Can Glover Teixeira Upset Jan Blachowicz?
Part of the long term investment that comes from being a fan of combat sports - and specifically in this case, mixed martial arts - is brought to us through the long and drawn out road that these fighters have to walk in order to make good on whatever potential we might hold for them.
If you catch an unbeaten prospect scoring a viral KO early in his career - chances are that you’ll have to wait for years before seeing whether they can actually reach the pinnacle of the sport and ultimately prove themselves to be great.
And that time we spend with them - and the huge gaps between each bout - that is the thing that builds the stakes time and time again builds our relationship with these athletes as they make what is, in essence, a very laboured ascent.
And though seeing a prospect who looks all-but-certain to be a world champion succeed is amazing in its own way, on Saturday night, UFC 267’s main-event will play host to a pair of fighters who managed to completely subvert our expectations time and time again to eventually stand on a level that is above all others within their division.
Glover Teixeira was once a highly-touted, but unproven, prospect in his own right - a fighter who entered the UFC with a stellar 17 and 2 record - before delivering on all of his promise to earn himself a title shot with five straight victories - four of them coming by way of stoppage.
But, of course, after coming up short against Jon Jones in 2014, Teixeira was sent to the back of the queue, enjoying a mixed bag of results over the next four years as he edged ever closer to his 40th birthday.
And as fans of the sport, we kind of know how these things generally play out - where 99% of the time, a fighter will rise to challenge for the belt, suffer a defeat, before meandering around with middling success before eventually ageing and fading into obscurity.
But I think if one thing has been made crystal clear to us in the last two years, it’s that Glover Teixeira is well and truly a member of that 1% who somehow manages to upset the odds.
And now, with him knocking on the door of his 42nd birthday, Teixiera has managed to compile an identical record in this most recent run at the title - going 5 and 0 with four finishes to establish himself for a second time as the rightful challenger to the light-heavyweight throne.
Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen that is odd, that is very, very odd indeed.
Not just because of his age and the manner in which he has been able to adapt his game in recent times, but because he’s coming into this matchup with the reigning champion with every chance to pull it off - where those in the know are pegging him as a very interesting challenge for the man with the belt around his waist.
As much as I think Jan Blachowicz is one of the most underrated fighters of his era, it goes without saying that the same is true for Teixeira.
The man is as dangerous a light-heavyweight as we’ve seen in some time - the holder of the record for both the most submissions and the most finishes in 205lb history.
He’s beaten guys like Anthony Smith, Ryan Bader, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Jared Cannonier, and Thiago Santos - and over the years, has displayed a level of well-roundedness that kind of puts his late-career surge into perspective.
He’s got power in both hands, an excellent wrestling game, and submissions from a range of positions.
If he does get tagged, he’s got a proven record of fighting through adversity - and though I’d argue that Jan Blachowicz is as tough a matchup as he has faced in years - if we’re looking purely at routes to victory here, Glover ticks a surprising amount of boxes.
And I think this matchup is being overlooked by some because of just how familiar we are with these two guys.
Even now I think people sleep on Blachowicz as a truly excellent technical specimen and in a matchup against this perennial contender - I have gotten the sense that people are dismissing this bout’s status as a truly significant one within the context of the division’s history.
But from where I’m standing, these are two fighters who have truly fought to be where they are today - to a greater extent than most.
And though again, we all love watching a young prospect rise through the ranks, answering the various questions that are asked of them - giving us more and more of a glimpse into the unknowns that surround them.
But I think there’s something equally thrilling about a story like Glover Teixeira’s and how he has managed to carve out this type of success - a run of form that will lead him to a fighter like Jan - someone who has also been written off to some extent.
When you look at the 205lb division right now, these are the two best and most deserving guys at this point in time - and I think part of this matchup’s charm comes from the fact that there aren’t many unknowns left with either guy.
We know what both Blachowicz and Teixeira will bring to the cage on Saturday night - and from an outsider’s perspective, I actually enjoy the fact that neither man is being written off here - a position they have both found themselves in too frequently in recent years.
This is the Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira show and I think that the winner here will be able to take away a lot of credit from their victory - no matter which way it goes.
Blachowicz because of the stability this victory would give him as champion of the light-heavyweights - and Teixeira because of how unlikely a story this would have been if you had predicted it three years ago.
This is a high-level matchup folks, these guys are very polished fighters - something they’ve both proven in recent times by their ability to swat away the various contenders who would have been seen as new blood within the division.
Again, they repeatedly found themselves on the opposing side of the narrative that would make more sense within our understanding of how this sport SHOULD work - but the fact that they are both here, both fighting for the top prize in the division - I’m just trying to make sure that I appreciate the significance of that before this matchup is in the history books.