One of the main components of any MMA fight these days is the game plan or strategy. Long gone are the days in which fighters would just be able to train without much thought of what they would need to do inside the Octagon to get the win.

Head coaches are often given the task of devising a structure to their fighters’ training camps to ensure that by the time the fight comes around it won’t feel like they are implementing a predefined game plan, but it will feel like second nature.

In this feature, we will look to identify the underdog in an upcoming bout and examine what is required of that underdog in order to overcome the odds and predictions and get the all-important “W” in the win column. The point, then, is to step into the shoes of a head coach to break down the fight and provide a game plan for the underdog.

This week’s subject is Glover Teixeira, who squares off with Jon Jones at UFC 172 on April 26 from Baltimore, Md.

April has been an action-packed month for the UFC with this being the fourth event of the month. So far, we have seen relatively big upsets on each of the fight cards with Ramsey Nijem, Tim Kennedy and Fabricio Werdum all overcoming the odds to take a major step forward in their respective divisions.

However, if Teixeira were to upset the odds once again and put the brakes on Jones’ meteoric rise, it would most definitely be the biggest upset of them all.

This is not to say that the Brazilian is not a great fighter in his own right. It is just that according to the masses, the only real challengers for Jones’ 205-pound title rests with his last opponent, Alexander Gustafsson, and incoming former top-five heavyweight Daniel Cormier.

The Breakdown

The greatness of Jones has been discussed in so much detail by now that every superlative has become stale, but the fact remains that the MMA world has not seen a rise to the top quite like Jones’ before.

In the past, you could look at the records of even some of the biggest champions and see that they had not been tested in one particular area, whether because of a distinct lack of competition in the division at the time or a hint of favorable matchmaking on the part of the promoter. As MMA enters the next phase of its evolution, though, this type of lingering question mark is become a thing of the past.

Jones’ striking is not only reliant upon his size, but consists of a variety such that his opponents feel uneasy at all times throughout the fight. We have seen him tested against high-level strikers like Lyoto Machida, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Meanwhile, the likes of respected wrestlers Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen and Ryan Bader have all allowed fans to see that Jones has more than enough wrestling capability to control his opponents. We have even witnessed a hint of danger when it comes to the grappling aspect of things when Jones showed his composure and defensive abilities against Vitor Belfort, who was simultaneously so close to breaking Jones’ streak and his arm in their title fight in 2012.

Teixeira, meanwhile, has enjoyed a similar rise to the top in a relatively short period of time. When Teixeira entered the UFC in 2012, there was much talk about his talents going under the radar due to visa issues. Once inside the Octagon, he wasted no time in showing his worth. He has done so utilizing all methods of victory, from his initial submission wins over Kyle Kingsbury and James Te Huna to his (T)KO victories over Fabio Maldonado and Ryan Bader, whilst he needed the judges to give him the nod in his win over Rampage.

The critique of Teixeira from MMA fans is that despite his unbeaten streak in both the UFC and MMA as a whole over the last nine years, he has not faced and beaten an opponent ranked in the upper echelons of the sport. Therefore, his true potential is yet to be determined.

What is clear is that Teixeira has the power to hurt not just Jones but anyone on the planet. Whether he has the speed and abilities to test Jones’ punch resistance remains to be seen, however.

The Strategy

If Teixeira is to continue his incredible winning streak, he is going to have to take a page out of Gustafsson’s book, as that fight represents the closest thing there is to a blueprint for beating Jones.

In that fight in September 2013, “The Mauler” shocked the world. In the eyes of many, he did enough to leave Canada with the belt. He managed to do so thanks to a combination of intelligent footwork, crisp transitions and a willingness to engage with the champion from the very beginning.

Based on Teixeira’s past fights, you can’t imagine that he would shy away from trading with Jones, but in all likelihood this is not going to be how the fight will go. In his fights, Jones has shown that he is able to dictate where the contest takes place. The Brazilian, meanwhile, has not shown the wrestling prowess that would lead anyone to think that this will change on April 26.

It is pivotal for Teixeira to react to Jones’ movements and make him pay for any failed takedown attempts. Jones has shown an incredible understanding of distance control in all of his fights. However, if Teixeira can keep stepping forward, it won’t allow Jones to extend fully on his punches. That could suitably stifle Jones’ striking arsenal just enough to allow Teixeira to unleash one of his power hooks which will be the danger for Jones that could render the highly favored champion unconscious.

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer

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.