The Real Winners and Losers from UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira
The UFC was back in its global pandemic headquarters, Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday night for a second show in four days at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
And though the price tag for this event was merely an ESPN+ streaming subscription, there was nevertheless high-end action and drama to be had across 10 bouts that lasted into Thursday morning.
Some of the unique empty-arena dynamics that revealed themselves over the weekend were back again as well, including the unique ability to clearly hear both corner instructions as well as chatter between fighters and their teams and sometimes between the fighters themselves.
Call it the new normal for the highest-profile outfit in mixed martial arts, and get ready for yet another dose come Saturday night when Dana White and Co. are again in the house for a third show in eight days.
Suffice to say, 10 bouts provide a lot of ups and downs and winners and losers, and we've put together out list of the latter extremes from Wednesday's mid-week show. Read through to see what you might have missed or to simply decide how your list of memorable moments balances with ours.
Winner: Old Guy Punishment
Glover Teixeira had plenty of street cred when he arrived at Veterans Memorial Arena on Wednesday.
He was the No. 8 contender in the UFC's light heavyweight division, had won 30 fights and scored 25 stoppages in a career stretching all the way back to 2002.
Nevertheless, when it came to the odds-makers and the ESPN+ broadcast team, the deck seemed leaned—if not outright stacked—in the direction of No. 4 contender and part-time broadcaster Anthony Smith.
The former title challenger was comfortable in front of the microphone, gushed about how much he loved his family and had a compelling story about fending off a break-in at home a few months back.
Once the fight started, however, the 40-year-old quickly seized the narrative.
Teixeira bided his time through a losing first round, then landed some fight-changing shots in the second and never looked back en route to a brutal fifth-round stoppage of Smith in their Fight Night main event.
Referee Jason Herzog, after allowing Smith to be battered viciously on the mat for nearly two full rounds, finally decided he'd seen enough at 1:04 of the fifth.
But rather than blast the ref for allowing Smith to take too much damage, the ESPN+ crew aimed squarely at the beaten man's corner for overwhelming him with instructions early on and then not considering verbal and physical cues being provided between rounds once things went bad.
For example, Smith complained before the fifth that his teeth were falling out. His right eye was also cut and swollen and he appeared also to be bleeding from the ear.
"When the fighter starts to complain about teeth," Paul Felder said, "he's giving you the 'I don’t want to go out there but I'm not gonna quit because I'm a warrior' speech. That should be taken as, 'Hey guys, save me from myself.'"
Daniel Cormier agreed.
"I think they did Anthony Smith a disservice," he said. "Glover Teixeira didn’t get overwhelmed by his corner. They trusted their fighter to go out there and do the job."
Loser: Climbing the Ladder
Ovince Saint Preux isn't a small man by anyone's measure.
But he's not a successful UFC heavyweight. At least not yet.
The former interim title challenger at 205 pounds made his initial foray into the land of octagonal giants in Wednesday's co-main event and came up on the light end, dropping a split three-round decision to 50-fight veteran Ben Rothwell.
Rothwell won two scorecards by 29-28 margins and dropped a third by the same score.
Bleacher Report agreed with the majority and also saw it 29-28.
Saint Preux tipped in at a legit big man weight of 240 1/2 pounds, but was still the lighter man by 24 1/2 pounds next to the mammoth Wisconsin native who stood a half-inch taller at 6'4".
He seemed to have trouble dealing with Rothwell's mass and was outworked each time they got in close along the fence, where Rothwell scored well with high knees and punch combinations.
"Oh, you know it," Rothwell said, when asked if he felt a size advantage. "I landed some really good knees in the clinch. I was lighting him up. When he hit me they were more like slaps."
Saint Preux rallied in the third and landed quicker, cleaner shots, and dropped Rothwell with a flurry just as the final bell sounded. Nevertheless, it was Saint Preux's sixth loss in 11 fights since dropping a decision to now-reigning light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 197 in April 2016.
"I'm the one who had a lot to lose in here," Rothwell said. "I can't be losing to little guys."
Winner: Lowering the Boom
Never has a "Boom" nickname been any more appropriate.
Veteran Brian Kelleher came to the Octagon against streaking featherweight Hunter Azure as a significant underdog, but never carried himself with anything less than the confidence of a one-shot winner.
Even after a rugged first round went in the favorite's direction, the New Yorker's positive mindset paid off in the second in the form of a wicked left hook that essentially ended matters at 3:40.
Azure stepped forward with a left front kick, but Kelleher nimbly stepped inside the attempted strike and dropped his left directly onto hie foe's chin—leaving him flat on his back in a semi-conscious state.
"That was a picture-perfect left hook right there," he said. "Once I commit I know I can out anyone to sleep. As soon as I find my range and confidence it's a whole different fight."
Kelleher landed two more brutal right-hand hammers before the referee pulled him away, ending Azure's unbeaten run at eight fights and leaving Cormier impressed at cage-side.
"If your chin touches the other side of your shoulder like that, you're usually out," Cormier said. "Your neck's not supposed to bend like that."
Kelleher used the interview platform to call out bantamweight Sean O'Malley.
"Get some joint papers and roll 'em up for me," he said. "I'm gonna smoke his a-s."
Loser: Taunting a Doberman
Alexander Hernandez strutted to the cage with the look of a ranked lightweight.
But the opponent who greeted him there upon arrival, fringe contender Drew Dober, quickly showed the No. 15 contender that he'd bitten off more than he was capable of chewing.
A training partner of ascending UFC superstar Justin Gaethje, the "Doberman" kept the Colorado momentum going all the way to a TKO victory at 4:25 of the second round.
The fighters matched power shots through the opening five minutes and into the second before Dober rattled his man with a series of powerful left hands to the head. Hernandez was able to get Dober to the mat several times amid the flurries, but the needle drifted back toward Dober each time they returned to their feet.
He set up the decisive sequence with another series of power shots, and ultimately drove Hernandez back to the cage where the glassy-eyed and rubber-legged 155-pounder was rescued.
"I wasn't trying to hit hard, I was trying to hit often," Dober said. "The more times you hit a guy on the chin the more chance he's gonna fall over."
Cormier pointed out that the win over a ranked contender was likely to get Dober a ranking of his own, which prompted the winner to call out Felder, who was sitting at a nearby broadcast table.
"Me and Justin Gaethje, we kill each other. I want to fight another striker," he said. "I'd love to fight guys like Paul Felder."
Felder, ranked sixth at lightweight, responded diplomatically.
"I've told Drew many, many times that I'm a huge fan of his," he said. "I think that's a great call-out. He should be calling out guys in the division. After that performance you can't blame a guy for making a call-out like that."
Winner: The House
George Clooney preached Danny Ocean's version of the gospel in Ocean's Eleven.
"The house always wins," he said. "Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you."
From a bettor's perspective, it was spot-on true Wednesday night.
Neither the favorites nor the underdogs were a winning proposition based on pre-fight odds supplied by UFC.com, with a full slate of wagers on either side resulting in negative numbers for the night.
Favorites had their hands raised in six of 10 bouts on the Jacksonville show, with each paying $100 for their efforts. Problem was, the bets required on the four favorites who wound up losing tallied up to $720, meaning going strictly with the chalk netted an overall loss of $120.
It wasn't any better on the other side, practically speaking, with those four underdogs returning only $590 as compared to bets on the other six fighters that would have totaled $610—yielding a $20 loss.
The biggest single payer of the night was prelim winner Kelleher, who stopped minus-205 favorite Azure in two rounds in their featherweight bout.
Loser: Michael Johnson in May
Michael Johnson has had a difficult May.
As the month began, the 33-year-old lightweight was best known for having been the last man to defeat streaking No. 1 contender Tony Ferguson eight years ago.
Gaethje put that run to an end when he beat El Cucuy into a stupor at UFC 249 on Saturday night, which left Johnson aiming to re-ignite a fire at 155 pounds against Thiago Moises.
And even though things looked good for five minutes on Wednesday, it didn't last much longer.
Moises charged from his corner to begin Round 2 and quickly brought the fight to the floor, seizing control of Johnson's right leg and locking in a heel hook that prompted a tap-out after just 25 seconds.
It was Johnson's 10th loss in 18 fights since the Ferguson win in 2012.
"I just proved tonight that I belong in the UFC and I belong in this division," Moises told Cormier. "We knew he had a good wrestling defense. Jiu-jitsu was the way to go."
Moises followed through with a call-out of high-profile lightweight Anthony Pettis.
"You could see the pressure that was happening on Michael Johnson's foot and knee, everything was getting twisted," Felder said. "It was a beautiful adjustment and performance."
Winner: The Vanilla Gorilla
Welcome back to the UFC, Chase Sherman.
A 30-year native of Mississippi, the rugged heavyweight made his return to the promotion a successful one with an impressive second-round stop of Ike Villanueva in Wednesday's curtain-raiser.
Sherman was on the UFC roster from 2016 to 2018 but was dropped after going 2-5 in a seven-fight stint, including consecutive losses to Shamil Abdurakhimov (KO 1), Justin Willis (UD 3) and Augusto Sakai (TKO 3) in his final three outings. He spent his subsequent three fights on the fringes with the regional Island Fights promotion on the Gulf Coast and lost his house a result of the decrease in income, according to ESPN's Jon Anik.
"This is how you maximize a showcase," Anik said. "Mission accomplished."
On the high side of a nearly 20-pound weight differential, Sherman imposed his will on his opponent, a former middleweight, in the form of heavy head strikes and repeated kicks to Villanueva's left leg.
The leg issues clearly limited Villanueva's mobility and a left-right combo to the head triggered the final sequence, driving Villanueva back to the fence before a left elbow sent him toward the floor and prompted the intervention of referee Michael Cardoso.
"It feels amazing," Sherman told Cormier. "The only way I describe it is if you order a 10-piece order of wings and you get 11. It feels amazing."
Loser: Shinbone Integrity
He wound up losing a unanimous but competitive decision to Omar Morales.
But that wasn't the worst thing that happened to Gabriel Benitez on Wednesday.
Not by a long shot.
Instead, the Mexican-born lightweight found himself on the victim's end of a shin wound that looked like it would have been at home in a nearby hospital trauma ward.
Thanks to repeated leg kicks from Morales across 15 minutes, Benitez found himself with a bloody gash that ran vertically down the leg and was deep enough to expose the bone.
"I didn’t see anyone fire the gun," Anik said. "But the hole was there."
Not surprisingly, it was a buzz-worthy topic on social media as well, including a gruesome tweet from Las Vegas radio host Mitch Moss that raised Anik's gunfire claim to a new level:
"WARNING If you're not watching the #UFC," he said, "Benitez looks like he took an axe to the shin."
UFC Fight Night Full Card Results
Glover Teixeira def. Anthony Smith by TKO, 1:04, Round 5
Ben Rothwell def. Ovince Saint Preux by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Drew Dober def. Alexander Hernandez by TKO, 4:25, Round 2
Ricky Simon def. Ray Borg by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Andrei Arlovski def. Philipe Lins by split decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Thiago Moises def. Michael Johnson by submission (heel hook), 0:25, Round 2
Sijara Eubanks def. Sarah Moras by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Omar Morales def. Gabriel Benitez by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Brian Kelleher def. Hunter Azure by KO, 3:40, Round 2
Chase Sherman def. Ike Villanueva by TKO, 0:50, Round 2