A pair of ex-contenders for the light heavyweight championship who fell short in respective opportunities at champion Jon Jones will clash on Wednesday night in hopes that an emphatic victory will lift them closer to another shot at the king. This ultra-rare weeknight UFC Fight Night serves as Phase 2 of the UFC's ambitious plan to stage three cards in eight nights inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, Anthony Smith (33-14) faces a rejuvenated Glover Texeira (30-7) in the 205-pound main event.
The 31-year-old Smith rebounded from a one-sided decision loss to Jones at UFC 235 in 2019 by sending Alexander Gustafsson to retirement via fourth-round submission. But "Lionheart" has endured a bumpy road since then, sitting out for nearly a full year following a pair of surgeries on his broken right hand.
Adding insult to injury, Smith's time in quarantine with his family during the coronavirus pandemic took a scary turn in April when he awoke at 4 a.m. to an intruder in his Nebraska home. Smith landed a series of strikes in protection of his wife and three daughters, but the intruder, who had an accomplished background in amateur wrestling, kept attacking in what Smith went on to call "one of the toughest fights" of his life.
Despite the harrowing experience, Smith is focused on getting back to work and admitted he gave no thought to stepping aside.
"I'm not going to let some psychopath dictate what I do and don't do," Smith said during Monday's virtual media day. "I'm going to keep on pushing forward and put one foot after another, day by day."
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Smith will expect no mercy when he faces Texiera, the 40-year-old native of Brazil who ripped off a trio of victories in 2019 and is confident he's one win away from attracting the attention of Jones.
"This fight is very important for me. [Smith] is the No. 3 in the world, he's right there and I need the win," Teixeira said. "They put three young guys [in front of me] last year and they are all out. Now I'm coming after Anthony Smith and then go for the title."
Teixeira brought a 20-fight win streak into his title shot against Jones in 2014 but fell by unanimous decision. He has juggled wins and losses against elite foes in the years that proceeded, including knockout defeats over Anthony Johnson and Gustafsson. But Teixeira is 4-1 since 2017, and said he expects he will need to finish Smith to get the victory.
"No one is looking for a decision," Teixeira said. "I think he's going to come to finish the fight, and I think that's to my advantage because I fight better in a short punch."
Smith's pursuit of a second shot at Jones has become more personal of late considering the steady war of words the two have exchanged on social media, which has included Jones criticizing him for not having an easier time subduing his home intruder.
The path to Jones, however, could get a bit bumpy given how well the light heavyweight division has reloaded in the face of Jones cleaning it out two times over. Not only are Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz clamoring for a shot at the belt, Thiago Santos will do the same once he returns from injuries suffered in his split-decision loss to Jones.
"There's nowhere to sit at the top of the division, it's standing room only there," Smith said. "I think a dominant performance and a finish over Glover puts me into a position to fight whoever doesn't get the title shot. I'm a realest and know that I didn't have a good performance against Jon, and I'm going to have to earn my way back to him.
"Don't think for a second that if I get a hold of Glover's neck that he won't go to sleep. Obviously, Glover and I have tremendous, tremendous respect for each other, but he knows for a fact that if he slips for a second, I can catch him."
While the main event should give fans some fun action, the fights leading up to it should do more than enough to wet the appetite with plenty of name recognition to be found. Ben Rothwell faces off with Ovince Saint Preux in the co-main event at heavyweight (Saint Preux's debut in the weight class). Plus, former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski is back when he takes on newcomer Philipe Lins.
The main card was supposed to kick off with middleweights Marvin Vettori and Karl Roberson meeting in the Octagon, but that fight was canceled on Wednesday morning when Roberson fell ill with non-COVID-19 symptoms. Roberson was moving down from 205 pounds to 185 for the first time in his UFC career.
Here's the fight card and viewing information for UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira on Wednesday night, with the latest betting odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira card, odds
Anthony Smith -165
Glover Teixeira +145
Ovince Saint Preux -150
Ben Rothwell +130
Drew Dober -120
Alexander Hernandez +100
Ricky Simon -175
Ray Borg +155
|Philipe Lins -170||Andrei Arlovski +150||Heavyweight|
UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira viewing info
Date: Wednesday, May 13 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena -- Jacksonville, Florida
The wild-card nature of the current pandemic certainly leaves to wonder whether both fighters were able to put in the kind of training camps they are used to and if that leads to compromised gas tanks in the later rounds. Smith also has the added weight mentally of his recent home struggle, although it could become something which ultimately fuels him.
Either way, Smith has evolved so steadily since arriving on the scene within UFC in 2016 after a journeymen career that was nearing 40 fights. It's hard not to enlist him as the favorite, especially given the nine-year advantage in age. But with Texeira's lethal power and pep in his step following a three-fight win streak, Smith should expect nothing more than a firefight.
Smith will need to use his quickness to box Teixeira and his jab to control distance while avoiding the clinch. He'll also need to use his speed advantage to set up timely takedown attempts given Texeira's history of stinginess in staying off the ground. It's part of Smith's very public wish that he becomes the first to submit Texeira, and his best bet to get there would be avoiding a slugfest at close range. Pick: Anthony Smith via fourth-round submission
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