Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has long been Glover Teixeira's hero, and on a night that he not only had to win but also needed to impress, Teixeira did a little Iron Mike impersonation.
Teixeira recovered from a knockdown to drop Ryan Bader with a beautiful combination and then stop him at 2:55 of the first round with a ground-and-pound assault in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
There was much at stake for Teixeira in the bout. Not only was he fighting in his home state, but he was the logical contender to meet the winner of the upcoming light heavyweight title match between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson should he win impressively.
He did everything he needed to do, and more. Teixeira worked his way out of danger after being dropped by a short left on the inside from Bader, seemingly earning the next chance with the lightning-quick finish.
Bader dumped him with the left, but Teixeira quickly popped to his feet. Bader continued to stay on him and fired big shots, connecting with at least two hard rights and seemed to have Teixeira in difficulty.
Teixeira changed the momentum in a flash. He landed a lead right and quickly fired a left hand behind it that dumped Bader and left him badly dazed. Teixeira pounced and, like the vicious finisher he is, blasted the downed Bader with hard shots until referee Herb Dean halted it.
According to UFC executive Marshall Zelasnik, the finish was enough to earn Teixeira his title shot against the Jones-Gustafsson winner.
The Brazilian wasn't overly thrilled with his own performance – "I'm not happy with the fight; I'm disappointed he was able to knock me down," Teixeira said – but at least one interested observer was.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, now the promotion's vice president of business development, liked what he saw and said he believes Teixeira is ready for Jones, assuming Jones top Gustafsson.
Liddell and Teixeira were training partners and Liddell has been singing Teixeira's praises for years. Teixeira's win Wednesday was his fifth in the UFC without a loss and was his 20th win in a row overall.
Asked if he thinks Teixeira is ready for a title shot, Liddell said yes.
"He matches well with Jones and will test his chin for sure," Liddell said.
Teixeira is the complete package offensively – he's got great submissions in addition to big-time power, but he tends to get hit a lot. That won't be a wise move against someone like Jones, who has lethal elbows he can use to finish if he gets the fight to the ground (or, in many cases, just gets it along the cage).
The knockdown by Bader was a good shot, he said, but he wasn't in danger of being finished.
"He was able to give me a punch and make me fall back down," Teixeira said through an interpreter after the fight. "I saw everything that was happening. I knew exactly what was happening. I was able to use that as an opportunity."
Teixeira later said, "One of my problems was too much self-confidence and this was a good wakeup call."
Other main-card winners were Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, who stopped Yushin Okami at 2:47 of the first round with strikes; Joseph Benavidez, who TKO'd Jussier Da Silva at 3:07 of the first; Piotr Hallman, who submitted Francisco Trinaldo with a Kimura at 3:50 of the second; Rafael Natal, who won a unanimous decision over Tor Troeng; and Ali Bagautinov, who stopped Marcus Vinicius at 3:28 of the third.
Natal-Troeng was awarded Fight of the Night. Teixeira got Knockout of the Night and Hallman won Submission of the Night. All four men won $50,000 bonuses.