Fights to make post-Teixeira vs Bader
It wasn't his finest hour, but Glover Teixeira landed a picture-perfect combination to finish Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, officially securing a light heavyweight title shot in the process.
Teixeira Snatches Title Shot
The 33-year-old Brazilian failed to deliver a performance worthy of putting a stamp on his No. 1 contender status, but Texiera got the job done nonetheless.
After weathering an early storm from the heavy underdog Bader, Teixeira improved his winning streak to 20 straight, flattening the former NCAA Division I All-American with a precise counterpunch before pouncing on him with followup strikes for the first-round stoppage.
Teixeira improved to 5-0 in the UFC with his fourth stoppage win, yet he took some significant damage in the process. Bader threatened early with a guillotine choke and he rocked Teixeira with an accurate uppercut. An aggressive flurry ultimately led to his demise, but it was an admirable losing effort.
Teixeira's title shot was officially confirmed at the post-fight press conference, as he'll challenge the winner of the upcoming championship showdown between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
Does Teixeira pose a threat to the championship? Time will tell. Did he make the emphatic statement he was looking for? Not quite, although a first-round finish always helps.
Meanwhile, "The Ultimate Fighter" winner Bader actually boosted his stock in defeat, proving he can hold his own with a surging contender. For a moment, it seemed like Bader was on the verge of playing spoiler to Texeira's Brazilian homecoming, but it wasn't meant to be.
Bader, who suffered his fourth UFC stoppage, needs a winnable rebound fight, so a matchup with a fellow powerhouse wrestler in Ryan Jimmo would be a plausible option. He may not be a top 10 contender, but Bader proved he can hold his own with the best the division has to offer.
Jacare Starches Okami in Middleweight Melee
In his second Octagon victory, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza obliterated former two-time UFC title challenger Yushin Okami, bashing the Japanese veteran with an overhand right before finishing him off with an aggressive ground-and-pound barrage. Interestingly, it wasn't Souza's vaunted ground game that earned him the victory, but rather his vastly improved striking prowess.
It was arguably the best performance of Souza's career, as he made quick work of his durable foe, moving him closer to an eventual title shot at 185 pounds.
For his next outing, the 33-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace should fight the winner of an upcoming headliner pitting Michael Bisping against Mark Munoz. It will move him one step closer to the title, while providing more stiff competition.
Conversely, Okami suffered the quickest setback of his career. The 32-year-old grinder struggled to land any combinations and failed to shoot in for a takedown. It was his second lackadaisical performance in Brazil, as Okami suffered a harrowing loss to Anderson Silva back in 2011.
Okami would benefit from a step down in competition. The winner of an upcoming clash of prospects pitting Francis Carmont and Costa Philippou would fit the mold.
Benavidez Knocking on Mighty Mouse's Door
Thirteen down. That's the number of victims claimed by Urijah Faber's Team Alpha Male since adopting Duane Ludwig as a striking coach.
Benavidez made his camp proud, overwhelming Jussier "Formiga" da Silva with superior striking combinations. He wiped out his Brazilian adversary with a knee and subsequent onslaught of punches in the opening frame.
The 29-year-old Texan tied beltholder Demetrious Johnson for the most wins in flyweight history, while knocking out his third opponent at 125 pounds, a promotional record.
At this stage, Benavidez has won three straight since a tightly contested split decision loss to Johnson for the inaugural championship in September 2012.
The division is still in its infancy, but this rematch needs to happen.
Da Silva has now been stopped in two of his three UFC appearances. Darren Uyenoyama has been inactive since a one-sided loss to Benavidez in April, so these two should square off next.
Other Fights to Make:
Piotr Hallmann vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg - The 26-year-old Polish newcomer proved why resiliency is the name of the game, surviving a near-finishing flurry from Francisco Trinaldo in the first round before rallying back and locking up a kimura in the second. It was an impressive debut for the relatively unknown prospect, who should meet 35-year-old Jackson's MMA product Vallie-Flagg in his next go-around.
Rafael Natal vs. Thales Leites - In a back-and-forth war with scintillating scrambles and submission attempts, the 30-year-old Brazilian outpointed Swedish sensation Tor Troeng on judges' scorecards. In addition to earning "Fight of the Night" honors, Natal also registered his third straight win. Fellow submission guru Leites recently made a triumphant return to the promotion, and a meeting between the two would be a grappling fan's dream.
Ali Bagautinov vs. Jose Maria Tome - Persistent aggression paid off for the 28-year-old Russian newcomer, who floored Marcos Vinicius with a third-round flurry to come out on top. Bagautinov gave up some valuable positions on the ground, but he got the job done. A fight against the BJJ specialist Tome would provide a point of assessment for his continued evolution.
Edimilson "Kevin" Souza vs. Robbie Peralta - First-time UFC jitters had little effect on Souza's first foray into the big leagues, as the former Jungle Fight champion outhustled five-time UFC veteran Felipe Arantes en route to a decision. The 28-year-old Team Tavares representative showed great promise, and a win over the rebounding Peralta would put him in a position for bigger fights.
Lucas Martins vs. Johnny Bedford - The 24-year-old Brazilian did the unthinkable on Wednesday night, dropping down two weight categories to compete at 135 pounds. Martins stormed out of the gate, setting the tone with his quick combinations and latching onto a rear-naked choke to coax the first-round tapout. Martins could realize his potential as a bantamweight, but it will take a calculated ascent to the top, beginning with a clash against the rugged Texan Bedford.
Elias Silverio vs. C.B. Dollaway - The Jungle Fight middleweight champion outworked Joao Zeferino to record a unanimous decision in his first Octagon appearance. The abundant talent pool at 185 pounds leaves plenty of options, but Silverio could avenge his countryman Daniel Sarafian's most recent setback, facing off with "The Ultimate Fighter" finalist Dollaway.
Ivan Jorge vs. Justin Salas - Jorge debuted out of his natural weight class, accepting a short notice replacement fight against Keith Wisniewski and being rewarded with a controversial unanimous decision nod. It's too early to make a call about Jorge's real potential, but he needs to take it one step at a time. The Grudge Training Center product Salas would be a fitting opponent for his return to 155 pounds.
Sean Spencer vs. Robert Whittaker - In the first fight of the night, the 26-year-old Spencer returned to the win column, earning his first UFC victory over Yuri Villefort via split decision. Spencer built momentum as the fight progressed, but he did little to skyrocket in the rankings. "TUF: The Smashes" winner Whittaker recently suffered his first UFC setback at the hands of Court McGee, but he would provide Spencer with a viable step up in his next fight.