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It's now official: Glover Teixeira erased any doubt that he is ready to fight for the UFC light heavyweight championship.
Teixeira cemented himself as the man most likely to get the Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson winner with an impressive first-round TKO on Wednesday night over Ryan Bader in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
"It doesn't matter who has the belt, whether it's Jon Jones or Alexander Gustafsson; that belt is mine," Teixeira said after extending his win streak to 20 and improving to 22-2 overall.
Teixeira, who entered the UFC to a ton of hype, was on a mission to prove the attention was warranted. He entered the cage confident but seemed more animated than usual. It's possible he was feeling the pressure.
However, once the horn sounded to start the fight, he and Bader immediately went to work. Bader, who had vowed to use his wrestling, did so right out of the gate. He attempted a takedown of Teixeira that the Brazil native stuffed.
Teixeira surprised Bader with a takedown of his own seconds later. The two got to their feet shortly thereafter, and the fun began.
Bader momentarily stunned Teixeira with a short right hand. But he made the mistake of trying to finish the bout at that point. He got into an exchange with Teixeira, an absolute no-no.
During the exchange of punches, a now clear-headed Teixeira connected with a right hook that sent Bader to the canvas. Teixeira quickly jumped on Bader, who could no longer effectively defend himself, forcing the referee to step in and wave off the bout.
"He was able to give me a punch and make me fall down," Teixeira said. "But I saw everything that was coming; I knew exactly what was happening. And I was able to use that as an opportunity for me.
"I knew that as he knocked me down that he was going to come with his guard open because he would try to submit me. But that's the opportunity I used and was able to give him a strong hold between his arms and end the fight."
Although the crowd cheered loudly for Teixeira, he was not as enthusiastic afterward.
"To tell you the truth, I wasn't happy with this fight," said Teixeira, who entered the bout ranked sixth among light heavyweights by ESPN.com. "He knocked me down. One of my problems was that I had too much self-confidence, but this was a wake-up call."
Bader falls to 15-4.
The time has arrived to seriously consider Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza for top-contender status in the middleweight division. Long known as an A-list grappler, Souza has developed into a very dangerous striker, as he demonstrated against Yushin Okami -- using a powerful right hand that earned him a first-round TKO.
Souza took control of the 185-pound affair early in the opening round, landing hard right hands and right kicks that put Okami on the defensive. He continued to taunt Okami with effective strikes.
|Yushin Okami, facing, was no match for Ronaldo Souza's superior striking.|
But it was a vicious overhand right that did the most damage, sending a dazed Okami to the ground. Souza then finished the job with more right hands that forced referee Leon Roberts to stop the fight at the 2:47 mark.
"When I kicked him, I saw that I hurt him, but I kicked him more," said Souza, who appeared to have injured his right leg. "I couldn't do my Jacare walk for the crowd.
"I landed a very tough right hand."
Souza, who entered the fight ranked fifth among middleweights by ESPN.com, improved to 19-3. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion extended his win streak to five.
Okami, ranked ninth among 185-pound contenders, slips to 29-8. His win streaks ends at three.
Souza is certain to move up the middleweight rankings and a step closer to a title shot. But he isn't ready yet to call out anyone in particular.
"Whoever the UFC wants me to fight I will fight," Souza said.
Team Alpha Male fighters continue to show they are no longer just a camp full of solid wrestlers. Flyweight Joseph Benavidez became the latest member of that camp to show off his punching power.
|Joseph Benavidez, right, proved he's still one to watch at flyweight by manhandling Jussier Formiga.|
Benavidez retained his standing as a top contender in the 125-pound division with a first-round TKO of Jussier Formiga. Ranked No. 2 among flyweights by ESPN.com, Benavidez won his third fight in a row since coming up short in his title bid against Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152.
His two most recent wins have now come by knockout. He set up the finish with a right hook to the head that stunned Formiga. That was followed by an overhand left that sent Formiga to the canvas. From there, Benavidez landed several more punches that forced referee Mario Yamasaki to stop the fight.
After his latest impressive outing, Benavidez addressed the issue of fighting for the title a second time.
"I felt great," Benavidez said after improving to 19-3. "I landed some good shots. I landed a knee that also hurt him to the body.
"I'm not the type of guy to bark for the title shot. But I've proven I can beat and finish the top guys in the division."
Formiga, who entered the bout as the sixth-ranked flyweight by ESPN.com, falls to 15-3. He has lost two of his three most recent fights.
There is no quit in Piotr Hallman, and it paid off for him in his lightweight bout with Francisco Trinaldo. After surviving several vicious kicks to the body during the first round, Hallman regained the momentum in the second to submit Trinaldo at the 3:30 mark.
Hallman extended his win streak to 10 after applying a kimura on Trinaldo's right arm. The pressure proved too much for the hard-hitting Trinaldo to withstand, and he was forced to tap.
After a difficult first round, Hallman regained Trinaldo's respect in the second. Hallman was able to get Trinaldo to the ground, where he landed elbows to the head before sinking in the kimura.
Trinaldo, a fast starter, made every attempt to take out Hallman in the opening round. He threw body kick after body kick that slowed Hallman and eventually sent him to the canvas.
But Hallman showed his will to survive, returned to his feet quickly and began delivering strikes of his own, although none hurt Trinaldo. While Hallman was able to survive the early assault, Trinaldo's continued assault left the side of Hallman's body bruised and tender.
The win improved Hallman's professional record to 14-1. It was Hallman's first fight in the UFC.Trinaldo falls to 13-3. He is now 3-2 inside the Octagon.
Middleweight Rafael Natal poured everything he had into finishing Tor Troeng, but he came up short in that department. Natal won the bout by unanimous decision, but Troeng might have won over many of the fans in attendance.
The judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Natal. ESPN.com had it 30-27 for Natal.
Troeng appeared ripe to be finished in the second round when Natal sent him to the canvas with a straight right hand flush on the chin. Natal immediately jumped on his fallen opponent, determined to end the fight with several punches and elbows. But Troeng showed great staying power and survived the assault.
In the third, Natal applied a tight guillotine choke. Again Troeng refused to tap and eventually escaped the hold. Troeng didn't win this fight -- it wasn't even close -- but he did win a few more fans.
The win was Natal's third in a row. He improves to 17-4-1.
Troeng had his win streak snapped at five. He drops to 16-5-1.
Dropping to flyweight did not get Marcus Vinicius back in the win column, as power-hitting Ali Bagautinov finished him by TKO at 3:28 of the third round.
A straight right hand from Bagautinov sent Vinicius to the floor. He landed several more right hands that forced referee Mario Yamasaki to jump in and end the assault.
Vinicius, who competed at featherweight and bantamweight in his two previous UFC outings, made his debut at flyweight against Bagautinov. And while he was noticeably taller than Bagautinov, the size advantage didn't work to his advantage.
Vinicius appeared tentative standing with Bagautinov, and none of his strikes did any damage. Bagautinov, on the other hand, stalked Vinicius throughout the bout and landed the more effective strikes.
While Bagautinov was able to get several takedowns in the fight, Vinicius fought effectively off his back. He escaped a guillotine choke in the first round while on his back and eventually got the back of Bagautinov.
But other than instances of good defense, Vinicius never seemed in control of the fight. The loss drops him to 20-5-1; he's 1-2 in the UFC.