UFC 172: Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira Review
UFC 172 lived up to the standard set last week by UFC on Fox 11, giving the UFC two excellent top-to-bottom cards in as many Saturdays. Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defended his title in a five-round rout of challenger Glover Teixeira. The undercard and prelims proved chock-full of action and finishes, including Anthony Johnson’s successful return to the Octagon, Luke Rockhold’s spectacular pay-per-view debut, and Joseph Benavidez re-establishing his place as one of the world’s top flyweights.
JON JONES IS A NEURAL NET PROCESSOR; A LEARNING COMPUTER
Glover Teixeira, the thinking went, needed to wade through Jon Jones’ nine-inch reach advantage to get inside and land clean power punches all while avoiding Jones’ wrestling. Through round one, it looked as if he might be able to do just that. It was a Jones round, to be sure, but the champion appeared to have trouble finding his distance in timing.
In rounds two through five, however, Jones forced Teixeira to fight inside, pressuring him into the fence and bullying him with all manner of strikes. Joe Rogan, nonplussed that Jones was winning the fight in close, theorized that the champ must be trying to prove a point by beating the challenger at his strongest suit. Jones set the record straight in his post-fight interview:
“The game was actually to stick to takedowns, and to try to pick him apart from distance. I realized mid-fight that he was winding up on his punches, and you can’t really wind up when someone’s right on top of you. So, I switched the game plan up to going extremely short range, and it worked out great.”
For all of his buffoonery outside the Octagon, Jones is a savant inside of it. This sort of tactical advice would be advanced, high-level stuff for most MMA corners to make, let alone a fighter in the middle of the action. Jones realized where Teixeira could hurt him, took it away, and beat him up in the process.
HE IS WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS
Heading into the pay-per-view, UFC President Dana White chided the linesmakers (who hung Teixeira as a 5-1 underdog) for not giving Glover Teixeira the proper respect, which is to be expected from a guy unwilling to sell you a pay-per-view based on the strength and dominance of his champion. White strangely continued that line of thinking in the post-fight press conference, suggesting that the world’s leading MMA promoter and long-time Vegas denizen wholly misunderstands how betting odds work.
Teixeira is a limited, aging fighter who ran an 8-year, 20-fight undefeated streak against mostly overmatched competition into a title shot against a dominant champion who had both massive physical and technical advantages over him. The result played out as you’d expect given a 5-1 line, if not how we expected Jones to accomplish it. It takes nothing away from Teixeira, who proved how tough and game he was in addition to being overmatched.
Which leads me to a point I’ve been harping on for what seems like years now: Why undersell your dominant champions in order to prop up the masquerade of a competitive, evenly-matched fight? You hurt yourself in two ways doing this. First, you miss out on the opportunity to build up your champion, which hurts your ability to market him in addition to hurting whoever may wind up beating him. (Since everyone’s had a great shot to do so, why is it so special if Jones should fall?) Second, and more importantly, you wind up pulling a “boy who cried wolf” on your audience. How many times can an audience be sold on a threatening challenger only to see that same challenger lacking the tools to unseat the champion before they stop caring?
YOU DO THE HOKEY POKEY AND YOU TURN YOURSELF AROUND
Referee Dan Miragliotta gave Jones an official warning about keeping his fingers out of Teixeira’s eyes, which has led to a reemergence of the eyepoke discussion. Fortunately, we weren’t subject to Rogan’s usual plea for closed-finger or webbed gloves or whatever half-baked idea he came up with in a sensory-deprivation tank with Eddie Bravo, because the solution is much simpler than that: more assertive warnings and a quicker draw on deducting points. Fighter behavior will chance once referees and commissions start showing less tolerance for dangling fingers in front of eyeballs.
Jones continued to put his hand in Teixeira’s face as the fight wore on, including palming the challenger’s head like a big brother keeping his younger sibling at distance. And I didn’t have a problem with it. Jones appeared, and I’ve yet to rewatch the fight to confirm, to make an effort to keep his hands in the “princess wave” position as he extended them in front of Teixeira’s line of sight.
-The scene in Phil Davis’s corner between rounds two and three is one of the most harrowing examples of a mentally broken fighter I’ve ever seen. Davis leaned back into the cage like it was a recliner, deflated, and half-heartedly answering affirming his corner when they encouraged him to finish the fight. (We should also note that Davis’s corner had zero technical instruction for their fighter.) I don’t buy Anthony Johnson as a title contender right now, as Davis was in for a bad style matchup if his wrestling was ineffective, but he’s put himself in a great position to beat another top guy and put himself in the dicussion.
-This card featured a bunch of great finishes. Chris Beal opened the night with a picture-perfect flying knee knockout. Danny Castillo followed with a consciousness-eating right hand against Charlie Brenneman. Joseph Benavidez coined his guillotine the “Joaconstrictor” to everyone’s dismay. Max Hollaway finished a great action fight against Andre Fili with a guillotine choke of his own. Jim Miller guillotine left Yancy Medeiros unconscious before Luke Rockhold put a stamp on the evening with a kimura from an inverted triangle position.
-The UFC, partially due to injuries, limited last night’s card to ten fights, which significantly improved the pacing.
-The promotion also continued their push of Takanori Gomi as MMA legend, which isn’t necessarily untrue, but is bizarre all the same.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.