After a whirlwind time in quarantine, Anthony Smith will be looking to continue his run back to a title shot, but former title challenger Glover Teixeira is looking to continue his own rebuild at UFC Jacksonville.
— UFC (@ufc) May 31, 2019
If there is a fighter who had a more eventful time than Anthony “Lionheart” Smith in quarantine, we certainly did not hear about it. The light heavyweight contender had his main event in his home state of Nebraska moved and rescheduled, fought off a home invader in the dead of night, and now will be looking to take on another former title challenger almost all within the same month. Before he even enters the cage on Saturday night, the consensus is that he has already won a great moral victory by still arriving and competing at the first possible opportunity.
Despite taking a break since last year, Smith remains in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division. He was a breath of fresh air in the division in 2018 as he reeled off three straight stoppage victories over former champions and title challengers in Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rea and Volkan Oezdemir. While he suffered a deflating loss to Jon Jones for the title, he bounced back just weeks later with a knockout victory over perennial contender Alexander Gustafsson in the Swede’s native country. While the title picture is gridlocked behind the trifecta of Jones, Dominick Reyes, and Jan Blachowicz, a victory for Smith would keep him in the running for a high stakes fight in his next outing.
🇧🇷 Brazilian power!
— UFC (@ufc) September 11, 2019
Currently, Glover Teixeira is enjoying his best run since 2013 where he enjoyed a 20 fight win-streak going into his own shot at the belt against Jon Jones. He would subsequently go on an up-and-down run: dropping another fight, winning three, and then alternating wins and losses for the next two years. On paper, it looked as if the window for the light heavyweight contender to make his mark had already closed. Instead, he rebounded with an impressive three fight win-streak in 2019 that has put him back in the mix in the light-heavyweight division.
Similar to Smith, the logjam at the top of the division figures to slow Teixeira’s ascent despite being on a very respectable run himself. The MMA world is currently waiting to see whether Jones will rematch Reyes or take on a new challenger in Blachowicz. A win over the fourth ranked Smith would propel Teixeira back to the short list of the title picture. At 40 years old, however, the question becomes if he can book a title shot before Father Time begins to diminish his abilities. Looking at the rankings, names like Thiago Santos or one of the outliers in Reyes or Blachowicz likely still stand in his way before challenging for the belt again. Worth noting, it would also be a difficult sell should it still be Jones who holds the title if Teixeira gets there.
Stylistically, Smith will need to use his footwork to avoid getting into wild exchanges with the powerful Teixeira. The Brazilian has a more plodding style compared to “Lionheart” and will look to corral Smith against the fence where he can rip him with shots to the body and can work for a takedown. While Smith is expected to get in-and-out with strikes, Teixeira will likely be looking to get the fight to the ground where he carries a distinct advantage. Although Smith has made headlines about his desire to submit the Brazilian, he could find himself in massive trouble if he finds himself underneath Teixeira.
Former title challengers face-off! 😤
— UFC (@ufc) May 12, 2020
For the winner, opponents such as Thiago Santos, Dominick Reyes, and Jan Blachowicz are all in play for their next outing as the division moves forward. As it stands, the current champion Jon Jones is on the cusp of a sweep of the division should he defeat Blachowicz. While each of the contenders has been impressive, Jones could elect to move up to heavyweight and leave a void at 205 pounds.