Mixed Martial Arts: Rashad Evans
NEW YORK -- The decision to lift heavyweight Matt Mitrione’s suspension in less than three weeks has raised many eyebrows, so promotion president Dana White didn’t hesitate to answer questions Thursday about the matter during UFC 159 media day at Madison Square Garden.
“They [fighters] can be suspended for as long as we want them to be,” White said. “He was suspended for three weeks, but what does that really mean?
“In other sports a suspension means you lose games. He’s not fighting right now anyway. We didn’t suspend him for three fights, two fights. He was fined and put on suspension.
“Suspension meant we were going to look into this thing; we were going to talk to him.”
White then made it clear he agrees with Mitrione that transgender female mixed martial artist Fallon Fox should not be allowed to fight women. White doesn’t, however, embrace the harsh wording Mitrione used to make his point.
And White won’t force Mitrione to apologize.
“You can’t make somebody apologize,” White said. “If I have to make him do it, it’s not real. He’s not really apologizing.
“If that’s his opinion on the situation: He doesn’t like that somebody who used to be a man and became a woman can fight other women. I don’t disagree with him on that. I don’t disagree."
Jones comfortable being himself these days
The past year has been quite memorable for light heavyweight champion Jon Jones: He was labeled "fake" by former friend and sparring partner Rashad Evans before their title bout, had his faith in Christ questioned and got a DWI conviction.
Jones revisited those experiences and concluded that trying to be what others expect of him is a losing battle. So Jones has decided to just be himself.
“I was pretending a lot to be the perfect person, to be super articulate when I’m talking,” Jones said. “I tried to be clean-cut and clean-shaven, be the perfect guy to be sponsored by Nike. And be the perfect, perfect poster boy for UFC.
“Now that I’ve had that whole situation happen to me I’m totally free. I can say what I want; I can be who I want. I’m still trying to be a good person and a good role model. But I’m doing it a little more authentically now.
“And it feels good. It feels good to just be me.”
Bisping learns with age, mistakesMichael Bisping has a bad habit of coming up short in title eliminators. But it's Bisping's most recent setback, when a title shot was not on the line, that forced him to take a serious look at his approach to being a professional fighter.
Bisping still has images of fighting for the middleweight title and knows that he can no longer allow his weight to become an issue.
“You have to learn from your mistakes,” Bisping said. “You have to be honest with yourself. And there were things I was doing wrong between fights. I was putting on too much weight.
“I’m 34 now, the weight is harder to lose. I’m a professional sportsman, I got away with it in the past, but you’ve got to treat your body with the respect it deserves, especially in this sport.”
Nelson poised for a crack at the title?Roy Nelson is a top-10 ranked heavyweight, but his name doesn’t come up in title conversations. He believes the timing is right to change that with a win Saturday night over Cheick Kongo.
“It really comes down to the fans,” Nelson said. “And it’s about the timing. After UFC 160, which is only a month [following UFC 159], I could definitely get a title shot.
“They’re talking about Hunt fighting for a title after he knocked out Struve, and I knocked out Struve a little bit easier.”
Once in a while it is necessary to set the record straight.
That moment has arrived as it relates to a comment made by former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans about his upcoming bout against Dan Henderson. The two are scheduled to meet June 15 at UFC 161 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“Despite dropping his past two outings -- he looked sluggish en route to a unanimous-decision setback Feb. 2 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 -- Evans is expecting a victory against Henderson.
In the fight business, you're only as good as your next fight. If you lose two or three then you're done.” -- Rashad Evans
But in the past few days, some MMA blogs have questioned the level of Evans’ confidence based on a remark he made to ESPN.com nearly two weeks ago.
“This is the type of fight that keeps you up at night, because you want to do well,” Evans said, referring to his bout against Henderson. “My back is against the wall. And that is when I perform at my best.
“In the fight business, you’re only as good as your next fight. If you lose two or three then you’re done.
“My manager Bill Robinson always says, ‘You’re either one fight away from getting a title shot and becoming champion or you’re two losses away from being cut from UFC.’ ”
Robinson makes a good point and Evans understands the business aspect of mixed martial arts. But Evans is a high-level professional athlete who expects to defeat every man he competes against in the cage.
When he talks about losing two or three fights "then you’re done," Evans is referring to being a serious title contender.
Evans still believes he can compete for and win the UFC light heavyweight title. But he is very aware that with two losses in a row heading into this next fight, another defeat will significantly hinder his chances of fighting for the belt again.
As for fearing that a loss to Henderson will result in being released by UFC: Evans laughed at the suggestion when contacted by ESPN.com on Wednesday.
“No. Not at all,” Evans responded. “That some media would come to that conclusion is funny to me. I’m going to win [on June 15.]”
Fighting Henderson has never been a concern for Evans. The only issue he’s had to battle the past two years is his recent divorce and not seeing his children as often as he would like.
The emotions of the situation took a toll on Evans. But he is having arguably his best camp in recent memory.
Evans is in a good place training-wise right now -- mentally, emotionally and physically.
That wasn’t the case in his previous three training camps. Evans is eager to step in the cage against Henderson and prove that he remains a force to be reckoned with at 205 pounds.
When Rashad Evans last stepped inside the Octagon to fight -- on Feb. 2 at UFC 156 -- he was a shadow of himself.
There was very little head or foot movement, making him an easy target for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira’s stiff right jab. But the sluggish standup wasn’t the only hint that Evans was present in name only -- he found it difficult to get Lil Nog off his feet.
Evans registered one takedown during the 15-minute battle. Every one of his takedown attempts was telegraphed. A solid wrestler like Evans doesn’t normally broadcast when he’s about to go for a double-leg.
His performance against Nogueira was so poor that some wondered aloud whether Evans’ best days as a fighter were in the past. Based off that outing against Nogueira, the simple response is yes.
But the reality is much more complex. Evans remains as physically explosive as ever. On that level, he can still compete with the best. He’ll be the naturally faster, more athletic fighter in the cage at UFC 161 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on June 15 when he meets hard-hitting Dan Henderson. But will he be mentally and emotionally as strong as his opponent that night?
“I’m happy about this fight [against Henderson],” Evans told ESPN.com. “Having the chance to fight somebody like Dan is a big deal, especially after not having the performance I would have liked [against Nogueira].
“It’s good to get in there with somebody like Dan and answer a lot of critics and to show everybody that I am still one of the best guys in the weight class. I couldn’t find my rhythm against Nogueira; I couldn’t find my timing. It was just one of those things. It was like I was in a mental fog.”
Evans has dropped each of his past two fights. It’s the first time as a professional fighter that he’s experienced a losing skid.
Despite his recent setbacks -- to Nogueira and a highly emotional affair with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 145 in April 2012 -- Evans isn’t one to make excuses. And he is not about to start, despite less-than-impressive showings in his past three outings -- tons of criticism was heaped on him after his win over Phil Davis in January 2012.
Evans was experiencing marriage problems before his fight against Davis. The Chicago resident and father of three spent most of 2011 in Boca Raton, Fla., training with his "Blackzilians" teammates.
It also was the year Evans severed ties with his longtime trainer, Greg Jackson, who instructs Jones. Evans was able to handle the split with Jackson; dealing with a crumbling marriage and seeing less of his children proved much more difficult. It’s a matter he still hasn’t fully come to grips with, and his performance in the cage has suffered. Evans’ divorce was finalized after his loss to Jones.
“Having a failed marriage and not being able to see your kids on a daily basis, that’s what hurts me every single day,” Evans said. “I feel like I failed in my marriage and I failed my kids by not being in their lives on a daily basis.
“It’s because they live in Chicago and in order for me to train I live in South Florida for the most part. I have a place in Chicago, but I’m rarely ever there because I’m always trying to train. It bothers me and I can’t say that it doesn’t.”
Evans has yet to come to grips with not seeing his children regularly. He knows firsthand what it’s like not having a father in the home. Being a former light heavyweight champion and top-level mixed martial artist doesn’t come close to the joy Evans gets from being a good father.
I feel like I failed in my marriage and I failed my kids by not being in their lives on a daily basis.” -- Rashad Evans
Evans enjoyed being a mixed martial artist when his children were around him often. During the past year, that enjoyment has dissipated.
“I must admit I did get to a point where I wasn’t having fun and went through the motions,” Evans said. “And that’s where I am right now.
“When I started fighting I enjoyed everything part of it: I enjoyed training so much, I enjoyed learning. But lately it had gotten to the point where it was something that I had to do, it’d become somewhat monotonous.”
Evans realizes that he won’t be able to compete at the highest level of MMA if he can’t find enjoyment in the sport. He struggles with this each day. But a two-fight skid has helped him conclude that a third loss must be avoided. It has become the source of his motivation as he prepares to face Henderson.
Evans would love to spend more time with his children, but it’s a situation he can’t reverse at this time. What he can control is providing for them financially.
A loss to Henderson, however, could seriously threaten his earning power. That realization might just be enough to shake Evans from his emotional doldrums.
“This is the type of fight that keeps you up at night, because you want to do well,” Evans said. “My back is against the wall. And this is when I perform at my best.
“In the fight business, you’re only as good as your next fight. If you lose two or three then you’re done.
“My manager Bill Robinson always says, ‘You’re either one fight away from getting a title shot and becoming champion or you’re two losses away from being cut from UFC.’”
For the first time, UFC announced Tuesday, it will roll into the Canadian province of Manitoba, bringing all the makings of a quality card. On Wednesday ESPN.com reported that interim UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao will fight tough Eddie Wineland in the main event. With Dan Henderson meeting Rashad Evans and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua rematching a spectacular Pride contest against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Zuffa will have no problem filling the MTS Centre on June 15. Also, Tyron Woodley is slated to fight Jake Shields at welterweight, which should draw some intrigue considering Woodley's impressive UFC debut.
Winnipeg is the fifth Canadian city to welcome the UFC, and it should probably tip its cap to westerly neighbor Vancouver. Or, more precisely, the Vancouver City Council. Last year around this time, UFC president Dana White said the Octagon wouldn't head back to Vancouver until 2014 at the earliest. In addition to the fact that the council let a two-year trial period for MMA expire, the reality of promoting the sport in Vancouver, even though UFC made money for its two events there, was ridiculous because of indemnification and insurance costs. The powers that be didn't want UFC in town, which they made clear.
Fair to say, as UFC's head for Canada Tom Wright did, Vancouver seemed to think UFC supporters might act a lot like Canucks fans.
Well, Winnipeg's gain.
Barao's summer booking against Wineland signals that bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is nowhere near being ready to return to the cage. Cruz's trainer, Eric Del Fierro, confirmed as much. In the champ's place, Barao has been an admirable temp. Wineland's speed and power could present challenges for the defensive-minded Brazilian. It's a solid fight.
Even with a title bout on the card, Henderson-Evans may carry the most intrigue. Both men are coming off less than impressive losses. Evans was convincingly worse, and he has a lot to answer for. Is the man mentally broken after Jon Jones? There are people who know him that think he is. Based on Evans' performance -- lack thereof, really -- against Nogueira, something has to give. Henderson is definitely the wrong guy to be timid against, though the 42-year-old wrestler might finally be old. Henderson wasn't sharp or active against Lyoto Machida, but that could have been a symptom of the Brazilian's quickness and countering ability. Henderson matches up well with Evans and I'd peg him the early favorite.
Building up Rua's second fight with Nogueira should be as easy as cutting highlights of the first contest. It was that good. Shogun was at the top of his game in 2005, a year in which he went 5-0 and defeated Quinton Jackson, Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona. Of that group, only Nogueira managed to go the distance. This was just a war of attrition, an incredible contest.
Expectations will be high.
Injury bug bites Bellator
It’s official: Bellator has caught the injury bug.
Last week it was Daniel Straus’ hand. This week, Douglas Lima’s. Bellator moved Lima’s welterweight tournament final bout against Ben Saunders off a March 21 event in Maine (the card features lightweights Marcin Held and Dave Jansen after that bout was postponed because of injury after originally being slated for this Thursday) and should have it lined up for sometime this summer. Since Ben Askren already has a waiting contender in unbeaten 22-year-old Andrey Koreshkov, the news about Lima isn’t such a big deal.
It just goes to show, however, that Bellator’s good luck streak with injuries and tournaments was bound to hit a rough patch. So it has.
As for Thursday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., Bellator offers semifinal bouts at 185 and 145.
The featherweights are where it’s at.
Marlon Sandro takes on Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (everyone just calls him “Frodo”). And on the other side of the bracket, Alexandre Bezerra fights Mike Richman, which should be the best contest on the card.
Middleweights fighting Thursday don’t do much for me. Veteran Doug Marshall meets 9-0 Russian Sultan Aliev. And Brett Cooper should go to war with Dan Cramer.
Still, compared to Bellator 92’s off-TV undercard, the middleweights are world class. Spike.com streams Bellator prelims, and let’s just say up front this set isn’t worth your time. Most of the fighters are local and not very good. Or, worse yet, long washed up if they were decent to begin with. But if guys such as Cleber Luciano and Shad Smith sell tickets, hey, alright.
Fight you most want to see
SportsNation is asking fans to rank the best fight MMA can make right now .
After a day’s worth of voting, Jon Jones against Anderson Silva is ahead by a wide margin. No surprise, really. Silva versus Georges St-Pierre is second. And Cain Velasquez taking on Jones currently ranks third.
Topping my group was Silva-GSP. I guess I’m just tired of all the talk. It’s been four years since this was first discussed and if GSP beats Nick Diaz on March 16 and if Silva handles Chris Weidman in July, it really needs to happen.
Silva-Jones, second as I ranked 'em, requires no embellishment. It’s a surefire spectacle. But as tremendous as it would be for the fighters, fans and UFC, Jones has work remaining at 205 before he needs to concern himself with Silva.
No. 3 on my list: St-Pierre against Johny Hendricks. I love this at 170. If Hendricks and the UFC champion take care of business in Montreal in less than two weeks, I think fans will be clamoring for this contest. They should, but SportsNation suggests it’s the sixth most appealing fight behind Jones-Daniel Cormier, Benson Henderson-Jose Aldo and the three previously mentioned.
Curious was the lack of interest in Dominick Cruz against Renan Barao at 135. Maybe Cruz has been on the shelf too long? I don’t know. I like that fight a lot. Barao has been top notch, and possesses everything he needs to beat Cruz. Least interesting to me, for a variety of reasons, is GSP and Rory MacDonald.
Zuffa, make ‘em happen.
LAS VEGAS -- Ricardo Lamas was in Las Vegas for UFC 156 Saturday night. He was the first upset. By the time the smoke cleared and everything we presumed to be the case no longer was, he tweeted out a simple statement.
“What am I, a mirage?”
Lamas was on hand presumably to challenge the winner of the featherweight title bout between Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo. But was Lamas really ever there? Aldo earned the decision, yet before Dana White could hit the microphone at the postfight news conference, the UFC president had received a tantalizing text from Anthony Pettis saying he wants to come down to 145 pounds and challenge Aldo next.
Ross Dettman for ESPNIn the matter of a week, Ricardo Lamas went from "in line for a title shot" to "back in line."
Boom. The UFC owes Pettis a title shot. Bells went off in White’s head. We know this because he shared the text with the media. What a sick fight that would be. ... We all thought it. Benson Henderson is busy with Gilbert Melendez; so, Pettis versus Aldo solves conundrums. Pettis and Aldo turns the neat trick of having last week’s UFC on Fox 6 winner, Lamas -- who triumphed over former contender Erik Koch -- vanish before our eyes.
And you know what? This was the most normal thing that happened Saturday night.
All the other scenarios, dangling carrots and conditional promises didn’t go according to plan. In fact, the underdogs and Strikeforce refugees made things downright chaotic.
Let's start with Alistair Overeem. He just got too comfortable in there with Antonio Silva, just too incautious. A couple of times, "The Reem" exposed his chin and dropped his hands altogether. At the end of the second round he gave Silva a smile and a casual nod. He did everything but blow him a kiss. Minutes later he was converted into a Monday morning GIF, getting chopped down early in the third round by Silva’s unmistakable cinderblock hands.
And now matchmaker Joe Silva has to prove that he’s good in a scramble.
Just like the middleweight division a couple of weeks ago, when it was Michael Bisping’s title shot to lose against Vitor Belfort, the scenario was simple: Once Overeem takes care of Silva, he gets to fight Cain Velasquez for the title.
Then, like Bisping, he loses (spectacularly), and the question becomes: Who’s next for Velasquez? "Bigfoot" Silva again? He lost to Velasquez nine months ago while floating in a warm pool of his own blood. That isn’t a rematch that people will be (or should be) pining for. But neither does it make complete sense to roll out Velasquez/Junior dos Santos III. Too soon. Daniel Cormier won’t fight his AKA teammate Velasquez. Fabricio Werdum is tied up with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Josh Barnett isn’t here or there yet.
Who does that leave? Roy Nelson?
Rod Mar for ESPNIt's hard to imagine fight fans are pining to see a rematch between champion Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva.
Then there is the ongoing Anderson Silva sweepstakes, in which Rashad Evans figured he was in the bag. Should he take care of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, he would be considered for a title shot at 185 pounds against Silva. We wondered all week: Can he make the weight to fight Silva? Turns out we should have been wondering if he could make it past Lil Nog.
Nogueira did his Nogueira magic and kept Evans at bay with jabs and straight lefts. He thwarted, he stuck, he toiled. Meanwhile, Evans kept roaring his engine in the garage, yet never came peeling out of it. He was setting up for something that never happened. He was tentative, and he lost. White wondered out loud whether Evans had “lost that hunger.”
So, no Evans-Silva. Which means we’re looking at contender Chris Weidman against Silva by way of attrition. Weidman was the original mirage, but it looks like he’s finally materialized as the guy to next face Anderson Silva.
Then again, it’s hazardous to take too much for granted. Bobby Green choked out Jacob Volkmann. Yves Edwards lost to Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Demian Maia “out-Fitched” Jon Fitch. This is a volatile, ever-changing, rarely predictable game.
And if UFC 156 taught us anything, it was that Lamas wasn’t the only mirage on Saturday night -- turns out everything we expected to be on Sunday was a mirage, too.
LAS VEGAS -- It's never a fighter’s intent to give his opponent extra motivation, unless of course you’re heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem and you just don’t respect the other guy.
Lack of respect is almost certain to serve as extra motivation for any fighter, and Overeem’s opponent Saturday at UFC 156 -- Antonio Silva -- was no exception. But Silva and fellow Brazilian Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who faced former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, didn’t need antagonism from their foes to give them an extra adrenaline pump. The promotion had done that for them.
Before their main-card bouts at Mandalay Bay Events Center, Overeem and Evans were being offered UFC title shots if they managed to win their respective fights. No such promises were made to Silva and Nogueira.
Whether intended or not, they were on the show as fodder for Overeem and Evans. According to the UFC’s master plan, the Brazilians were on hand to take their beatings like men, get paid, go home and wait by the phone to learn of their next fight -- and who knows when that would have been? Silva and Nogueira weren’t the stars at UFC 156; that distinction was reserved for the guys standing across the cage from them.
The nerve of UFC: making title-shot plans without first consulting with "Bigfoot" and Lil Nog.
But Silva and Nogueira are proud men. They are also company guys, so neither made any verbal stink before fight night. Each would have his say inside the Octagon, however, and UFC officials weren’t going to like the messages being delivered.
It took Silva some time to express himself against Overeem. He was behind after two rounds, in a bout that lacked much excitement up until that point. But in the third, Silva made his feelings known. He delivered a vicious overhand right to Overeem’s head, followed by several more hard punches.
The trash-talking, overconfident Overeem slumped to the canvas, virtually unconscious. And while in that feeble position, Silva stood over him, screaming at him to get up.
“Many people did not believe in [me],” Silva said after tossing a monkey wrench into the UFC’s heavyweight title plans. “But I believed in me.
Alistair did not respect me. But I worked hard on my striking for this fight. I showed the world a lot about me. And I specifically showed Overeem how to respect another fighter.” -- Antonio Silva, on defeating a disrespectful Alistair Overeem
“Alistair did not respect me. But I worked hard on my striking for this fight. I showed the world a lot about me. And I specifically showed Overeem how to respect another fighter.”
He also showed -- better yet taught -- UFC officials a thing or two about going public with potential title-fight plans before all the ducks are in a row.
In fairness, Silva’s knockout of Overeem was highly unforeseeable. But a Plan B should have been in place and made known to the public, at least to save face.
Now UFC decision-makers find themselves in the awkward position of scrambling to find a suitable opponent for Cain Velasquez.
Silva’s upset win exposes a topic that has been swept under the rug in recent months -- UFC’s heavyweight division still has a dearth of title-worthy contenders, despite the addition of Strikeforce fighters. That shallow well has UFC scrambling to find a suitable replacement for Overeem.
White hinted at Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier as the most deserving opponent for current champion Velasquez, but he’ll have a difficult time making that fight a reality. Cormier has stated repeatedly that he will not fight his American Kickboxing Academy teammate and close friend.
So determined is Cormier never to step in the cage opposite Velasquez -- and vice versa -- that he’s already begun the process of cutting weight for an eventual showdown with light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones. In other words, good luck UFC getting Velasquez and Cormier on a billboard facing one another.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesRashad Evans, left, couldn't get out of first gear against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
The news wasn’t all bad Saturday night for UFC. While Evans was looking at a possible middleweight showdown with that division’s titleholder, Anderson Silva, top contender Chris Weidman is a solid option.
No timetable can be set for that fight until more is known on the progress of Weidman’s recovery from shoulder surgery. Silva-Evans, however, was gaining traction and would have generated a lot of fan interest.
Giving Evans hope of a 185-pound title shot seemed like a nice gesture initially. But no one took time to consider Nogueira’s feelings. He was the forgotten man at UFC 156. There were no high-profile stories written about him, nor was anyone suggesting that he receive title-shot consideration with an upset of Evans.
Nogueira is a quiet, sensitive man, who used the prefight slight as motivation. And it worked to his benefit as he utilized a stiff right jab, a hard straight left and picture-perfect takedown defense to register a unanimous-decision win.
“[Offering Evans a title shot] motivated me a lot because before he could fight Anderson Silva, he had a big fight against me,” Nogueira said. “I worked a lot on my wrestling skills and my boxing. I know I was very ready for this.”
Silva and Nogueira might have felt a bit slighted by UFC, but each used it to their advantage Saturday night.
Intended or not, making prefight title-shot plans public can work against UFC’s interest. But on second thought, it can also work in the promotion’s favor -- an entertaining heavyweight fight developed due to Silva’s added desire to silence Overeem.
And Nogueira used his extra incentive to become relevant again. He certainly won’t be the forgotten man the next time he’s slated to appear on a UFC card.
ESPN Stats & Information
6: Fight-of-the-night bonuses for Edgar, tying him with Chris Lytle for most in UFC history.
34: Leg kicks thrown by both Aldo and Edgar. Aldo outlanded Edgar 7-4 with leg kicks over the first two rounds, including one that sent the former lightweight champion stumbling. But Aldo changed his approach the remainder of the fight, landing just one leg kick while the challenger landed 21 of 24 in the final 15 minutes of action.
1: Takedowns for Rashad Evans. Previously, “Suga” was 9-0-1 in fights in which he took his opponent down at least once. Nogueira had been taken down 12 times in five UFC appearances, but stopped four takedowns against the former Michigan State wrestler.
4: Former champions Antonio Silva has beaten in his MMA career. “Bigfoot” also has victories over former Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko as well as former UFC champions Andrei Arlovski and Ricco Rodriguez.
36: Significant strike advantage for Alistair Overeem through two rounds. In Round 1, Overeem outlanded Silva 22-3 in significant strikes. Round 2 was no different as Overeem had a 27-4 advantage. But in the third, “Bigfoot” hit Overeem with 14 of 20 significant strikes (70 percent), putting the “Demolition Man” down for good.
11: Overeem’s unbeaten streak coming into the fight with Silva. His previous loss was to Sergei Kharitonov in September 2007 (also by KO/TKO). Seven of Overeem’s 12 career losses have come by way of KO or TKO.
12: Career UFC wins for Demian Maia, the second most in the UFC since 2007 behind middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Maia is now on a three-fight win streak since moving to the welterweight division.
7: Takedowns allowed by Jon Fitch, the most he’s allowed in a three-round fight. Fitch also allowed seven to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 87, but that fight was a five-round title fight.
57: Significant strikes landed by Joseph Benavidez, the most in his WEC/UFC career. The Alpha Male product mixed up his attack, hitting McCall with 33 strikes to the head, and 12 each to the body and legs.
LAS VEGAS -- UFC 156 was turning into a showcase for upsets when featherweight champion Jose Aldo stepped in the Octagon to face former lightweight titleholder Frankie Edgar.
Heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem showed no respect for Antonio Silva and paid a hefty price -- getting knocked out in the third round. The loss ended Overeem’s hopes of facing champion Cain Velasquez.
But Overeem wasn’t the only heavy favorite at Mandalay Bay Events Center pinning a win on a potential big payday. Former light heavyweight titleholder Rashad Evans was promised an offer to face middleweight champion Anderson Silva at 185 pounds if he defeated Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
To his credit, Evans showed Nogueira much respect leading into their three-round, co-main event. But Nogueira outboxed Evans en route to a unanimous decision.
Two big favorites, two big upsets. Then, it was Aldo’s turn. He was favored to retain his title. But with what had taken place in the cage minutes earlier, the arena was primed for one more upset.
But Aldo was having none of it. He refused to be an upset victim. He strolled into the cage beaming with confidence, a huge smile on his face and pep in his step. Aldo also had a tremendous speed advantage, something Edgar could always count on against lightweight foes.
The featherweight champion made Edgar look painfully slow, repeatedly beating him to the punch and kick in the first round. Aldo hit Edgar flush with straight right hands, and a left kick to the ribcage left a bruise on the former 155-pounder’s body.
By the end of the opening round Aldo was so impressed with his work, he bore a confident smile on his face as he returned to his corner. The confidence and swagger remained throughout the second round as Aldo controlled the action.
Heading into the third, a stream of blood was flowing from Edgar’s nose. And anyone who has ever witnessed an Edgar fight knows things don’t begin until the blood flows. Undaunted, Edgar picked up his attack and began landing strikes of his own. He landed punches, kicks and even attempted a few takedowns.
The slight smile on Aldo’s face was no more; Edgar had earned his respect. He’d also earned the respect of a large number of fans, who began chanting "USA! USA! USA!"
Ric Fogel for ESPNJose Aldo, right, wasn't about to let himself fall victim to the injury bug.
And Edgar gave them reason to be optimistic as he marched forward and gave as good as he received throughout the latter stages of the fight. In the final two rounds, Edgar gave Aldo reason for concern. Edgar was the more aggressive fighter and arguably won each of the championship rounds.
After five rounds of action, more blood was flowing from Edgar’s nose and his left eye was nearly swollen shut. He finished strong but wasn’t able to join in on the upset party at UFC 156 -- the judges scored the fight for Aldo 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47. Still, Edgar had stated his case: He is a force at featherweight.
He also gained Aldo’s full respect.
“Frankie is a great fighter,” said Aldo, who improved to 22-1. “He was preparing for my kicks and trying to take me down, so I stopped throwing them.”
Like the champion he is, Edgar did not dispute the decision. The fight was close and could have gone his way -- at least on two of the judges’ cards, but Edgar has been here before.
“It was a close fight,” Edgar said. “I keep finding myself in these positions. He won the fight. Jose is the winner.”
Edgar (14-4-1) will learn from this loss against arguably the most skilled fighter he has ever faced and come back stronger and better.
This was Edgar’s debut at 145 pounds, and, as usual, he was the smaller man in the cage Saturday night. But that’s nothing new. When he fully adjusts to the weight class, expect him to make a serious run at calls capturing that belt.
As for Aldo, the pro-Edgar crowd booed him after the judges’ decision was read. But he proved that it will be very difficult for anyone at 145 to dethrone him.
It might also be very difficult for lightweights to upend him when he eventually calls that division home.
LAS VEGAS -- How big a favorite is Alistair Overeem heading into his heavyweight bout Saturday night against Antonio Silva? UFC president Dana White revealed Thursday that promotion officials have already begun plans for Overeem to face champion Cain Velasquez sometime this year.
Those plans are contingent, of course, on Overeem leaving UFC 156 victorious.
The former Strikeforce heavyweight champion is so confident that he will not upset UFC’s plans that he is already talking about fights with Velasquez and former UFC titleholder Junior dos Santos.
“Those are the two fights [Velasquez and dos Santos] I want most,” Overeem recently told ESPN.com. “I have unfinished business with dos Santos.”
What about Silva? Overeem seems to be quite dismissive of him. He’s even expressed confidence in beating Silva standing or on the ground.
During a prefight photo staredown Thursday at Mandalay Bay, Overeem made a threatening gesture toward Silva and delivered a stern warning. “I’m going to destroy you,” Overeem said to Silva, according to White.
Silva was unfazed and told Overeem, "You better start respecting me."
Being the underdog and not receiving respect from his opponent, Silva intends to quash Overeem’s title aspirations. Silva believes the outsiders have it all wrong by making him an underdog in this fight.
If they had looked closer at Overeem’s losses and the skill set of his conquerors, they would realize that Silva has the tools to win this showdown. Silva is a powerful striker with solid jiu-jitsu skills -- a combination that the Brazilian believes is Overeem’s Kryptonite.
“He’s fought a lot of Brazilian guys, a lot of jiu-jitsu guys -- [Antonio] Rogerio [Nogueira], [Ricardo] Arona and [Mauricio] “Shogun” [Rua]. All have good ground games, and he lost to those three guys,” Silva told ESPN.com. “If he thinks he’s better than me on the floor, OK. Let’s go! Put me on the ground, and we will fight on the ground.
“He’s a great striker; he’s a K-1 champion. I respect him a lot. But this is a heavyweight fight. One punch can determine the fight, and I have heavy hands. So I’m not afraid of his striking.”
There is another area that Silva believes will prove to be Overeem’s Achilles’ heel -- cardio. Since June 2008, Overeem has gone beyond the first round once -- and that came against Fabricio Werdum in June 2011.
Overeem won that fight by unanimous decision but struggled with his cardio in the latter rounds, especially the third. Silva expects to be the fresher fighter if Saturday’s bout goes into deep waters.
“I’ve trained to go five rounds,” Silva said. “I’m very well. I feel good. My cardio is better than before. I know he is dangerous in the first 2-3 minutes because he comes in fresh and strong. But if this fight goes into the second and third rounds, it will be best for me.”
Nogueira unnerved by Silva-Evans talk
He’s the forgotten man at UFC 156. With so much talk the past few weeks about former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans possibly moving to 185 and facing middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva, no one seems interested in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
White made it known Thursday that if Evans defeats Nogueira in their co-featured bout Saturday night, he will be offered a middleweight title shot.
The only thing Nogueira can reasonably expect should he beat Evans is another fight inside the Octagon. That’s it.
But Nogueira is OK with that. He doesn’t feel disrespected and understands the situation.
“[Rashad] is a former champion. That’s why he is in position to force a fight with Anderson Silva,” Nogueira told ESPN.com. “I’m not in the same position because I’m not a former champion.
“That’s why the people are talking more about him and not about me. But I’m going to prove myself Saturday night. I’m going to do my job.”
Nogueira, who has not fought since December 2011 when he knocked out former 205-pound champion Tito Ortiz in the first round at UFC 140, has worked on improving his takedown technique. He expects the extra work to come in handy against a highly skilled wrestler like Evans.
• Moving down a weight class doesn’t change much for Frankie Edgar in the size department. As is usually the case, Edgar expects to be the smaller man in the cage Saturday night when he faces featherweight champion Jose Aldo. “I don’t think I’ve ever been the bigger guy in an MMA fight,” Edgar said. “From what I understand, he’s [Aldo] cutting more weight than I am. So he will probably be a little bit bigger than me but not as big as everyone else.”
• Former top Strikeforce welterweight contender Tyron Woodley is ecstatic about entering the Octagon. But Woodley will enter Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday with a sour taste in his mouth. In his final Strikeforce bout, he was knocked out in the fourth round by Nathan Marquardt. Woodley, however, is looking on the bright side. He learned from that loss and vows not to make the same mistakes against Jay Hieron, whom he faces at UFC 156. “When I stuck to the game plan, pressed forward and did what I do best, I had great success,” Woodley told ESPN.com. “But when I backed up and relaxed a little bit, that’s when he got off. So I have to stick to the game plan, stick to my guns and do what I do best, and if I do that against any welterweight, I will be fine.”
• White isn’t a fan of catchweight bouts, but he might be willing to make an exception for women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey and former Strikeforce featherweight titleholder Cristiane Santos, who seems reluctant to cut the extra 10 pounds. “It’s not a title fight,” White said. “If that’s what [Santos] is willing to do go to 140, let Ronda defend her title a few times and see if Ronda wants to go to 140. If I know Ronda, she probably will anyway. Let’s see what happens."
LAS VEGAS -- The UFC is set to introduce a rankings system for the first time in its 20-year history. The inaugural rankings will debut after Saturday's UFC 156 pay-per-view event.
Limited to UFC-promoted fighters only, the rankings will encompass all eight weight divisions as well as pound-for-pound. Approximately 90 media members have been invited to the initial vote, according to UFC president Dana White.
“We thought as the sport continues to grow and reaches out more into the mainstream, mainstream people understand numbers,” White said. “Alabama plays Notre Dame -- No. 1 and No. 2.
“We think it would be a lot easier for casual fans just getting into the UFC to understand the sport a little better.”
White made it clear that while UFC-official rankings will be in place for the first time, they will have a limited effect on future matchmaking.
Many fans and media were critical of the promotion’s decision to elevate Chael Sonnen, a former middleweight with no UFC wins at 205 pounds, to an April title fight against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Similar fights might still be made in the future despite the rankings, White said.
“Here’s the thing, no matter what the rankings are, I’m going to put on the fights fans want to see,” White said. “Just so you know.”
Evans was as surprised as the rest of us at Belfort’s callout of Jones
When Vitor Belfort knocked out Michael Bisping in a middleweight bout earlier this month, it was not particularly shocking he requested a shot at the UFC title.
Which title he set his sights on was the shocking part.
Instead of calling out 185-pound champion Anderson Silva, who is currently without an opponent and was sitting cageside that night, Belfort (22-10) demanded an immediate rematch against 205-pound champ Jones.
Jones defeated Belfort via submission at UFC 152 in September. He is already scheduled to defend his title against Sonnen in April.
The bizarre callout surprised even Belfort’s teammate, Rashad Evans, who will fight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 on Saturday.
“I had no idea [he was going to do that],” Evans told ESPN.com. “That took me by surprise. He was excited and just had a big fight. I guess when you lose you have that feeling that you want to come back stronger and beat the guy who beat you.
“Maybe he was feeling he lost to Jon, but he’s a better fighter and wants to prove he can beat him.”
Belfort came excruciatingly close to pulling off an upset when he caught Jones in an armbar attempt in the first round of their fight. Afterward, the Brazilian said he loosened his grip when Jones called out in pain.
Evans (17-2-1) said that decision might be what’s eating at Belfort, but in his mind Jones deserves credit for escaping the hold.
“I think Vitor did everything he could do in that moment to win the fight,” Evans said. “Credit goes to Jones, who didn’t panic. A lot of people might have tapped there, but he kept his composure.”
White skeptical of UFC return for Quinton Jackson
President White responded on Thursday to recent accusations by Quinton Jackson that the promotion lies about pay-per-view revenue in an attempt to underpay its fighters.
In an interview with MMA Heat, Jackson, who fulfilled his UFC contract in a unanimous decision loss to Glover Teixeira last week, said the promotion gives false PPV numbers to its fighters that are consistently lower than those provided to media.
White responded that any UFC fighter who profits from PPV revenue has the right to audit the promotion’s financial records.
“[Jackson] is going out saying stupid stuff,” White said. “Any fighter who has a PPV deal has audit rights.
“So, if you really thought you had been ripped off on your PPV deal, wouldn’t you be lawyering up right now and checking the books? Yeah, you would.”
White has said he is open to the idea of re-signing Jackson (32-11), but when asked on Thursday whether he was effectively closing the door on his return, White replied, “Yeah.”
“We’re not talking,” White said. “I talked to his manager a few days ago, he kind of told me what they’re looking at. Good luck to him.
“If you’re not happy here, go somewhere else and work. I’ve got no beef with him.”
Aldo’s sights still on lightweight, but coach says no
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo longs to challenge himself at a higher weight class, but longtime trainer Andre Pederneiras continues to stifle the idea.
Aldo (21-1) looks to record perhaps the most impressive win of his career Saturday when he defends his belt for a fourth time against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
It would stand to reason should he defeat Edgar (15-3-1), it would eliminate any reservations his coach might have of him competing at lightweight. Edgar, after all, held that belt from 2010 to 2012.
Sadly for the Brazilian, though, Aldo says that’s not the case.
“That’s my wish, but I don’t think he’ll let me go up even if I beat Frankie Edgar,” Aldo told ESPN.com.
Still? Well, how come?
“I ask that same question, ‘Why not?’ all the time,” Aldo said. “But if he believes I should stay in this weight class, I will stay. He’s my mentor, and whatever he decides is fine to me.”
Evans, who fights Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a 205-pound bout at UFC 157, became an instant candidate to fight Silva over the weekend when Vitor Belfort knocked out Michael Bisping at a UFC on FX card in Brazil.
A former champion in the light heavyweight division, Evans (17-2-1) talked about a move to middleweight in 2012 but ultimately decided against it. His manager, Glenn Robinson, downplayed rumors of a move, saying he’d only do so to fight Silva.
That apparently hasn’t changed, as Evans said he wouldn’t force himself to drop another 20 pounds if it meant he’d be in the same position he’s currently in at 205.
“I guess if it was a title shot or against a really good, top contender where it would be something people would want to see, I would think about it,” Evans told ESPN.com.
“I’m already at the top of my division. For me to go down to 185, I’ve got to start over and prove myself. I’m good at 205, who’s to say I’d be the same fighter at 185?”
There’s been much speculation as to how difficult or easy a weight cut would be for Evans. Many fans point to his height of 5-foot-11 (well below average for a light heavyweight) and wonder: How hard could it be?
Evans, for one, believes it will be incredibly hard. The 33-year-old, who has competed at heavyweight, says it’s become harder to keep his weight down. His weight between fights has no trouble reaching over 230 pounds.
“It would be a lifestyle change,” Evans said. “I don’t look it because I’m short, but naturally my body goes to like 235 when I’m not consistently training. I would really have to change everything about my diet on a daily basis.
“It’s a big question mark for me. Once I moved past 30, my body started changing. It used to be real easy making 205, but now I’ve really got to focus and pay attention to what I put into my body.”
An immediate title shot for Evans in a weight class he’s never fought would likely not draw the same ire from fans that an April fight between Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones has.
Reason being that while it was widely perceived Sonnen talked his way into that opportunity, Evans is viewed as an elite light heavyweight who just happened to be unfortunate enough to run into the “Jon Jones era.”
Evans, for one, believes he could be the first man in the Octagon to hand Silva a loss, but it doesn’t sound as though he’s willing to put the strain on his body of making 185 unless he knows that’s on the table.
“He’s one of my favorite fighters to watch,” Evans said. “When my career is all said and done, I want to be able to say I competed against some of the best guys in history.
“To be able to say I went against the best guy and beat the best guy? I believe I can beat Anderson Silva. The skills I have are something he’d have a hard time dealing with.”
In his eyes, he would be the most deserving title contender the UFC has ever had.
"One million percent," Bisping told ESPN.com. "I've been here for seven years fighting the best consistently, and I've never had a title shot. Yeah, I'd say I'm by far the most deserving and I'm the most complete fighter Anderson has ever fought."
Agree or disagree, you can at least see his point.
Saturday will mark Bisping's 18th appearance in the Octagon, where he has compiled a lifetime 13-4 record. Only two men, Chris Lytle and Chris Leben, have ever fought more and never received a title shot.
During that time, Silva has fought some (to put it nicely) questionable competition according to Bisping. "Here's a good one: Patrick Cote," Bisping said. The mere mention of the name Thales Leites evokes expletives.
As Bisping looks to finally cash in on his title shot opportunity, he took a walk down Memory Lane with ESPN.com to remember the ride here in his own words:
April 21, 2007. UFC 70: Second-round TKO over Elvis Sinosic
It was the first time I fought in Manchester and that was a dream come true. Elvis is a nice guy but I put a beating on him. In the first round, I went out and ground and pounded him pretty hard and at the end of the round, I got up and was in my corner and he didn't even get off the floor. His corner was attending to him as he was lying on the floor where I'd left him and I was thinking, "Really? This fight looks like it should be over." Anyway, the referee started the fight again and he actually caught me with a knee and got me in a Kimura that nearly snapped my arm. I gutted it out, reversed the position and finished him in the second round.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesMichael Bisping survived an early right hand from Yoshihiro Akiyama to win by decision at UFC 120.
That was my first main event for the UFC. There was this huge billboard in Times Square in New York. It was weird, walking through Times Square and seeing that, being this guy from a small town in England. That was mind-blowing for me. The fight was very close. I thought I won but it was a coin toss -- it was really that close. After that fight I went to 185 and the reason I did was because the day of the weigh-ins, when everyone was cutting weight and Rashad was in a sauna probably cutting 10-to-15 pounds, I was in a Chinese restaurant eating noodles and drinking 7-Up. I knew I was perhaps a bit undersized for the light heavyweight division at that point and wasn't making the sacrifices I needed to be at the top.
April 19, 2008. UFC 83: First-round TKO over Charles McCarthy
I went from not cutting weight to cutting too much. I got far too skinny. I actually dieted all the way down to 185 pounds. I saw Eddie Bravo in the elevator the morning of the weigh-in. I had gone down to check my weight. It was about 7 a.m. and he asked, "How's the weight?" I said, "Oh, I'm right on it. I'm 186." I hadn't done anything to cut and he said, "My God, you could cut to welterweight." And I thought he was right. That fight, Charles McCarthy talked a good game and actually said he was going to break my arm because he was a submission expert. As it happened, I got him in a Thai clinch and kneed him 25 times consecutively and broke his arm. So, that was rather ironic.
July 11, 2009. UFC 100: Second-round KO loss to Dan Henderson
I knew that fight was coming for about nine months and I over-trained. I went into that fight massively over-trained, malnourished. When I look back on that now, I was so skinny I can't believe it. Up until that fight, I honestly thought I could go in there with anyone and never get knocked out because I had never really got hit in my career. I learned I was wrong the hard way. My boxing coach was screaming at me, "You're [circling] the wrong way!" People like to talk s--- and say, "Oh yeah Bisping, you went the wrong way," but Dan was actually doing a very good job of cutting the ring off so I couldn't go that way. So all these fairies on the Internet, if they knew what they were talking about they'd shut up for a second because Dan was cutting the ring off. He hit me on the jaw and knocked me out. It was a well-thrown punch and I give credit to him.
Feb. 20, 2010. UFC 110: Unanimous-decision loss to Wanderlei Silva
I think Wanderlei jumped on the bandwagon because I'd never met him and he was still going on and on about, "No one likes Michael Bisping." He was driving me crazy, to be honest. At the press conference he sounded like a moron. He was saying, "Yeah, I don't like him. I don't like him." And one of the press said, "Well, why don't you like him?" He didn't even have an answer. We hadn't even spoke and I was trying to be respectful because, you know, Wanderlei is a legend, but then he went down that road so I started to go fire with fire and talked back. I clearly dominated that fight. I hit him with a great right hand in the second round. It wobbled him. His eyes were dancing but whenever I hit him, the crowd wouldn't do anything. He'd throw a punch and miss me, and the crowd would go into fits. I think that swayed the judges. In my mind, that was a clear robbery.
Oct. 16, 2010. UFC 120: Unanimous-decision win over Yoshihiro Akiyama
It was just a great fight. What did he do Oh, he said I kicked him in the balls in the round. He took a little nap. He took about 10 minutes lying on the floor. I thought he was going to go to sleep. I thought his corner might bring him a little pillow. He was on the verge of being stopped but he took a nap in Round 3 and recovered. In the first round, the first 10 seconds, he went boom and hit me with a real good right hand. It definitely wobbled me and I thought, "Oh, you bastard." I couldn't believe it. I gathered my senses and got myself on cruise control from there.
Al Powers for ESPN.comMichael Bisping, right, overcame a chest infection in 2011 to stop Jason Miller in the third round.
Jorge Rivera. I used to fight on a show called Cage Rage in London and Rivera fought there a couple times. We chatted a little and I don't know, I had respect for Jorge. Nothing against him. Then he was supposed to fight in Germany and his opponent pulled out so they told Jorge he was fighting me. I hadn't even heard it myself and he does this video in Germany saying, "Yeah, I want to hurt Bisping bad." I hadn't spoken to the guy in years, so that pissed me off. Then he and his team make absolute fools of themselves making those YouTube videos, talking about myself and making insinuations about my girlfriend. You've got to realize, you can't mock people on the Internet and expect nothing. If you go and make videos of me, if I get my hands on you, you're going to pay for it. He made a mistake, he pissed me right off and I went out there and gave him a good, old-fashioned a--whooping and we never heard from Jorge again.
Dec. 3, 2011. TUF 14 Finale: Third-round TKO over Jason Miller
Jason talked a good game on "The Ultimate Fighter" and several times he put his hands on me and my assistant coaches said, "Mike, you can't let Jason keep poking you like this on camera." What am I going to do? I've got three children at home. I'm a professional fighter. I'm not going to brawl with him. I actually had a real bad chest infection for that fight. I trained my a-- off and my cardio was good, but my lungs were on fire. Believe me. It took about an hour or two in the locker room until the pain went away.
Jan. 28, 2012. UFC on Fox 2: Unanimous-decision loss to Chael Sonnen
Had I won that fight, I would have been fighting for the title. There was no trash talk. Chael was cool. It was all business. The fight went well. First round was close, second round was close, third round was definitely his. Before they announced the decision, Chael said to me, "What do you think?" I said, "Honestly, I think I got the first two." He said, "I think you're right, buddy." They gave the fight to Chael. What can you say? Then he went and did his "Dancing With The Stars" impersonation and fell over. I certainly would have given Anderson Silva a better fight than what Chael did. Was it a robbery? No. Do I think I won the fight? Yes.
Whatever the reasons, real or imagined, there is a perception brewing that UFC light heavyweights want nothing to do with Glover Teixeira.
The hard-hitting Brazilian is aware of the excitement surrounding his entry into mixed martial arts' biggest promotion. But he isn't caught up in the hoopla.
Teixeira tunes out the hype machine. This is MMA, the most grueling fight game, and he views himself as the consummate fighter.
He might be in his infancy as a UFC combatant, but he is no novice to this sport. So while veteran fighters approach him with caution, he understands their reasoning, though it might not be in agreement with his own fighting philosophy.
"I understand where they're coming from," Teixeira told ESPN.com. "I've just come into the UFC; I've only had one fight in UFC. Those guys have been in there for a long time. But it's kind of weird. I come from the camp of Chuck Liddell, and he never ducked a fight. Whatever guys do that, they feel is best for their careers. I'm not judging.
"It doesn't matter to me, I'm just going to keep fighting and get my name out there."
Teixeira (18-2) makes his second Octagon appearance Saturday night at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro. And he will enter HSBC Arena against Fabio Maldonado with the same workmanlike attitude that has transformed him into one of the most talked-about UFC newcomers in years.
Maldonado is a late replacement for Jackson, but taking on a new opponent doesn't concern Teixeira. It's a regular occurrence for him.
Teixeira has fought in Brazil many times, and getting a change of opponent on short notice, sometimes less than 24 hours before a fight, is commonplace. It's situations like this that helped shape Teixeira's competitive mindset.
Besides, Maldonado's style is similar to Jackson's. Teixeira isn't one to guarantee victory -- he's too seasoned a professional to do that -- but this fight Saturday is being viewed as another day at the office.
He's familiar with Maldonado personally. The two fought on several cards together in Brazil and they've held brief conversations in the past. Teixeira considers him a good man. But that's where the friendliness ends. Maldonado is an opponent now, and Teixeira has him sized up.
"I've seen his fights and he's a good boxer," Teixeira said. "I don't see anything that's truly special, but he doesn't make a lot of mistakes, either. He's a tough fighter. I was training for Rampage, who is more of a boxing guy, now I'm facing Maldonado who is also a boxer. So things haven't changed too much, just the strategy a little bit.
"Opponents change all the time. I was fighting in Brazil where opponents change overnight, so I don't care. I just want to do my job and get in there and fight."
Barring an unforeseen circumstance or freak injury, Teixeira is expected to find success Saturday night and move a step closer toward an inevitable 205-pound title shot. Most believe that fight will be against current titleholder Jon Jones.
Despite his limited time in UFC, Teixeira has already surfaced as the biggest threat to Jones' reign. Teixeira has the UFC light heavyweight championship on his to-do list, but wants all his ducks to be in a row before facing Jones.
It has nothing to do with gaining cage experience or fine-tuning his skills, Teixeira already possesses those qualities; he wants to fully capitalize on such a potentially huge event. That means increasing his profile with UFC fans.
Rod Mar for ESPN.comGlover Teixeira, top, hopes to someday clear two hurdles at the same time: get a shot at Jon Jones' light heavyweight title and fight and headline a UFC card in New York.
"I'm ready to face anybody in UFC right now -- that's my confidence. But I have to show where I come from. I just have to keep fighting and show people."
And when UFC officials give him the word that a date with Jones has been set, there is one place Teixeira hopes the fight will take place: New York City.
Teixeira grew up in Brazil, but now calls Danbury, Conn., home. And the Big Apple has been his playpen for quite a while as he often trains at a gym in the Bronx.
He moved to Connecticut, where he met his wife, Ingrid, in 1999. Despite stints in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he trains at The Pit under John Hackleman, and a return to Brazil to resolve immigration issues, Teixeira is a full-fledged New Englander now.
Residing close to New York City, and with Jones being a native of Rochester, N.Y., Teixeira sees the fight as a perfect way to welcome UFC to the Empire State.
There is little reason to doubt that Jones and Teixeira will continue winning and eventually step in the cage together, the lone hurdle appears to be getting MMA sanctioned in New York.
"I'd love to fight in New York," Teixeira said. "I love the city. My wife called me recently and told me she saw the sign for UFC 153 in Times Square. I’m excited about that. I'd love to fight there. Danbury has a big Brazilian community, New York as well, and they'd all be there. It would be awesome. I would love to fight in New York someday."