To say UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones has dominated his division would be a tremendous understatement. Since being crowned champion after a thrashing of Maruicio ‘Shogun' Rua at UFC 128 back in 2011, the man known as ‘Bones' has demolished every single opponent thrown his way. His 13 wins in the division tie Chuck Liddell and Rashad Evans for most in light heavyweight history and his six consecutive times title defenses put him at the very top of the record books for his division.
"As UFC commentator Joe Rogan put it, "[Jones] might be greatest talent we've ever seen in the UFC."
But standing across from him on Saturday is the powerful, Glover Teixeira. A product of The Pit MMA & Fitness, this heavy handed Brazilian will look to put an end to Jones' dominance in the most devastating way possible. Owner of an impressive 20 fight winning streak, which dates all the way back to 2005, Teixeira was long considered one of the best fighters at 205 pounds. But VISA issues kept him from competing in the UFC. But after clearing up his past problems, Teixeira has put the UFC on notice with wins over Kyle Kingsbury, Fabio Maldonado, Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson, James Te Huna and most recently Ryan Bader en route to earning his long awaited title shot.
With 13 of his 22 victories coming by by way of knockout, including 10 in the first round, Teixeira personifies the term ‘one punch knockout power.' With fists the size of lunch boxes, when he touches an opponent, with one of those lunch box size fists of his, they melt. But aside from his brute strength, it's Teixeira's impressive hand speed that has emerged as his greatest weapon. In fact his 6.35 significant strikes per minute is the highest rate in UFC history. His ability to keep up this pace has overwhelmed past opponents as he hits them with incredibly high volume of punches and kicks. This was none more apparent than in Teixeira's TKO victory over Maldonado at UFC153 when he landed 85 significant strikes to his opponent's 10. This +75 strike differential stands as the fourth greatest in light heavyweight history.
But Jones presents a problem no fighter in the light heavyweight division can match. With a 84.5 inch reach, the longest in UFC history, the Jackson MMA product picks apart his opponents with a bevy of unorthodox strikes. Throwing everything from head kicks to spinning back elbows to front kicks to flying knees, it is all but guaranteed Jones' opponents will be cut open within the first couple of rounds. In his last fight against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, which many consider the 2013 Fight of the Year, Jones landing 134 significant strikes, the second most ever landed by a light heavyweight in a single fight and fourth most ever landed by a fighter in a championship fight.
Teixeira is much more of headhunter than Jones. He tends to look for the one punch knockout as opposed to the incredibly well rounded and technical approach from the champion. Teixeira was was also rocked by both Maldonado and Bader. This means if he takes the same approach and leads with his head while swinging wildly, Jones should have no problem picking up his first knockout victory in two years.
Wrestling plays a pivotal role in both of these fighters' success inside the octagon. Teixeira lands 4.62 takedowns per 15 minutes of fighting, the highest rate among active light heavyweights and second highest rate in the division's history. This tremendous rate comes from his opponents watching out for one of those vaunted haymakers from Teixeira as nine of Teixeira's ten landed takedowns have resulted from outside shots. Once the former Brazilian wrestling team member manages to bring the fight to the canvas, fans begin to witness one of the most violent attacks in all of combat sports. During his run under the UFC banner Teixeira has landed 206 significant strikes. But what's even more impressive is that 51.5% of these strikes come when he has his opponents on the ground, the largest proportion of ground strikes in light heavyweight history.
But Jones excels in dictating where the fight ends up if his opponents get too close. He has successfully defended 23 of his opponents' 24 combined take down attempts against him for a defense rate of 95.8%, the highest in the UFC. Jones himself has landed 27 takedowns, the fourth most in light heavyweight history. Jones is simply on another level with his wrestling abilities. Teixeira is no slouch but the ultra-aggressive attack of Jones should cause him problems throughout the fight.
Both men have six submission wins under their belt and neither has even been submitted. Jones came close against Vitor Belfort at UFC 152, but managed to pry his arm free from an incredibly tight first round armbar. He's earned all five submissions with just eight attempts and is one of just two fighters in UFC history to submit two opponents with standing submission techniques. The image of a motionless Lyoto Machida collapsing to the canvas after being choked unconscious by the champion remains one of the most iconic images of Jones' championship reign.
But Teixeira, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, may have one of the most powerful submission games in the entire organization. His arm triangle submission of Kyle Kingsbury in 1:53 remains the fifth fastest submission in light heavyweight history and his massive biceps wrapped around Te Huna's neck at UFC 166 will undoubtedly make Jones hesitant from shooting for a takedown.
This is a toss up as Teixeira clearly has the edge in credentials but Jones' résumé boasts some pretty incredible submission victories over several former UFC champions. It may come down to who makes the first mistake and whoever will most certainly see their night end in disappointment.
Jones truly showed his warrior spirit in his last fight against Gustafsson as he absorbed an incredible amount of damage and still managed to walk away with his belt. His eyes may have been swollen shut but he proved he could take a punch. Gustafsson may not hit as hard as Teixeira but Jones left that fight a better fighter as it was what he still needs to improve if he wants to go down as the greatest fighter in MMA history.
A smart man would put money on a stoppage victory from Jones as his nine UFC finishes are tied with Chuck Liddell's for the most in the division's history. But Teixeira has worked too hard for too long to make it this far in his MMA career, so do not expect him to go quietly as he looks add another another knockout victory of his own.
But in the end, Jones' reach and technical striking will play the biggest factor as picks apart his Brazilian opponent from the outside en route to a decision victory.
Jones via Unanimoius Decision
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
MAIN CARD, Pay-per-view, 10 pm ET
- Phil Davis def. Anthony Johnson
- Luke Rockhold def. Tim Boetsch
- Jim Miller def. Yancy Medeiros
- Max Holloway def. Andre Fili
PRELIMINARY CARD, FOX Sports 1, 8 pm ET
- Joseph Benavidez def. Timothy Elliott
- Takanori Gomi def. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
- Jessamyn Duke def. Bethe Correia
- Joe Ellenberger vs. Vagner Rocha
DIGITAL PRELIMS CARD, UFC Fight Pass, 7 pm ET
- Charlie Brenneman vs. Danny Castillo
- Chris Beal vs. Patrick Williams