Full fight - Shane Burgos vs Edson BarbozaMay 16
UFC Fight Night 173: Anthony Smith v Glover Teixeira preview
Wednesday night’s headline tilt sees two former light-heavyweight title challengers go head-to-head in search of a bounce back up the rankings that would move both closer to a rematch with the pound-for-pound king, Jon Jones.
Anthony Smith lines up against Glover Teixiera on Wednesday night at UFC Fight Night 173
So near, yet so far; a phrase both Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira might have heard ringing in their respective ears as they glance enviously at the summit of the division.
Teixiera took on Jon Jones for the 205lb strap at UFC 172 way back in 2014 but was outgunned and outclassed by the young champion, falling to a unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards.
It was a similar story for Anthony Smith on his maiden attempt at the belt: notwithstanding a controversial knee strike in the fourth round – one that many felt could have seen Jones disqualified from the bout – Smith struggled against Jones’ multi-faceted offense before coming up short on the scorecards.
For both, then, Wednesday night’s contest represents a chance to continue their recent winning momentum – but perhaps more importantly, to display an improved array of weaponry capable of troubling top dog Jones.
At 40 years old, it’s likely Teixeira’s next defeat would be the final nail in the coffin for his faint title aspirations.
The Brazilian powerhouse has been a stalwart of the promotion since making his debut at UFC 146, taking on some of the division’s most notable names over the course of his 18-fight UFC career including Jones, Ryan Bader, Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Rumble Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson.
But the veteran has shown he’s far from done in recent months, claiming three straight wins coming into Wednesday night all against opponents more than 10 years his junior.
Speaking to Brazilian publication Combate this month, Teixeira appeared confident of extending his hot streak against Smith, explaining: “I intend to get him out of there. I don't know if it's a knockout or submission, or ground and pound, but it doesn't matter, this is my fighting style, to go inside and impress the crowd.
This is my fighting style, to go inside [the Octagon] and impress the crowd
- Glover Teixeira
“I don't like the struggle that leads to the decision. The fight, I want to get him out of there, I believe in the third or fourth round.”
Smith, however, promises to be an entirely different proposition to anyone Teixiera has faced in the Octagon in recent years.
The 31-year-old has world championship pedigree, conquering two promotions at middleweight before joining the UFC’s 185lb division in 2016.
Middling fortune in the middleweight ranks forced Smith into a rethink, birthing the light-heavyweight monster that would go on to stop UFC legends Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua and one-time title challenger Volkan Oezdemir on his way to a date against Jon Jones for the belt last year.
I like Smith a lot. He's a very intelligent dude
- Joe Rogan
A quick turnaround following that defeat produced arguably the finest performance in Smith’s career as he choked out Alexander Gustafsson in front of the Swedish icon’s home crowd in Stockholm.
That win gained Smith a high-profile fan in UFC royalty and colour commentator Joe Rogan, who told Brendan Schaub on the JRE Podcast earlier this month: “I think after he fought Jon Jones he got the rub [beating Gustafsson] and looked fantastic.
“I like Smith a lot. He’s a very intelligent dude. He’s got a future in fighting.”
However, even by the standards of every fighter competing on this card in the current climate, Smith’s preparation to fight Teixeira have been less than ideal.
In early April, ‘Lionheart’ faced the terrifying reality of a fist-fight against a crazed home invader who broke into his Nebraska residence in the dead of night.
Describing the attack to ESPN, Smith admitted: "I'm not lying when I said it was one of the toughest fights I've had in my whole life.
"I went into that fight ready to die. Nobody smart breaks into a house in the middle of the night unarmed. ... When they break in at night, it's to hurt people.”
The skirmish went on for five minutes before police arrived to apprehend the perpetrator, who was later charged with first-degree criminal trespass.
"No normal human is able to fight like that," Smith added.
"I'm by no means the baddest dude on the planet. But he's a regular Joe and I had a hard time dealing with him. And he took everything that I gave him -- every punch, every knee, every elbow. He took every single one of them and kept fighting me."
Despite the “terrifying” ordeal, Smith pressed ahead with his training camp only to find the bout – originally scheduled for April 26 in his home state of Nebraska postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thankfully, Smith was only forced to delay for a few weeks to fulfil his main event duties with Fight Night 173 now taking place Wednesday night in Jacksonville, Florida.
"I kind of thrive in these types of situations where most people are super uncomfortable," Smith said of his whirlwind path to the Octagon this weekend.
"I always say I kind of live in the fire."
- Watch UFC Fight Night 173: Smith v Teixeira exclusively live on BT Sport 2 HD and the BT Sport app from midnight tonight.