For all intents and purposes, Glover Teixeira is the next man up at light heavyweight.
Nineteen wins in a row. Hasn't lost a fight since 2005. Undefeated in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with three stoppages in four wins. A dizzying array of skills, with a top-notch boxing game complementing a second-degree black belt.
Wednesday's UFC Fight Night in Brazil is Teixeira's coming-out party, his chance to headline an event and show the world what he can do.
Or at least that's the way it's designed.
|James Te Huna||Submission||1||UFC 160|
|Quinton Jackson||Decision||3||UFC on FOX|
|Fabio Maldonado||TKO||2||UFC 153|
Earlier this month, at the UFC 163 press conference in Brazil, UFC manager of international development Marshall Zelaznik relayed the news from Dana White and Joe Silva: With a big win over Ryan Bader, Teixeira would "probably" face the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson, which headlines UFC 165 in Toronto later this month (via Yahoo! Sports).
Dana and Joe have confirmed, with a strong victory by Glover, then he probably gets the winner of the Jon Jones fight. Glover's got an opportunity to go for that belt with a big win, so we're expecting big things.
There are two key words in Zelaznik's statement, and they make all the difference in the world: strong and probably.
The UFC is no stranger to promising title shots, then ripping them away when a better business opportunity comes along. You can't blame them. Not really. The name of the game is promoting the fights that will do the biggest possible business for the company, thereby keeping them afloat to promote even more big-money fights.
In using the words strong and probably, Zelaznik is saying that Teixeira may get a title shot. You know, as long as he beats Bader in impressive fashion. And provided a more interesting business opportunity doesn't come along.
Teixeira doesn't just need a win. He can't go in the cage and work his way to a unanimous decision. He needs to go in the cage and beat the brakes off Bader. He needs to win by knockout or by submission.
Teixeira doesn't just need to impress the UFC, though. He needs to impress Jones.
With a win over Gustafsson at UFC 165, Jones will break Tito Ortiz's UFC record for most consecutive light heavyweight title defenses. That's long been a career goal for Jones, and he's a heavy favorite to surpass Ortiz at UFC 165.
Despite the UFC billing Gustafsson as Jones' most dangerous opponent yet due to his length, the truth is that Jones has the same reach advantage over Gustafsson that he's enjoyed over every opponent he's faced thus far.
Jones wants to be great. As he told USA Today last November, he isn't satisfied just being the light heavyweight champ; he wants the heavyweight belt, too.
Because things have been going so well, right now it's about not putting limits on anything and realizing the sky is the limit. Really, I want everything, and I've said that since day one . I want to be the best. I want to be a record-holder in everything. I want to be a heavyweight champion and a light-heavyweight champion. I want it all.
Jones has discussed an eventual move to heavyweight for quite some time now. With each dominating win over the best his division has to offer, the calls for Jones to move up a weight class and take on new challenges have grown louder.
Jones has done his best to quiet the heavyweight questions. In July, Jones told media at a Los Angeles press stop that he still faces challenges at 205: "No, I have a lot of work to do in the light heavyweight division."
|Chael Sonnen||TKO||1||UFC 159|
|Vitor Belfort||Submission||4||UFC 152|
|Rashad Evans||Decision||5||UFC 154|
But despite Jones' comments to the media, the reality is this: Jones is getting bored.
He didn't want to face Lyoto Machida again. He's not particularly interested in facing any of his previous opponents. After all, once you've proven to yourself and to the rest of the world that you're leagues above the best your division has to offer, what else is there?
Current heavyweight Daniel Cormier remains an option. The former Strikeforce grand prix champion plans to move down to light heavyweight after his UFC 166 fight with Roy Nelson, and he provides an interesting stylistic matchup for Jones. But the champ just doesn't seem all that into the idea:
He's just not relevant to me. There's so many great fighters in the light-heavyweight division. He's not even top five in his division, I'm not sure if he is. He has like 28,000 Twitter followers. He has short reach, bad cardio, he looked terrible in his last fight. It's like, I'm not worried about him at all.
If Cormier doesn't provide intrigue for Jones, then you can imagine how he'd feel about a Teixeira that goes in the cage on Wednesday and barely edges Bader, whom Jones mopped the floor with on the way to his light heavyweight title fight with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
And that's why Teixeira needs a big, dominant win on Fox Sports 1. He doesn't just need to impress the UFC brass, though that's certainly part of it. He doesn't just need to impress the fans.
He needs to impress the light heavyweight champion, who will almost certainly be watching from his temporary home in New Mexico. He has to prove that he's worthy of stepping in the cage with Jones, of testing himself against the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and challenging for his championship belt.
If he doesn't? If he earns a decision win, even in dominant fashion?
The champion might decide to hand his belt back to the UFC, pack on some weight and face newer, bigger and more plentiful challenges in the heavyweight division.
And though Teixeira would be an instant contender for a vacant light heavyweight title, you can bet a championship victory that doesn't come over Jones would ring hollow.
Rarely is a win not enough in the UFC. But this is one of those cases, and Teixeira must seize the moment and prove that he's worthy of that top contender's spot by finishing Bader.
Anything else just won't be enough.