Paths to Victory: How Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka can win at UFC 275

Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka face off ahead of UFC 275 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

This weekend, UFC 275 takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore. In the main event, light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira puts his belt on the line against No. 1 contender Jiri Prochazka. It’s a battle between the old guard and the new as the 42-year old champ looks to derail the young dynamo, so let’s discuss what each man needs to do to win, any X-factors in play, and ultimately what will happen.

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Paths to Victory for Glover Teixeira at UFC 275

The common narrative coming into this fight is that Teixeira needs to score takedowns to win this fight. That’s only half right. Teixeira can win this bout on the feet or on the floor, and perhaps his biggest key to victory is not forcing one or the other.

If you go back and watch Teixeira’s current winning streak, the thing that should jump out is how he goes about it. Yes, he’s having a ton of success taking people down and bundling them on the mat. But the way he is getting there is with his striking. For most of his career, he was known primarily as a power puncher, and though his speed has waned, the power remains — along with a fair bit of craft to go with it.

Teixeira excels at crowding his opponents, making them respect the threat of the hands (or enticing them into swinging aggressively at him) and then changing levels to get those takedowns. Rarely do you see him shoot naked takedowns in the center of the cage because he knows that’s a low-percentage attack, especially as his athleticism and explosion has faded. At UFC 275, victory starts with making Prochazka respect the hands.

Victory might end with the hands of Teixeira, as well. While this is billed as a striker vs. grappler matchup, Teixeira absolutely has the craft and power to put Prochazka down on the feet. While striking, Prochazka keeps his hands near his waist, relying heavily on head movement and a solid chin to avoid trouble. But in both of his UFC fights, that has nearly cost him. Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes stunned him, meaning Teixeira can do the same. And when Glover gets someone hurt, he is an excellent finisher. Glover’s left hook, in particular, could be a money shot, especially if Prochazka gets a little wild.

Finally, let’s talk about the grappling, because though it’s not Teixeira’s only path to victory, it is the one that appears most ironclad. Prochazka is not an incredible wrestler and even was taken down by Dominick Reyes (Reyes has only one other takedown in his UFC career); he prioritizes offense over position. Teixeira simply needs to draw out offense from Prochazka, or be comfortable eating a big shot to force a clinch, where he can work trips or chain takedowns. If Teixeira can complete the takedown, it should be formulaic from there as Prochazka is more explosive than technical from the bottom.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Paths to victory for Jiri Prochazka at UFC 275

Prochazka is a comfortable betting favorite in this bout, and there’s a reason for that: He’s younger and faster, and he’s been turning in highlight-reel knockouts every time out. Against a man with the grit, savvy, and determination of Teixeira, though, those attributes might not be enough. To win this fight, Prochazka still needs to fight smart.

In broad strokes, the biggest key for Prochazka is to keep this fight standing, because if Teixeira can score takedowns, he is screwed. To do this, Prochazka will do best to take a page out of Nikita Krylov’s game plan and stay in near-constant motion against the champion. Above all, he needs to stay away from the fence. The cage is the great equalizer for the somewhat slow-footed Teixeira, allowing him easier entries onto single-leg takedowns. For the quicker Prochazka, he needs to stay in space.

Similarly, Prochazka needs to disincentivize Teixeira from shooting on him. When Teixeira grabs a leg, he is dogged in his pursuit of takedowns, chaining from singles to doubles. Allowing him to do so freely gives Teixeira a safety valve to employ if and when things go bad on the feet. Prochazka needs to prevent this by punishing Teixeira whenever he engages. Karl Roberson nearly knocked the champion out with Travis Browne-esque elbows when they fought, and Prochazka should look to do the same.

Finally, and most importantly, Prochazka needs to pick his spots to be wild. “Denisa” made his name by being half a lunatic inside the cage, but spinning attacks and wild-man stuff creates chances for Teixeira to get to his preferred spots. Prochazka shouldn’t entirely move away from that sort of unpredictability — it’s part of what makes him so dangerous. But his edge in speed and power presents a much more reliable avenue to victory than back elbows.

X-Factor

For me, this fight has two X-factors, and they’re somewhat related.

First, how does Teixeira’s chin hold up? He is 42 years old and has been dropped or hurt in most of the wins on his current streak. Fortunately, he has an incredible ability to recover, which has allowed him to overcome those momentary setbacks. But Prochazka is a different kind of finisher. If Prochazka hurts him early, Teixeira is in huge trouble.

Secondly, how does Teixeira react if Prochazka fights smart, and keeps him on the outside? When Anthony Smith and Nikita Krylov used movement and volume to outpace Teixeira early, the champion responded by uglying the fight up. Against Smith in particular, Teixeira simply stopped respecting his power and started throwing heat in the pocket with him. That broke Smith and led to Teixeira romping over him down the stretch. But how does that look against Prochazka, who has an unflappable confidence and excels in brawls? Dominick Reyes found out the hard way that trading with Prochazka, even when hurt, is a dangerous proposition. Will Teixeira learn the same lesson?

Prediction

When this fight was first announced, I, like many, thought this would be Prochazka’s coronation. A 42-year-old man fighting one of the most violent guys in the game? It seems so straightforward. But Glover Teixeira is not an ordinary 42-year-old man. Like Michael Bisping before him, he may not be in his physical prime anymore, but his tactics and abilities have coalesced into the best version of himself. I like him to use the full depth of his toolbox to take advantage of Prochazka’s deficiencies and retain the light heavyweight title.

Glover Teixeira wins by second-round submission.

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