It’s amazing what kind of negativity can surround a fighter who is simply “very good” as opposed to being the best fighter in his division. At some point, a fighter’s performances are scrutinized in the context of how well he would have done against the division’s champion. Ask Daniel Cormier, whose performances against Dion Staring and Frank Mir were panned despite Cormier winning easily in both fights. At a point, the performance becomes less about the fighter and more about the prospect of that fighter taking on the best in the world.
Under normal circumstances, a first-round knockout win over Ryan Bader would be something to celebrate. For Glover Teixeira, it was cause for some fans to dismiss him as a credible threat to Jon Jones. Teixeira’s crime in that fight was only out-striking Bader by a 14-11 margin and having his back put against the fence while Bader landed a few clean punches. Bader is not a fighter easy to thoroughly dominate, but that’s the kind of performance Teixeira would have needed if he wanted people to believe he is the man who will beat Jon Jones.
As I have watched Teixeira fight in the UFC, two things have become clear. One is that Teixeira is an elite light-heavyweight, one of the very best fighters in the division. The other is that Teixeira, like every other light-heavyweight in the UFC, doesn’t stand much of a chance of defeating Jones.
I’ve become a broken record on this, but the thing UFC champions have in common is effective defense, particularly effective striking defense. Every UFC champion absorbs fewer than two significant strikes per minute, including women’s champion Ronda Rousey. Anthony Pettis, the newest UFC champion, has absorbed just 1.45 significant strikes per minute. As dangerous as Teixeira is, the one statistical category he falls short in is striking defense. In 34 minutes and 15 seconds of fight time in the UFC, Teixeira has been hit by 96 significant strikes, or 2.82 per minute.
That is a much higher rate of strikes absorbed than any current UFC champion has. It’s also worth noting that much of Teixeira’s UFC fight time has taken place against opponents who clearly didn’t belong in the cage with him. Against the tougher Quinton Jackson, James Te Huna, and Bader, Teixeira has been hit by 72 significant strikes in 20:33, or 3.50 per minute.
That’s not going to fly against an opponent like Jones, who is excellent at landing strikes without being hit himself. In that respect, Teixeira’s challenge is the same as it is for any fighter who faces Jones – he needs to somehow get inside of Jones’s reach to land strikes without being hit back himself. It’s conceivable to see somebody like Anderson Silva or Lyoto Machida doing it – but not Teixeira, whose striking defense and head movement pales in comparison to those fighters.
A big part of Teixeira’s offense in the UFC has been his takedowns and grappling. Teixeira has landed ten takedowns in his 34 UFC minutes, which means he lands takedowns more frequently than even Rashad Evans or Chael Sonnen. However, just as Sonnen’s wrestling was stifled by Jones, it’s very difficult to see Teixeira breaking through and putting Jones on his back. Despite facing a series of top contenders as the UFC champion, Jones still has never been taken down in an MMA fight.
For Teixeira, all that’s left is the prospect of finishing Jones by knockout. In other words, Teixeira has a “puncher’s chance.” I like Teixeira’s “puncher’s chance” better than most fighters, but it’s clear that if his next challenge is a battle with Jones for the light-heavyweight championship, Jones should be a prohibitive favorite as he always is.