing their offensive efficacy, is tough to assess for Teixeira, which goes back to his light wrestling competition. Without the aforementioned threat of takedowns, he's been able squeeze the trigger without reservations -- except from counterstrikes -- until his adversary either crumbles under the gunfire or becomes susceptible to his voracious submissions. And that rare ability -- to wield the highest caliber of dentally prosperous punching power in unison with air and blood preventative or limb-snapping submissions -- is what makes Glover Teixeira so formidable and exciting.
Bader's boxing deserves to be praised here along with his willingness to engage. He's not of the fan-averse breed who endeavors to ground his opponent and hold on for dear life. He can't match the overall technical acumen of Teixeira's striking but his offensive combinations, gameness, explosiveness and fight instincts are uncommon for a wrestling-based fighter. Considering the rapid pace at which Bader has evolved, particularly his burgeoning comfort with basic submissions from the front head lock, he's done phenomenally well in becoming a complete fighter.
While the minor alterations required for his striking are within his grasp, it's nearly unfathomable for Bader to catch up with Teixeira's submission artistry -- meaning he's at a vast disadvantage in any grappling exchanges a finish is virtually imminent if he's put on his back. Though his overall range of striking fundamentals is sound, defensive lapses have occurred on more than one occasion. His head is too often on or in close proximity to centerline, and he doesn't compensate with a rigidly consistent guard or head movement. Additionally, since he's had a massive wrestling advantage over most opponents, not much more than a straight-line attack has been required.
The final piece of the puzzle here is that, despite justifiably being lauded for his electric striking and submissions, Teixeira has proven to be a pretty damn competent wrestler himself. Just as surprise takedowns are ideal for disrupting a striker, often a surprise takedown launched at the superior wrestler can yield momentous results. In this scenario, even the mere attempt of takedowns would cause Bader to hesitate on his way in and add another threat to the mix, or seal his fate entirely if it's successful. Most importantly, even if Bader succeeds with takedowns, Teixeira's crafty scrambling will make him tough to keep there and his active guard will deteriorate Bader's ability to level heavy ground strikes.
I think this one is closer than most and wouldn't be surprised to see Bader pull it off, but the complexity and completeness of Teixeira earns him the nod.
My Prediction: Glover Teixeira by submission.