Coming off of last Saturday’s Pay-Per-View, the UFC is keeping the fight train moving with more events this week. Next up, once again in Jacksonville in a COVID-friendly crowdless arena, the UFC is live and free on ESPN this Wednesday when light heavyweights Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira square up.

The Pay-Per-View last weekend was not surprisingly stacked with name brand talent as a big welcome back to fight fans. This Wednesday, the focus is more on up-and-coming talent, giving rising stars an unopposed platform in the world of sports. Here is what to expect in the mid-week carnage.

The Headliners

The 5-Round main event of evening will be occupied by top contenders at 205lbs Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira. You may remember Anthony Smith (33-14 Career, 8-4 UFC) from when he fought #1 pound for pound king Jon Jones at T-Mobile Arena for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship last year. The fight definitely did not go Smith’s way but rebounding with a win over top contender Alexander Gustafsson last June has put him in a position to remain among the top of the heap.

His opponent, tough as nails well rounded veteran Glover Teixeira (30-7 Career, 13-5 UFC) is consistently a problem for any opponent he faces. Are you a great striker? Glover is a 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under mastermind Luigi Mondelli and has submitted top flight wrestlers and BJJ artists alike to highlight your weakness. Are you a great grappler? Glover has won 17 of his 30 wins by knockout to highlight your weakness, sending a list of victims that includes former UFC Champions and MMA legends unconscious.

What to Expect

I don’t know. Sorry everyone, I know this is kind of my gig for the blog to know this shit but I have seen enough fights between the two men to know whatever I think is going to happen, I am probably wrong. Here is what I know: Smith has won 4 of his last 5 (only loss to Jones), and 40 year old Teixeira is on a three fight win streak in which every fighter he has faced is in their 20’s and athletic prime. I would expect this fight to be one that “checks all the boxes”. Goes the full 5 rounds, features striking flurries and lots of grappling scenarios. I am going to expect the unexpected, and my prediction will be as random as flipping a coin.

There are major implications for the winner of this fight. With champ Jones facing legal issues, coming off a marginal victory over Dominick Reyes, I can easily see the UFC picking the winner of this fight to fight Reyes for an Interim Title if Jon Jones has to spend some time in the clink for the ol’ tequila-and-gun-in-the-car mishap two months ago.

The Co-Feature

We have a wild one before the main event. UFC veteran and Wisconsin badass Big Ben Rothwell (37-12 Career, 8-7 UFC) is fighting former University of Tennessee linebacker and MMA veteran Ovince Saint Preux (24-13 Career, 12-8 UFC) in his heavyweight debut. Saint Preux is now 37 years old, and making the big jump from his traditional weight of 205 lbs, to a weight class where the limit is all the way to 265 lbs. At 205, he went 2-3 in his last 5 fights, and he is now looking to revitalize his career against the big burly Rothwell is coming off a stellar KO of 6’11 Dutch beast Stefan Struve.

What to Expect

This is a compelling test for Saint Preux. A former championship contender, he is certainly expected to be a smaller heavyweight, which seems to be a dilemma against a man the size of Rothwell, who has to cut weight the week of fights to make the heavyweight limit of 265.

Luckily for Saint Preux, what he will inevitably lack in size he will make up for in grappling ability. He scores takedowns at will, and holds the record for most Von Flue Chokes in MMA with four in his career. The only other person to secure the submission in MMA is Jason Von Flue himself, who only has two.

It will be fascinating to see how Saint Preux can take shots from a man the size of Rothwell, and how Rothwell will deal with the speed of Saint Preux. A win for either generates contender level momentum that they can both use nearing the end of their careers.

Fighters to Watch

Drew Dober

In all combat sports, you’ll hear the term that a fighter is “better than his record”. This insinuates that even though a fighter has a number of losses, whether it be because of late development or perhaps too early of a professional start, the amount of losses doesn’t tell the story of how good he or she is.

Drew Dober is the fucking poster child of “better than his record”

Dober (22-9 (1) Career, 8-5 (1) UFC) does not have the pro record or list of opponents that would make someone jump out of their chair. I do not believe he has a win over a ranked opponent in the UFC, nor has he had a fight streak longer than 3 wins in the UFC. You NEED to trust me when I tell you that when he is on his game, he is among the most deadly lightweights in the world.

He is 7-2 in last 9 fights, and his two most recent wins were short, destructive knockouts over tough fighters Marco Polo Reyes and Nasquat Haqparast. The Denver native does have a tough test this Wednesday, he will be standing across from tough up-and-comer Alexander Hernandez (11-2 Career, 3-1 UFC) who only has one loss in the octagon to veteran Donald “Cowboy Cerrone.

A win for Dober would get him to 8 wins in 10 fights, ad set him up to fight one of the top dogs in the ruthless lightweight division.

Karl Roberson

I don’t know if the UFC does this with certain fighters because they recognize quick developing talent, or if its just a series of strange matchmaking, but some fighters get thrown right in the fucking deep end of the pool from the minute the UFC signs them. Karl Roberson (9-2 Career, 3-2 UFC) definitely falls in that category.

Roberson had 4 pro fights when he knocked out Ryan Spann on Dana White’s Contender Series, earning a UFC contract for his efforts. After one win in the UFC, he was matched up with 18-fight veteran Cezar Ferriera in his native Brazil, where he understandably was mauled. He rebounded with a win, but then was booked against Glover Teixeira, who submitted him in three minutes.

Despite the UFC booking him against killers in his first 11 fights as a pro, Roberson is an elite kickboxer who so far has beaten the fighters that are at his level. Wednesday, he will fight tough Italian choke specialist Marvin Vettori (14-4-1 Career, 5-2-1 UFC), and for the record, the two losses Roberson has is to choke submissions. Keeping it standing an earning a victory will be pivotal to Roberson’s success.

UPDATE: Karl Roberson is no longer on the fight card due withdrawing due to illness relating to his weight cut (Not COVID related).

Hunter Azure

One of my favorite new talents in the UFC is Montana native Hunter Azure (8-0 Career, 1-0 UFC). Azure is a well rounded 28 year old who shows a lot of upside early in his career. He hasn’t been in too much danger as a professional, but his opponent Brian Kelleher (20-10 Career, 4-3 UFC) is a gritty veteran with a great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu base. A dominant win on the preliminary fights can leverage him into some big fights at 135 lbs.

Predictions

Main Card (ESPN+ 6pm PST)

Smith def. Teixeira (Decision)

Saint Preux def. Rothwell (Submission)

Dober def. Hernandez (KO)

Borg def. Simon (Decision)

Roberson def. Vettori (KO)*

Lins def. Arlovski (Submission)

Johnson def. Moises (KO)

Prelims (ESPN + 3pm PST)

Eubanks def. Moras (Decision)

Ferrer def. Benitez (Submission)

Azure def. Kelleher (Decision)

Villanueva def. Sherman (KO)

* – Fight no longer on card following Roberson withdrawal – no replacement at the time of publishing.