After making championship weight as a back-up fighter for last month’s UFC 259 pay-per-view, Glover Teixeira has been granted a second opportunity to become light-heavyweight champion: seven years after his unsuccessful challenge against Jon Jones in April 2014. It’ll also be Jan Blachowicz’s second title defence, having ended Israel Adesanya’s unbeaten streak on March 6.
Blachowicz’s next title defence confirmed: Glover Teixeira
Following five straight wins in 22 months, Teixeira has a golden opportunity to take a leaf out of Jan’s book by becoming an even older UFC champion – but must topple him first later this year.
Blachowicz’s last loss was via TKO (punches) two years ago and ironically it was also against Teixeira’s most recent opponent – Thiago Santos.
Since then, plenty has happened: Santos fought for gold five months later at UFC 239 and made Jones look human despite sustaining multiple serious injuries during the fight.
Losing that championship matchup via split decision, Marreta seemed a few steps slow against Aleksandar Rakic (#2) last month and underwhelmed en route to a decision defeat.
Jones vacated the title, moved up to heavyweight and still hasn’t got a fight scheduled – though new champion Francis Ngannou lies in wait, as pay negotiations appear the stumbling block.
Adesanya tried but failed to become the UFC’s fifth-ever double champion, as Blachowicz reinforced his Polish Power mantra in a intriguing encounter failing to live up to fan expectations.
Depth and activity at light-heavyweight
In terms of talent depth, the light-heavyweight division has looked increasingly thin for a while now especially with Jones – the division’s greatest of all-time – departing for bigger challenges.
There are some intriguing prospects too, like Jiri Prochazka (#5) and Jimmy Crute (#12), who both have big matchups scheduled over the coming weeks against Dominick Reyes (#3, fight at UFC on ESPN 3 – May 1 ) and Anthony Smith (#6, fight at UFC 261 – April 24) respectively.
But even still, Blachowicz’s tenure as champion is a double-edged sword: providing inspiration for those more experienced fighters like Teixeira that it can be done with a good run, while also putting that big target on his back as someone who has vulnerabilities which need exploiting.
Teixeira was ruthless en route to a fifth-round TKO win over the aforementioned Smith last May, while embracing some dangerous moments against Santos six months later to earn this shot.
On what to expect from the ageless title contender, The Athletic’s senior MMA writer Shaheen Al-Shatti praised him for his ability to withstand damage and come back firing, among other things:
“Teixeira’s road to an unexpected second title shot at age 41 has been driven by a string of improbable come-from-behind victories.
The hard-hitting Brazilian is able to sustain a remarkable amount of punishment and has a sneakily good grappling acumen, which he uses to tire foes out and drown them in the deep waters of later rounds.
He still carries grenades in his hands as well, so will be a formidable test for Blachowicz’s first title defence against a true light-heavyweight.”
Blachowicz will, for the first time in a long while, be regarded as the favourite to prevail – even with Teixeira continuing to improve with age. Can he make his long-awaited dream a reality?
Picture source: Getty Images