While Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz dominate the headlines leading up to UFC 202 on Saturday, Aug. 20, there are surprisingly other fights on the card. The co-main event features a probable no. 1 contender bout between Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira. The winner will likely receive the next shot at UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, so this bout represents a shot at redemption for both Johnson and Teixeira after they each failed in their initial quests for gold. Who will come out on top?
Strengths: If Johnson isn’t the most powerful puncher in mixed martial arts, he’s definitely in the top three. The power in his strikes is almost unparalleled. Since returning to the UFC in 2014, only one of his victories did not end in a knockout. Even before his triumphant return, Johnson racked up 11 knockout victories, including when he struggled with his weight during his first UFC run. Simply put, Johnson hits like a ton of bricks. While he only lands roughly three strikes per minute, he makes those three strikes count and usually lands a knockout blow for his efforts. If you choose to stand and throw with “Rumble,” you do so at your own peril.
Weaknesses: While Johnson is proficient on his feet, he is extremely vulnerable on the ground. Don’t let his win against Ryan Bader fool you; while he stuffed a takedown from Bader and pounded his way to victory, it was rather obvious that trying to take Johnson to the ground would be Bader’s game plan. Johnson was badly exposed in his loss to Cormier last year, when Cormier submitted him rather easily in the second round. Johnson defends about 79 percent of takedown attempts per fight, but if you do get him on the ground, then your chances of winning can still improve.
Strengths: Johnson might be the most powerful puncher in the UFC, but Teixeira isn’t far behind. He’s won his last two fights by knockout and 15 of his 25 total victories have come via knockout or TKO. Prior to his UFC debut in 2012, tales of Teixeira’s knockouts in Brazil traveled far and wide. But in addition to his knockout power, Teixeira is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He has displayed his submission prowess before as well, most notably when he choked out James Te Huna and Ovince St. Preux. Teixeira appears comfortable in all aspects of MMA, and should be just as comfortable standing with Johnson as he would be on the mat.
Weaknesses: Teixeira only has four losses in his career, so finding any specific weaknesses is difficult. He did lose back-to-back fights to Jon Jones and Phil Davis, so it’s possible Teixeira struggles against elite competition. But before those losses, his last defeat came all the way back in 2005. Can Teixiera exchange strikes with someone who can match him in that area like Johnson can? Will Johnson’s power be too much for Teixeira?
If the UFC 202 weigh-ins were any indication, the crowd will be raucous all night long. While they’re probably excited most for McGregor/Diaz 2, this fight between Johnson and Teixeira is not one to sleep on. Both guys are devastating strikers capable of landing the big knockout blow. If both Johnson’s and Teixeira’s punching power cancel each other out, then I look to the ground game and give the advantage to Teixeira, who’s also a very smart fighter. I like Teixeira to get Johnson to the mat and lock in a submission and a shot at the title.
Winner: Teixeira by submission
Photo Credit: UFC.com