UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira may have his first challenger already lined up for him.
After submitting Jan Blachowicz in the main event of UFC 267, Glover Teixeira finally added the title UFC champion to his long list of career achievements.
After almost 20 years in professional MMA, Teixeira’s first title reign is beginning at 42 years old. While most fighters slow down after 40 and begin to consider retirement, Teixeira looks fresh, fast, and ready to have a memorable title reign.
However, looking at the immediate road ahead for the newest champion in the UFC, and that reign may be cut extremely short.
Teixeira was not the name that many fans and analysts had chosen to be Blachowicz’s next opponent before the announcement of UFC 267. He was also not the name that many people had pegged as the one to defeat the reigning champion.
The name that was brought up for both of those conversations was the same: Jiri Prochazka.
Jiri Prochazka’s claim to a title shot is undeniable
Prochazka is a menace in the octagon and one that took his time finally getting to the UFC. But when he arrived, the entire light heavyweight division was put on notice. Since entering the UFC, Prochazka has had two fights, both against top-ranked opponents. He put both of those fighters to sleep.
After putting Dominick Reyes out with a jaw-dropping spinning back elbow at UFC Vegas 25, it was immediately clear that Jiri would not have to wait very long for a title bout. Many assumed at the time that he would be the next challenger for the light heavyweight strap, but were proven wrong when Dana White would give Glover Teixeira that spot instead.
However, now that Teixeira has submitted Jan Blachowicz, two names remain at the top of the light heavyweight division: Teixeira and Prochazka.
No other fighter in the UFC is more deserving of a title fight right now than Jiri Prochazka.
The UFC has other options
However, if for any reason the UFC needs to go a different direction for Teixeira’s first title defense, they have plenty of options.
Aleksander Rakic is already the No. 3 ranked light heavyweight fighter, and with the submission defeat of Blachowicz, he will likely move up to number two. He is also on a two-fight win streak, with wins over Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos. He even recently challenged Prochazka to a fight to try and extend his streak to three and to secure the top challenger spot.
The biggest thing holding Rakic back is his lack of recent finishes. His last finish was in mid-2019, which will be approaching its three-year anniversary by the time the first title defense comes around. The UFC favors spectacle and highlight reels and having three years pass since your last knockout or submission does not typically earn you title shots.
The other option is Smith. The 33-year-old veteran of 52 professional fights, Smith has been the gatekeeper of the UFC light heavyweight division’s circle of contenders. His domination over fighters ranked ten or lower in the power rankings looks impressive on paper, but does not build much of a case for title contention. However, after 52 professional fights, the twilight years of Smith’s career are rapidly approaching, and Smith really needs to win the strap to cement himself in UFC history.
His last two losses in the UFC actually come from two above-mentioned fighters, Teixeira and Rakic. This may make him the last resort for title contenders, but it should not push him out of the conversation completely.
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