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UFC 179: Aldo vs. Mendes 2 - Toe to Toe Preview: Phil Davis vs. Glover Teixeira

Phil and David return for another edition of 'Toe to Toe', with an in depth look at the new Avengers trailer. Don't worry. We also talk about this high octane LHW bout between Phil Davis and Glover Teixeira too.

Buda Mendes

Light Heavyweight Phil "Mr Wonderful" Davis vs Glover Teixeira

One-sentence summary?

Once-hot prospect struggles to remain in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division against a good-natured yet violently capable title contender

OR

Glover doesn't have a hackneyed nickname like every other MMA fighter?

Stats

Glover Teixeira

22W-3L (5W-1L UFC)
13 (T)KOs, 6 submissions,
UFC ranking: #4
Fighting out of: The Pit
Odds: -340

Phil "Mr Wonderful" Davis:
12W-3L-1NC
2 (T)KOs, 4 submissions,

UFC ranking: #6
Fighting out of: Alliance MMA
Odds: +280

History lesson / introduction to the fighters

Phil: Glover Teixeira was a kind of MMA unicorn for a few years. He was a high-level fighter on a long winning streak... who had done so entirely outside of any major promotions. No Strikeforce, no Affliction, no DREAM. His last fight before he joined the UFC was in "MMA Against Dengue", where he knocked out Ricco Rodriguez.

When the mythical Glover finally made it to the UFC, he did not disappoint. He smashed Kyle Kingsbury, mauled Fabio Maldonado, convincingly decisioned the fading Rampage Jackson, tapped out James Te Huna, and knocked out Ryan Bader. His run was stopped by the champion, Jon Jones. It was unfortunate timing for Teixeira- if he had gotten to Jones before Alexander Gustafsson, everyone would have hailed it as Jones' most competitive fight. As it was, it slipped under the radar a little.

David: Glover was a literal kind of elusive in the MMA world for years.

Phil: ...Joe.

David: Visa issues kept him away from the UFC when Teixeira was a little known training partner of Chuck Liddell who had a lot of nice things to say about him the same way Tito Ortiz had a lot of nice things to say about Chuck before the two became "bitter rivals!".

Phil: Phil Davis was one of the trifecta of young, talented stars who came up into the light heavyweight division in the late 2000s. Which one did you pick to be the future of the division? Would it be the flashy, highlight-reel attacks of Jon Jones? The muscular submission grappling of Phil Davis? Or perhaps, the dark horse Swedish striker?

David: Hmm...that's a good one. It was definitely not Gustafsson. Like most people, I remember thinking that Gustafsson was your typical undefeated European prospect with zero wrestling, and lots of appetizer bouts. But I think I was highest on Davis back then. He was the oldest of the three, but he also seemed to have all the physical tools in place with his ostensibly pugilism made physique. Jones seemed more violent, but I always had the impression that Davis would end up being the most technical.

Phil: Davis actually finished Gustafsson when the two met, but somewhere along the line, he has gotten separated from the other two. He won a close decision over Rogerio Nogueira, and a very controversial decision over Lyoto Machida, but he lost one-sided blowouts to Rashad Evans and, in his last fight, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.

David: Phil Davis is interesting because he can claim success, and has big wins, and yet I keep likening him to a prospect lagging behind on the learning curve. He's that player in the minors who looks so damn good, and yet can't seem to put it all together on the big stage. Phil is much better than a "failed prospect", but watching him can feel that way when his fights fail to provoke much interest.

Phil: I think it's the clearly-defined ceiling that does it. In many ways you can look at the guy who fought Rogerio Nogueira and say: well, what does he really do different at this point, years removed?

What are the stakes?

Phil: The current state of where these two men are reminds me of Looney Tunes. Specifically, the part where Character A is chasing Character B, and then runs headlong into a strategically held frying pan, to the characteristic "BYOOONGGGG" sound effect.

Davis's frying pan moment came courtesy of Rumble, and Teixeira's came from Jon Jones. At the moment both men are debatably kind of... juddering around, looking stunned.

David: Reading your first paragraph doesn't remind me of Looney Tunes. It reminds me of this scene from Peter Jackson's Dead-Alive.

Where do they want the fight, and how do they get it there?

Phil: Davis is a powerful wrestler, who works best when he has bundled opponents to the mat. He has a great blast double and a fairly sneaky single leg. If he gets top position he has an absolutely crushing top game. Unlike many wrestlers, it is far evolved beyond simple body-body-head punching while trapped in the guard. He passes frequently while still maintaining a great deal of pressure, and wraps up submissions with a nasty blend of creativity, technique and athleticism.

His stand-up is... less good.

David: That's pretty charitable. Davis' problem on the feet is that I don't think he's confident enough in his wrestling to mask his lack of deftness on the feet. So the discomfort has a real world effect on his mechanics, and willingness to commit.

Phil: Like you said, it's mostly his mechanics, which are pretty dire. The virtue of "punching straight" has been clearly impressed on him, but his weight transfer is poor, and he basically falls forward and pushes on every punch he throws.

I've likened him to Jake Shields in the past, but he lacks Shields's dogged, insistent volume. In addition, while Davis appears to have a phenomenal chin, he reacts extremely poorly to getting hit. What he does have is a very nice leg and body kick (again, similar to Shields, who has an underrated body kick), because this doesn't seem to involve the same front-to-back weight transfer issues that plague his punching. If he was a southpaw, he might really be able to do some liver damage with that body kick.

As it stands, the mechanics problems mean that it's surprisingly difficult for him to land takedowns, because the "tells" on his phase-shift are so clear: does he look like he's about to fall over? Then he's punching. Does he look like he's actually putting his weight into something? It's a takedown. So his dominant grappling performances have really only come against fighters who are so comparatively grappling deficient (either athletically or technically) that even if they do see the takedown coming, they can't stop it.

What about Glover?

David: That is probably the first and last time we'll ever hear anyone talk favorably of Jake Shields' striking. Although I do agree. It's easy to point and laugh at Jake when you compare him to other fighters, but he's incredibly effective at what he does precisely because he's aware of what he can't do. Davis' problem is that he's only half figured out what Jake Shields has; you don't need to be awesome striker in MMA. Efficiency trumps technique in this sport.

Glover doesn't have that problem. Which is not to say Davis can't win this fight. It's just that it will be an uphill battle. If there's one strike I'd argue that Phil needs to really pay attention to, it's Glover's uppercut. I feel this punch is still under utilized in MMA, and it sometimes feels like an atavism; fighters still worried that if they lead with it, they'll end up like Chuck Liddell vs. Rashad Evans, or that it's the kind of strike that leaves them open for takedowns. Glover uses it well, and it's a key part of his ability to rack up damage in close. I have no doubts that Davis can manage Glover at range, awkward looking as it might be, but in close unsuccessfully looking for takedowns? That's a different story.

Phil: Good call. If I recall correctly, Rumble landed his uppercut on Davis as Mr. Wonderful came in for a takedown. It's a common technique of Henri Hooft fighters and a staple for bridging the gap between takedown defense and striking offense, which is exactly what Glover needs to do. With the Brazilian's gargantuan advantages in striking power and technique in close, and his really stout takedown defense, it becomes quickly apparent that the phonebooth is probably not where Davis wants this fight.

Insight from past fights?

David: It's possible that the Tim Boetsch fight yields some insight. Davis may not be a wizard on the feet, but he's smart on the feet for the most part (mostly...). He knows what he can't do, and fights accordingly. Which is why he's suddenly able to "beat" Machida on the feet (a discussion I'd rather table for later, or never). He keeps his distance well in part because he's so able to swiftly close it. There's no real one fight that provides clues. Davis hasn't fought a technical boxer like Glover that's able to do what he does in close, yet Glover has fought plenty of grappler types.

Phil: Teixeira vs Bader was always an interesting one to me. Glover really struggled to close the distance on Bader. More than he did, as a matter of fact, on Jon Jones. I think that it showcased the fundamental differences between trying to close in on a someone who stays away with movement (Bader), and someone who keeps you out with strikes (Jones). Teixeira looked extremely frustrated in his attempts to catch the surprisingly fleet Bader, and in fact only won once he was stunned by the Arizona fighter, and Bader closed into the pocket and tried to finish him off.

I think this ties in with your point about how Davis can keep distance. The strong kicking game is something he should really try to employ from afar against someone who is fundamentally a phonebooth fighter, and if possible he should try to get Teixeira to chase and overcommit, and then take him down. This is definitely easier said than done.

X-Factors?

Phil: I guess the main one is how well these two men responded to their last two losses. Both were comprehensive beatings, and Davis and Teixeira looked just plain discouraged at the close.

David: I'll be honest. I like both fighters, and yet this matchup projects to be pretty ugly, if not slow. I'd rather be doing a toe to toe review of Eddie Bravo's smash hit single topping the billboards, Smoke Serpent. That's kind of harsh, so scratch that. A toe to toe review of the new Avengers trailer? I'm glad a superhero movie can boast that one of their villains is voiced by Steff McKee.

Phil: My memory of Pretty in Pink is sketchy but I remember it as one of the Hughes flicks where the supposed "main characters" came off as incredibly unlikable. So go James Spader! I'm honestly boggled at the baseline of quality the Marvel Universe films have maintained. I'm not sure if the trailer showed us a whole lot other than putting armor in your armor so you can bust hulks while you hulkbust, but I'm mostly willing to concede that whatever they put out is at the very least going to be watchable.

Getting back on-topic, I do think this fight will be watchable, but like you, I like both guys, and I worry that the loser takes a bad, bad hit, both in confidence and in standings.

Prognostication:

Phil: In past fights, Davis has struggled with people with two specific attributes: power and wrestling. Teixeira has the same combination of heavy hands and powerful defensive grappling which has not just troubled Davis in the past, but has absolutely blown him out of the water. He might feasibly be able to play matador to Teixeira's bull, but it seems very likely that Teixeira will just walk through his striking game, stop the takedowns, and put heavy leather on him for three long rounds. Glover Teixeira by unanimous decision.

David: You said it man. Glover Teixeira by Decision.