With his second title fight right around the corner, divisional favorite Glover Teixeira has the opportunity to right some wrongs when he faces champion Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267.
Since a defeat to Cory Anderson in 2018, #1 ranked Glover Teixeira has been on a tear, winning all five of his last Octagon appearances. After running through Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos last year, Teixeira positioned himself more than nicely in the rankings and is now viewed as the top contender in the weight class. His final run towards the title has been remarkable, and on October 30, he’ll stand toe-to-toe from the one thing in his way – Jan Blachowicz.
In this article, we’ll take a look at a takedown Teixeira uses to implement his ground game. While the setups are different, it has possibility to emerge against Blachowicz and should be a main point when discussing the fight.
(Low) Single Leg
It’s a fair statement to say that the 205-pound division isn’t for the average sized man. Watch a handful of fights from the division’s history and you’ll see big, athletic athletes with legitimate knockout power. For these reasons, attempting to clinch large, skilled men usually isn’t a favorable game plan.
Rather than falling down this rabbit hole, Glover Teixeira utilizes a number of takedowns in both open and closed space in order to avoid traditional clinching. One of these is the low single leg, a simple technique that relies on good level changing, disruption of balance and timing. Teixeira, particularly for his size and age, exercises the level change well and has done so in the majority of his outings.
This maneuver is difficult to land in the opening round, particularly when the offensive wrestler has no read on their adversary.
Glover typically gets a grip of his opponents (in this case Jared Cannonier’s) ankle to help sweep them to the deck. By doing so, balance is compromised and a wide portion of their body is being controlled by him.
This takedown was reactive; Teixeira shot in response to Cannonier’s jab. He’ll do this often, shooting low as method of countering or feinting his opponents into swinging high. Reactive takedowns can be beautiful in mixed martial arts: think GSP or Dominick Cruz, who both used takedowns in response to their opposition’s choices.
The low single leg is hard to defend once the angle has been grabbed or lead leg hooked. This is why a fighters best options are to react before said incident has occurred. Such as quickly stuffing the shot (something fatigued light-heavies will find hard in the final round) or countering with a knee up the middle. Lightweight Dan Hooker excels at the latter, bringing his knee nice and high to intercept his opponent’s takedowns or exploit their dipping of the head (cue Ross Pearson).
Now, Glover isn’t the best at setting up his shots. In the first stanza of a fight, he’ll typically attempt a sloppy single leg with his efforts being easily stuffed, something that even Ion Cutelaba was able to achieve. This is because he hasn’t set-up his takedown or even really made an effort to close the distance.
Punching or feinting into takedowns are tools you’ll witness Teixeira use as the fight drags on, and usually, he’ll have made a solid read by the second frame. The Fight Site’s Ed Gallo describes this as ‘programmed looks’ which are, as he describes it, “intentional striking tactics designed to draw out specific reactions in order to expose openings.” Teixeira’s set-ups are programmed looks, built around said striking tactics with the purpose of drawing out responses.
Against Thiago Santos he was able to punch his way into a takedown, clasping his hands together and dumping to complete the effort.
MMA fighters tend to have difficulty dealing with masked takedowns, particularly in the heavy weight classes, which does nothing but allow the game of Teixeira to begin flourishing. Just like a naked shot in open space, it isn’t recommended to punch into them without establishing a pattern first; condition Fighter B to believe a cross is coming and then level change.
Teixeira’s single leg has remained his go-to for many years, with its dual-purpose of setting up other takedowns (the double-leg) paying dividends plenty of times. It will play a part in his title fight with Jan Blachowicz, but this writer believes its set-up will be different that the ones seen above.
What will be effective against Blachowicz?
Since earning the light heavyweight crown in 2020, its become clear that Jan Blachowicz is no longer the stale, straightforward striker many thought he was. His ability to mix with – and beat – the best hasn’t gone unnoticed, and neither has his grappling defense.
Compared to early promotional outings, Blachowicz’s clinch and takedown game is night and day; no longer does he look out of his depth when tied in exchanges. For this reason, Teixeira’s task of taking things to ground won’t be simple and his path of doing so may come in the form of Jan himself.
Jan prefers a good body kick or two, often finishing his combinations with them. If he uses them against Glover, which, I imagine he will, they have the potential to work into Glover’s own grappling.
When facing Nikitia Krylov, Teixeira knew that in the early exchanges proactive takedowns were off limits. Why shoot in against a fresh, youthful contender with nasty submission skills? Due to this he let the opportunity come to him, allowing Krylov to throw the kick to the body.
1. Teixeira catches the kick.
2. He gets a grip and lifts the leg, upsetting the balance of Krylov.
3. Attempts to drag him down.
4. Krylov survives well on one leg…
5, …but Glover adjusts.
6. Glover regains control of the lead leg while circling down and into Krylov, securing the takedown.
While Krylov offered some resistance, he ultimately placed himself in a disadvantageous position, a hand that seems to be routinely in the deck of Teixeira. Even against seasoned vet Ovince Saint Preux, Teixeira was able to pull off the single leg by catching the kick. The fact he’s constructed a game partially reliant on his opponent’s actions, speaks to his willingness to evolve as an ageing martial artist. Something many veterans struggle with…
As Teixiera awaits the ideal chance and Jan Blachowicz’s confidence grows, he should let out one of these kicks. And when he does. expect the soon-to-be 42 year old to pounce, scoring a single leg or favorable clinch position. These grappling exchanges should be competitive, with each man showcasing their skills in this classic striker vs. grappler matchup.
Jan Blachowicz or Glover Teixeira? Only time will tell. Whether you’re rooting for champion or challenger, there’s no denying the grappling of the latter will play a major role on October 30.