Glover Teixeira fights Anthony Johnson in the co-main event of UFC 202: McGregor vs. Diaz II on August 20th, 2016, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Single sentence summary:
Phil: Two violent LHWs meet after carving out mini-renaissances which consist of equal parts good fighting and crappy divisional depth.
David: 60 Percent of Light Heavyweight’s humanity battle to decide its undetermined future.
Record: Glover Teixeira 25-4 Anthony Johnson 21-5
Odds: Glover Teixeira +177 Anthony Johnson -192
History lesson / introduction to the fighters
Phil: Anthony Johnson has been on a tear since getting choked out by Daniel Cormier. When he gave his bizarre speech about how anyone can achieve your dreams if you only believe in yourself shortly after visibly giving up… it’d be reasonable to assume that he might not be long for the MMA world.
But no. He went out there and smashed two decent fighters in Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader. Manuwa was a little outclassed, and Bader shit the bed to an extent which was frankly impressive, even by his own extremely high bed-shitting standards. Rumble’s performances were clean and brutal nonetheless. We have been duly reminded: Anthony Johnson is a scary man.
David: No history lesson needed. When you’re on the feet against Johnson, he has the ability to put you into places H.P. Lovecraft doesn’t have the imagination to write about. At the same time, his career is basically a trope of martial arts films: a dangerous man haunted by his inescapable past.
Phil: Glover also didn’t look like he was doing too hot. It was less the understandable Jones loss, and more his dreadful showing against Phil Davis which resembled the classic "getting to the champ, losing, then falling to pieces" career path. Like Rumble, though, he’s gotten back on track. Like Rumble, his strength of competition has been decent but not stellar, with an extremely checked-out Rashad being the best name on the ledger... but it’s light heavyweight. This is as good as it gets.
David: When did light heavyweight become an unhealthy wet turd of divisional hierarchy? Was it exactly when Jon Jones starting going Scarface on us? I think that answer is too easy. Something more sinister is going on. The division has turned into a creepy arrangement of twigs harboring an ancient evil in light heavyweight’s fight forest.
What are the stakes?
Phil: Title shot? Jon Jones is going to have to pull some magic out of his hat if he’s going to avoid a significant suspension for his OoC failure. Both Jones and (more tellingly) Dana have been sounding very optimistic, so it’s looking like he’s going to get a few months rather than the two years we were all fearing, but realistically he’s not going to be back in time to get next against Cormier.
David: I’ve been very out of loop. Dana sounding optimistic about a fighter’s legal troubles can only mean one thing: the law isn’t a fan of the UFC and tried to sabotage Zuffa’s plans, and if Dana needs Jones for one fight for the title, then everything’s good because at least Jones will go back to being suspended.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Two broad-stance, stand and bang pressure fighters who prioritize forward movement and punishing the opponent for trying to return. As such, his fight is unlikely to spend significant time at a distance.
Of the two, Johnson likes to be a little further away. Glover wants to punch straight into the clinch, but Johnson likes to hang out right in the pocket, brush strikes aside and then smash in the one-two, the overhand or the uppercut. If opponents try to circle out, he has a hard leg kick and the quick and fluid left high kick which he’s carried with him since his days as a welterweight. His defensive wrestling is excellent, as is his top game.
Rumble’s problems are primarily mental. Once he connects, he lacks the ability to turn his power back "down" and gets obsessed with landing the single shot. I also reckon he has a tier-based mentality, where he assigns people into hierarchies like so:
- Fighters who are better than him
- Fighters who are not better than him
- People who don’t fight
If someone can convince him that they belong in the first category, he concedes pretty fast.
David: Oh snap! Phil with the shots fired analysis. I dig it. Johnson is such a unique striker because there’s absolutely zero disproportion between his agility and power. There’s a weightlessness to the way he chambers strikes that makes him hard to predict just by virtue of mechanics. It’s like his body never learned to sacrifice power for speed, and vice versa. None of this would mean much except in the currency of racial stereotypes ("athletic and explosive") if he didn’t have a grocery list of weapons at his dietary command. His kicks are, IMO, his best pair of weapons. He’s able to switch hit in a way very few fighters can replicate: able to strike high or low with either feet, and from either stance in some situations. If he never bothered to box, he’d still be an elite fighter. As is, his mentality keeps him from being a champion, but everything else keeps him relevant.
Phil: Coming in, Glover is a no-frills pressure boxer. He’ll lead with his right hand to bait a return punch, then counter the counter with a left hook. This is the soul of his approach, and he doesn’t vary it much aside from occasionally throwing both the right and the left to the body. Once he gets inside, Glover is relentless by bulling head-down to chain singles and doubles. He needs to be wary of Johnson’s uppercut here, a punch which might also get play if Teixeira shells on the defensive, as he is wont to. Once Glover is successful with a takedown, he gets to work with brutal ground and pound and a high-percentage choke submission game, with the arm triangle being a favourite.
Teixeira is not quick, but he is boiled-owl tough, something which is virtually a necessity when fighting Johnson, and he’s only really been beaten by superior clinch fighters and wrestlers. Discounting things like youth, athleticism, and speed, I actually think he might be Rumble’s toughest match in the division from a purely stylistic standpoint: a more natural and instinctive pressure fighter than Daniel Cormier with more comfort in the ranges which Johnson enjoys. That said, youth, athleticism and speed are definitely factors.
David: As we’ve mentioned time and time again, Glover’s worst crime is that he never cleared up those Visa issues back when Chuck Liddell was still one foot out of the Franklin grave (in terms of pure aesthetics, that KO is still the most brutal KO in MMA: when we talk head to ground physics, and post mortem rapture face I don’t think anything beats it). Back when he was actually relevant. Which makes me feel old. That I can remember being an adult when Liddell was the guy Tito Ortiz was ‘scared to fight’. Anyway, Glover has gone from reverence to relevance. It’s kind of demotion in some ways. But like Mousasi, he’s that fighter that will lose some, and never lose his unique cage credibility.
Glover is at his brutal best when he’s chaining combinations at midrange, or against the fence. There’s an irony to Glover’s talents that this is how he lost in his highest profile fight (Jon Jones: just another testament to Jones’ brilliance), but anyway. Glover is great at meat and potato one two combinations. But his uppercut sings in its capacity for violence. He’s kind of throwback to many a Mexican boxer that liked to transition from street wise technician to street tough brawler. His ground game is what will win him this bout should it happen. He’s absolutely suffocating in top control, but he’s active at passing the guard too. He’s really the best of both worlds on the ground in the way he keeps his opponents defending two things at once: ground and pound, and submissions.
Insight from past fights?
Phil: I still think Rumble likes to swing too much, and he still likes to test where his opponent is with one hand, and then try to vaporize them with the other. He did this to Jimi Manuwa, in exactly the same way that caused him to give up multiple body locks to Daniel Cormier.
David: It’s hard to say. Glover has never been blown out or anything, but if anyone can make it happen, Johnson can. Johnson flat out loses this fight if it hits the ground. I know that’s obvious, but Teixeira is the worst combination of terror and technique for Rumble. Glover’s issue is that he hasn’t really had a chance to clarify his status after the Jones and Bader losses. None of his recent wins have helped prepare him for Rumble’s go for broken bones style.
Phil: We mentioned eye-poke Rumble back before it was a thing, so let’s stick with that, unless you can think of anything else? Glover ain’t no spring chicken, but he hasn’t been slowing down lately.
David: Eye poke Rumble will always be an x-factor. Maybe it’s the only way for people to feel comfortable on the feet, which is to just give him pink eye.
Phil: The thing with picking against Rumble is that there’s always a big chance you’re going to look really incredibly dumb. One of the absolute most likely outcomes in this fight is that he just belts Teixeira before Glover can get rolling, and knocks him dead early. However, if he doesn’t do that, can he keep his head and not get pushed into the fence? I’m not sure that he can. With strong, strong caveats Glover Teixeira by submission, round 3.
David: My issue with Glover is that he’s more predictable on the feet than Johnson is. Thus, while Johnson isn’t necessarily great at exploiting an opponent’s defense, he’s great at getting around it with blunt force trauma. Plus I think fans overestimate Johnson’s flaws, mistaking him for a front runner like Belfort. Johnson has always lost not because his opponents can conquer his calm after the storm, but because Johnson himself doesn’t know how to keep raining uninterrupted. In keeping with this prognostication brought to you by Sir Richard Attenborough, I don’t see how Glover avoids Rumble’s rolling temblor. Anthony Johnson by TKO, round 2.