UFC 172 looks to be one of the most stacked cards in recent memory. Most of the focus will be on Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira, but there will be intriguing bouts throughout the night.
There is no question that UFC 172 will have a huge impact across several different weight classes moving forward. In addition to a major title fight in the main event, elite athletes will look to put themselves in position for future cracks at UFC's top prizes.
With UFC 172 quickly approaching, here are predictions for which fighters will come through with the most meaningful victories of the night.
Although Jon "Bones" Jones is considered by most to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, the UFC light heavyweight champion has plenty to prove against Glover Teixeira. Jones was less than convincing in his most recent win over Alexander Gustafsson, and there is no doubt that Jones would like to reassert his dominance within the UFC.
Jones came away with a unanimous-decision victory over Gustafsson, but that doesn't accurately describe how close the fight really was. Jones is used to outclassing his opponent, and he was unable to do that for one of the few times in his career. According to UFC on Fox, fellow light heavyweight star Phil Davis doesn't believe that Jones deserved to win that fight:
Phil Davis: I don’t understand how Gustafsson lost to Jones. Jones didn’t do enough to win.— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) April 21, 2014
Even Jones has acknowledged that he wasn't at his best, and he blames himself for that more than anything. Per radio host Jim Rome, Jones didn't put forth all of his effort against Gustafsson and let his guard down to some degree:
Jon Jones told me he went "80%" vs Gustafsson because he started to believe own hype, "maybe I just can’t be touched" http://t.co/NYVDD5CD96— Jim Rome (@jimrome) April 23, 2014
Now that Jones is fully aware of the fact that he needs to respect his opponents, it is hard to imagine him taking Teixeira lightly. Jones is a massive favorite, and everyone expects him to win, but it is unlikely that Jones will enter the fight with that mentality.
As long as he sticks to the game plan that has made him so successful over the years, he should be able to take care of his 34-year-old opponent.
If Jones is able to defeat Teixeira at UFC 172, then there is a definite shortlist of fighters who deserve the next crack at him. Gustafsson may be first in line, but after that, there is no question that Phil Davis is someone who must be considered.
With a 12-1 record, along with impressive victories over the likes of Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida, Davis is certainly a worthy opponent. Jones has already run the gauntlet for the most part, but a dangerous all-around fighter like Davis could pose a true threat. It is a bout that many observers would love to see, including Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter:
Well, after this, I want to see Jon Jones vs. Phil Davis more than any other light heavyweight fight.— Jeremy Botter (@jeremybotter) April 21, 2014
In order for that fight to happen, though, Davis must take care of business on Saturday. Davis has a tough matchup on tap against Anthony Johnson, who makes his return to the UFC after two years with other promotions. Johnson is on a six-fight winning streak, and he has knocked out opponents left and right.
Davis has never been knocked out, though, and he is versatile enough to give Johnson major issues. He is capable of brawling if the situation calls for it, but Davis is also adept at mat wrestling and locking in submissions.
Due to the fact that Johnson is largely a one-dimensional fighter, Davis will come out on top.
Which fighter is most likely to win at UFC 172?
Luke Rockhold is one of the fastest-rising stars in the UFC's middleweight division, and he has a chance to bypass another rung on the ladder at UFC 172. Rockhold will take on a very credible opponent in the form of Tim Boetsch, but this is Rockhold's fight to win or lose.
While Boetsch has carved out a nice career for himself, he has generally struggled against elite competition as evidenced by losses to Davis and Costa Philippou. Rockhold is coming off an awesome knockout victory over Philippou, and that should give him an edge against Boetsch.
It would be very easy for Rockhold to look ahead to bigger and better challenges, but he is focused on Saturday, according to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports.
I fought a striker the last time (defeating Philippou) and people saw that side of me and now with this fight, Tim could help me to show a different aspect of my game. I'm not sleeping on Tim Boetsch. ... I have to go out and perform is the bottom line, no matter who I fight. When you want to be the best in the world, you have to be ready and able to beat whoever they put in front of you, and I feel like I'm ready to do that.
If Rockhold stays true to his word, then there is no reason why he shouldn't come out on top against Boetsch. He will definitely have to be cognizant of Boetsch's power, but Rockhold will prove at UFC 172 that he is the total package.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter