Chasing Down a Strawweight Dream

By on April 29, 2014

10,310 reads

16Icon_comment

1c380076584519188330d7671cfa6d52_crop_north
Jeremy Botter

LAS VEGAS — "When we call your name, come out to the center of the mat. If you catch a submission, let go. You know you got it, they know you got it, we know you got it. So just let it go and move on.”

Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, stands in front of a group of tiny women. He is clad in a black T-shirt, a baseball cap adorned with the UFC logo and a few days' worth of gray and black stubble on his chin. They are unanimously dressed in spandex of all types: short and black, long and colorful.

White is laying down the ground rules. He wants to see aggression. He does not want to see stupidity.

"Please do not try to hurt anybody. We just want to see you roll. Don't go crazy. You women are so f*****g aggressive all the time,” White says. “Just relax. Relax. It's all good. We know your record. We know who you are. Just get in here and roll.

Hi-res-efc8f1dc76701348cb1b013b8d866a67_crop_north
Andre Penner

Here’s a question for you: Does anybody know what is happening with Vitor Belfort?

It has been two months since the Nevada Athletic Commission voted to ban exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy. A day later, Belfort pulled out of his planned UFC 173 title fight against Chris Weidman. According to a report by Matt Erickson on MMAJunkie.com, Belfort released a statement saying that he didn’t have time to acclimate his body to a world without TRT:

Since that day, Belfort has been mostly quiet. He was replaced in the fight by Lyoto Machida. The fight was then moved to UFC 175 in July after Weidman suffered an injury. UFC President Dana White curiously blamed the media for Belfort’s withdrawal from the fight during a media session prior to UFC 171, as reported by Trent Reinsmith for Bloody Elbow:

This is silly, of course. Yes, TRT was a hot-button topic with the media. But White himself railed against TRT and said he was happy with the NAC’s decision to ban it. His finger-pointing at the media is complete nonsense. The media did not force the NAC to make their decision. It was made because TRT is essentially legalized cheating. It was a controversy that continued to grow, and it wasn’t going away.

261b1bdd43d9102ae77e65ad3628520e_crop_north
Tommy Gilligan/USA Today

The look on Glover Teixeira's face toward the end of his five-round fight with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones told the story of the fight. There was exhaustion. Amazement too. And, in the glint of the bright hanging lights, there was something worse—resignation.

Teixeira fought hard until the very end, but he never stood a chance against Jones. In his heart, after four rounds of fighting, he knew it.

The fight, remarkably, had played out exactly as it must have in Teixeira's dreams. Jones, perhaps foolishly, continuously put himself right in the power-puncher's sweet spot. Jones stood in a phone booth, both men against the cage, and he dared Glover to hit him with his best, testing his will against the challenger's.

And he won. Not just the fight, but all 25 minutes of it.

253cbfb70e50fce8501ae8444956e4d9_crop_north
Tommy Gilligan/USA Today

Jon Jones admitted he went off-script against Glover Teixeira on Saturday at UFC 172.

Not that you’d know it from the results.

While Jones said the game plan was to keep Teixeira at a distance and hunt for takedowns, at some point the UFC light heavyweight champion decided to chuck it all and go at his powerful opponent from the clinch, pressed against the fence at close range.

In the process, he sprinted headlong into Teixeira’s wheelhouse, forgoing his considerable reach advantage and dragging their main event fight into the only place where the 34-year-old Brazilian might have a chance to surprise him with a knockout punch.

57cce4660e1d882cb9c7098246e8e2f8_crop_north
USA Today

Don’t look now, but the UFC’s light heavyweight division is in upheaval.

Not at the top, of course. Jon Jones did what we all expected him to do in easily beating Glover Teixeira in the main event at UFC 172 to retain his championship. But Jones may have a new contender, and it’s one none of us expected.

After Anthony Johnson’s dominant win over Phil Davis in the UFC 172 co-main event, it’s clear we have a new name alongside Daniel Cormier, Dan Henderson and Alexander Gustafsson.

I picked Davis to win. Most of us did. I figured Davis would be able to get Johnson to the canvas and grind out a decision. His wrestling is nearly peerless in mixed martial arts, and it was his absolute best path to victory.

Hi-res-e609ef22e53050d34365623cc007db65_crop_north
David Becker

It's “the most stacked card we’ve ever done.”

It's “crazy that Glover Teixeira is a 5-1 underdog.”

These are but two of the messages being championed by UFC President Dana White as he finishes his sell job for Saturday's UFC 172 event in Baltimore.

He is a fight promoter. It is his job to entice you to plop on your couch, pick up your remote and order his pay-per-view. And sometimes that job requires him to say things that have little to no basis in reality, even if it means selling an endless string of events with the same pitch: Tune in. This is the best thing we’ve ever put together.

475ed6f1f990df90420e15f9d999f990_crop_north
Aaron Sweet/Getty Images

It doesn't take long when you sit down for your first Jon Jones fight to realize he's a little bit different than your average UFC fighter. While others mean-mug, flex, scream and smirk their way into the cage, Jones chooses a simple, yet decidedly unmasculine, cartwheel. 

At first glance, it seems soft. You might ask yourself: What's wrong with this guy? Does he even want to bang? Is this a fight or a gymnastics recital? 

Of course, when you think about it a bit, it's the most primal entrance of all. Jones is laying out to the world, and especially his opponent, the very attributes that make him special. From fingertip to toes, his enormous wingspan and height advantage are displayed with an arrogance so subtle and blase that we don't even question it anymore.

It's this reach, a physical gift Jones uses to his utmost advantage, that has allowed the champion to win seven consecutive UFC title fights. Jones, simply put, can reach out and touch his opponent with his feet and his hands while his foe is still swinging at nothing but air. 

27e7c14a1d06895401847745ec2403d1_crop_north
AP Images

We’ve come to expect a certain amount of puffery in the fight game.

With pay-per-views to be sold and arenas to fill up, you can’t blame an enterprising MMA promoter for wanting to tell a good story—even if it isn’t totally grounded in reality.

Such has been the case during the lead-up to Saturday’s UFC 172, as the industry’s best spin doctors have been out in force to prop up Glover Teixeira as light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ most dangerous opponent yet.

Certainly, Teixeira is a capable, heavy-handed competitor who has rightfully earned his spot as No. 1 contender. He could absolutely defeat Jones if he can load up and catch the champion slipping with a big shot. Through five Octagon appearances against mostly middling talent, though, Teixeira just hasn’t shown the skills to justify the hyperbole currently being heaped at his feet.

The Obsessions of Jon Jones

By on April 23, 2014

119k reads

63Icon_comment

Dd7ca35efef5396152c6ca911ae913a5_crop_north
Aaron Sweet/Getty Images

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It's 8:45 in the morning, and I'm standing in the lobby of the famed Jackson/Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts gym. Photos of the gym's fighters through the years line the walls, and the gray reception desk is covered with boxes and mail. 

Jackson/Winkeljohn is not what you expect a famous gym to look like. It has churned out champions for years and has been home to some of the most famous fighters in the world. Given this, one might expect a large building with high-tech equipment and all the latest amenities designed to produce incredible athletes.

That is not the case.

The gym is modest, located in what might best be described as a sketchy part of town. It is one of those places where, unless you know exactly where you’re going and what you’re looking for, you might not find it at all and end up in a place you don’t want to be.

There are mats and there is a cage, but not much else.

Hi-res-ff48a7759e2f10c2be06f8a5ed2181c1_crop_north
Aaron Sweet/Getty Images

For the first time ever, the UFC will bring its traveling circus to Baltimore on Saturday night, and the best fighter in the world is coming along for the ride.

Jon Jones has not competed since a narrow win over Alexander Gustafsson in September. This time around, he defends his championship against a top light heavyweight with an entirely different skill set than any opponent he has faced thus far.

Glover Teixeira has long been lauded by hardcore fans as one of the best light heavyweights in mixed martial arts, but visa issues prevented him from making his Octagon debut until 2012.

He has not lost a fight since 2005. His 20-fight winning streak is impressive. But does he have what it takes to compete with one of the best talents the sport has ever seen? And, more importantly for our purposes, is he worth gambling on? We’ll take a look at the main event and the rest of the main card in the following pages.