A title shot these days doesn’t necessarily mean what it used to. It used to be the result of years of impressive results and a string of dominant finishes against top opposition. Nowadays, the tide has turned slightly to favor of those who are deemed more marketable, rather than who is necessarily the best for the occasion.

This trend is epitomized no better than in the UFC light heavyweight division, with the 205-pound kingpin having had his last two title defenses come against men who had previously challenged at middleweight, but due to a combination of injuries and selling power, they were deemed appropriate contenders for the title at the expense of others who have been battling it out in the division for much longer.

Now, the UFC has announced that Glover Teixeira will be granted the next shot at the light heavyweight title once Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones fight later this month. But is he really the most deserving of candidates, or is he merely a continuation of this trend?

The Brazilian is certainly on a winning streak, with his most recent victory over Ryan Bader taking him to 22-2 overall with wins in his last 20 fights. During this run, he has fought mainly outside of the UFC due to visa issues, but since his entrance into the elite MMA organization he has won all five of his fights against good competition.

Whilst Teixeira’s rise to the top of the UFC has been nothing short of miraculous in modern-day MMA, the numbers alone are blinding to the fact that the caliber of competition he has fought along the way is not at the level of those sitting beside him in the top-10 rankings.

Reviewing Teixeira’s record, we have his recent win over Bader, who whilst being considered a top prospect does not currently sit inside the consensus UFC top 10. Before that, Teixeira fought a Quinton “Rampage” Jackson who has subsequently left the UFC on the back of a poor run, a Kyle Kingsbury who is also now on a three-fight losing streak and a Fabio Maldonado who, despite having rebounded recently, was on a two-fight losing streak entering into his bout with Teixeira.

All in all, the majority of Teixeira’s wins have come against opponents who were on a downward trajectory in their respective UFC careers and did not present Teixeira with an opportunity to showcase his skills.

Other fighters in the light heavyweight division may be justified in feeling that the Brazilian has not faced the level of competition that warrants a title shot. They may be right.

A glance at the top-10 rankings provided by the UFC produces Phil Davis, who would be the name that stands out as having beat some of the best in recent times. He even defeated Gustafsson, albeit in 2010 and in only the Swede’s second UFC outing.

The reason for the Brazilian’s ascent to the No. 1 contender spot may be a mixture of his close affinity with UFC favorite Chuck Liddell, his record reading better than any other light heavyweight in terms of pure numbers, as well as his tendency to engage in a stand-up war.

In his recent UFC fights, Teixeira has not had it all his own way. He has been rocked on several occasions on the feet, only to find sufficient power in his own hands to end the fight himself. This ability to appear badly hurt but pull out the win is no doubt the hallmark of any prospective champion.

Additionally, despite the fact it could be argued his competition has not been of the quality to warrant such an elevated status, the fact remains that he could only beat those put in front of him, and to go 5-0 in the one of the strongest divisions in the sport’s premier organization doesn’t occur by chance.

Should Jon Jones win the fight against Gustafsson, then the stage is already set for a Jones and Teixeira title fight in the early part of 2014. Jones has previously stated his desire to fight Teixeira, with the Brazilian seemingly only one of a few he seems to deem a worthy challenge to his title at the moment.

When looking at how a potential fight with Jones might play out, it is difficult to see past Jones’ air of invincibility that has developed over his recent fights. Jones presents a puzzle unlike any other Teixeira has ever faced before. Jones is a tall fighter who utilizes reach and distance like no other and has the ability to control the fight with unorthodox movement and combinations which can come from virtually any angle.

Jones possesses all the tools to put Teixeira to the sword where others have failed previously despite the openings that they were given. No doubt, Teixeira will be in the front row in Canada to get a feel for the movement and distance that Jones likes to keep. He will want to be prepared, should his dream opportunity become a reality come Sept. 22, the morning after Jones and Gustafsson have fought it out.

However, should things not go to plan for Jones, then it may be that Teixeira needs to take another fight to cement his position as next in line for the shot.

Phil Davis should certainly get the opportunity to go after the title if that scenario were to arise. There is also an argument to be made that should Chael Sonnen get a win against Rashad Evans at UFC 167, he is more deserving of a rematch with Jones. After all, Sonnen with that win, would have beaten two former champions and current top-10 fighters in the light heavyweight division (Mauricio “Shogun” Rua being the other). That can be coupled with the fact that Sonnen sells like practically no other on the UFC roster to form a compelling argument for Sonnen’s inclusion in a title bout.

This is not to forget the fact that after his win against Yushin Okami at UFC Fight Night 28 in Belo Horizonte, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza stated in the post-fight press conference that he would not be averse to going up to fight at light heavyweight either. Souza is universally recognized as a major talent that has the skills to fight for a title in either weight division.

It is clear that Teixeira has the record and ability to give anyone a run for their money, but as far as being a No. 1 contender based on his current resume, it could be argued that the UFC should have gone a number of different ways given the depth of talent within the 205-pound division.

Photo: Glover Teixeira weighs in for UFC 160 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer
Google+

Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.