Glover Teixeira might never be UFC champion, but he has been one heck of a gatekeeper this year in the light heavyweight division, shutting the door on rising prospects.
Teixeira did it again Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vancouver. He beat Nikita Krylov by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) in a grueling, back-and-forth battle for his third straight victory. Teixeira, 39, came in as a +110 betting underdog against the 27-year-old Krylov.
"Focus and discipline, guys," Teixeira said. "Believe in yourself. Fighting young guys like this is not easy. Fighting at this age is not easy."
Teixeira now has 13 wins at light heavyweight in the UFC, tied for third behind current UFC champion Jon Jones and current Bellator titleholder Ryan Bader. Chuck Liddell and Rashad Evans also have 13 victories at 205 pounds.
Glover Teixeira shows off his boxing with a slick combo in the second round vs. Nikita Krylov. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Teixeira connects with a combo in Round 2
Glover Teixeira shows off his boxing with a slick combo in the second round vs. Nikita Krylov. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Teixeira took Krylov down early, but Krylov split Teixeira's forehead open with elbows from the bottom. Krylov was able to get on top in scrambles, but Teixeira always seemed to be one step ahead in the striking and grappling. In the second, Teixeira worked his combinations as Krylov circled near the cage and attempted to counter. Teixeira had two tight guillotines and an armbar attempt in the third, winning those ground battles as well.
Teixeira (30-7) has three straight wins over fighters in their 20s. He turns 40 in October. Teixeira, a Brazil native who now lives in Connecticut, is ranked No. 9 among light heavyweights by ESPN.
Krylov (25-7), a native of Ukraine, has lost two of three since returning to the UFC after two years fighting in Europe.
Todd Duffee-Jeff Hughes ends in a no contest
Todd Duffee's first fight in more than four years won't have an official result.
Duffee hurt Hughes badly with a series of right hands during the first round, but Hughes poked Duffee in the eye with his thumb and Duffee was ruled unable to continue. The bout was ruled a no contest at 4:03 of the first round.
Duffee told the referee and ringside physician that he was seeing double during his allocated recovery time after the eye poke. That's all the doctor had to hear and he advised the referee to end the bout. Hughes' eye poke was ruled accidental, which is why a no contest was decided upon.
Duffee (9-3, 1 NC) had not fought since a first-round knockout loss to Frank Mir in July 2015 due to injuries and a contract dispute with the UFC. The 33-year-old Indiana native was once considered one of the heavyweight division's most promising prospects.
Hughes (10-2, 1 NC), a 31-year-old training partner of Stipe Miocic, was coming off a loss in his UFC debut to Maurice Greene in March.
Tristan Connelly def. Michel Pereira via unanimous decision
Michel Pereira began the fight with a cartwheel, soccer-style bicycle kick, jump off the cage, rolling thunder kick and some stylish Capoeira. Connelly finished the fight with some good, old-fashioned ground-and-pound.
Shrugging off the electric Pereira's theatrics, Connelly allowed the Brazilian to wear himself out and took over late in a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27) victory. Connelly, a local from Vancouver, was coming in on just five days' notice after Pereira's original opponent, Sergey Kandozhko, withdrew earlier this week. Connelly came in as a +375 underdog.
In the closing seconds, Connelly had the crowd on its feet as he landed punches to Pereira from top position.
"I know I've deserved to be here for a long time," Connelly said. "Tonight was my chance to prove it. I feel like I can be even better. Give me six days' notice, I'll be even better."
Connelly hypes the hometown crowd after upset win
The biggest underdog on the card, Tristan Connelly, discusses beating Michel Pereira on five days' notice. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Pereira came out with a flourish, but he gassed himself out. The acrobatic fighter did a breakdance routine to cap a six-minute walkout, but that is where his night peaked.
Connelly was never badly damaged and came forward throughout. He dropped Pereira in the second round and nearly had a guillotine choke in the third. The finish was all Connelly, smashing Pereira on the ground.
"It feels like it's just the start," Connelly said.
Connelly (14-6) was making his UFC debut and has now won five in a row. The 33-year-old veteran has lost just once since 2015. Pereira (23-10), a 25-year-old Brazilian, came in on a three-fight winning streak, including a first-round knockout of Danny Roberts in his UFC debut in May.
Middleweight: Uriah Hall def. Antonio Carlos Junior via split decision
Hall connects with devastating right hand
Uriah Hall catches Antonio Carlos Junior with a powerful right hand that sends him to the canvas. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Hall broke Carlos Junior's nose with a jab in the opening seconds, sending blood cascading. In the third round, Carlos Junior spent the final four minutes on Hall's back. That was very much the story of the fight.
On the feet, Hall was dominant, dropping Carlos Junior in the second and doing plenty of damage. On the ground, it was Carlos Junior's domain. Hall did just enough to pick up a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) win in a hard-fought contest. Hall almost seemed surprised by the judges' scorecards.
"I still feel like I didn't get to do as much," Hall said. "When you're in here, man, there are so many things going on."
A case could definitely be made for Hall as the winner of the first and second rounds, courtesy of the hard punches when the two were standing. Carlos Junior controlled the entire third round from Hall's back, though he wasn't able to finish or do much damage from there, much to the crowd's chagrin.
Afterward, Hall took a big shot with his postfight callout.
"If I really want to be honest -- Israel Adesanya, I'm coming, baby," Hall said. "I'm coming."
Hall (15-9) has won two in a row and three of his last four. The 35-year-old Jamaica native by way of New York said he believes he finally has the right mindset to make waves in the division after coming into the UFC as a top prospect six years ago.
Carlos Junior (10-4, 1 NC), a 29-year-old former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, has dropped two straight after five consecutive wins.
Misha Cirkunov def. Jimmy Crute by first-round submission
Cirkunov escapes with beautiful sweep
With Jimmy Crute landing some ground-and-pound, Misha Cirkunov is able to sweep and take top position. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Cirkunov is Latvian by birth and Canadian by residence. But his finish Saturday? That was Peruvian.
Cirkunov ended a scramble fest against Crute by latching on to a rare Peruvian necktie and getting the tap at 3:38 of the first round. Cirkunov grabbed the submission, Crute rolled him over and Cirkunov finished on the topside with his head against the ground. It was a spectacular, unique submission -- one of the best of the year in the UFC. It was only the second UFC win ever by Peruvian necktie. CB Dollaway had the other against Jesse Taylor in 2008.
Cirkunov started the fight by taking Crute down and getting into a mounted crucifix. Crute created a scramble, got on top and bloodied Cirkunov's face. Cirkunov managed to sweep and find Crute's neck. It was a wild three minutes and eight seconds with scrambles more befitting a flyweight fight than light heavyweight.
"I dedicated my entire summer for this moment, for all these fans, for UFC, I worked like a dog," Cirkunov said. "From now on, every fight, every time I come to the UFC and I say I'm going to fight, I'm going to do the exact same thing.
"Please don't give up on me, I know I have a bright future in UFC, I know it's just a matter of time until I'm in the top five. Remember I said that, that day will come."
Cirkunov (15-5) bounced back from a first-round TKO loss to Johnny Walker at UFC 235 in in March. The 32-year-old Toronto resident has won two of three. Crute (10-1), a 23-year-old blue-chip prospect from Australia, came in undefeated with two straight wins in the UFC by finish.
Augusto Sakai def. Marcin Tybura via knockout
Don't look now, but the heavyweight division might have a new young contender.
Augusto Sakai blasted Marcin Tybura with a right hand and then melted him with combinations in the clinch for a knockout at :59 of the first round to cap the UFC Vancouver prelims. The bout was over within the first exchange and Sakai looked very impressive.
"I knew I could knock him out," Sakai said. "It was 11 weeks of hard training with my coaches. I knew this would happen."
Sakai (14-1-1) has won three straight in the UFC and five in a row overall. His three-fight UFC winning streak has him tied with Francis Ngannou and Maurice Greene for the longest active streak among heavyweights. The 28-year-old Brazilian has only one loss in his career, to Cheick Kongo under the Bellator banner in 2017.
Tybura (17-6), a 33-year-old from Poland, has lost two straight and four of his past five.
"I'm ready for whoever the UFC wants to put me against," Sakai said. "Step by step, I'll get there."
Miles Johns def. Cole Smith via split decision
Miles Johns picked his head up, looked at the referee and complained. Cole Smith was pushing him against the cage, going for a takedown with no success for more than a minute in the third round. Johns was hoping for a separation and return to action.
When Johns was finally able to shake an exhausted Smith off him, he smashed his opponent with several hard combinations on the feet. Johns went on to a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) win that he had to work for every step of the way. Both men came into the bantamweight bout undefeated.
Smith had Johns' back with Johns standing up for most of the first round. Johns landed a takedown of his own in the second, only for Smith to reverse and get his back. As in the third round, though, when the fight was standing, Johns was more effective and he did the majority of the damage throughout, which earned him the tight decision.
Johns (10-0) earned his first UFC victory after coming in off a win on Dana White's Contender Series in June. The 25-year-old Texas resident is considered a top prospect at 135 pounds out of Fortis MMA in Dallas. Smith (7-1), a 30-year-old Canadian, was coming off a win over Mitch Gagnon in his UFC debut in May.
Hunter Azure def. Brad Katona via unanimous decision
Azure escapes submission attempt from Katona
Brad Katona has Hunter Azure's back and looks for a choke, but Azure is able to escape and end up on top. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Azure might have been a very good college wrestler, but striking was the game plan on Saturday. And when he was able to keep Katona off him, Azure had a lot of success.
Azure dropped Katona twice (a third might have been a slip) and bloodied him in a unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28) win. Katona was able to take Azure down in the second and third rounds and work a choke in the third, but Azure did the most damage on the feet, landing the harder, more effective shots.
Azure (8-0) stayed undefeated with the victory. The 27-year-old Arizona resident earned a spot in the UFC after a win on Dana White's Contender Series in July. The Montana native was a +110 betting underdog.
"Getting my first win feels amazing, I've been waiting for this moment my whole life. It's good to come in here and show the world where I'm at and I'm just going to keep coming and getting better," Azure said. "Contender Series prepared me a lot for this moment, I was a lot more nervous during that show. That's the job interview right there, so I was a lot more nervous during that. This week, I already had the job, so I just had to come in here and show what I can do."
Katona (8-2), a 27-year-old Canadian who trains at SBG Ireland, has dropped two in a row after winning his first two fights, including the Ultimate Fighter 27 final in 2018.
Chas Skelly def. Jordan Griffin via unanimous decision
Skelly, Griffin exchange blows late in first round
In the final 30 seconds of Round 1, Chas Skelly and Jordan Griffin tee off on each other. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
It's early, but Chas Skelly vs. Jordan Griffin is definitely a Fight of the Night bonus candidate.
Skelly won the first and third rounds with his wrestling and grappling, latching onto chokes several times for a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) victory. But Griffin was scrappy throughout -- or "squirmy" as Skelly said afterward -- and had major moments to shine as well.
After Skelly dominated the entire first round thanks to a variety of chokes, Griffin made his way back to his feet and finished the round with a flurry. In the second, Griffin hurt Skelly on the feet, then took him down, slipped into mount and landed hard elbows. Griffin took Skelly's back, but Skelly was able to reverse after an absolutely ridiculous front somersault.
In the third, Skelly went back to his bread and butter, bringing Griffin down and taking his back again. Skelly nearly locked in a choke for a third time, but Griffin was able to scramble and grab a d'arce choke in the closing seconds. Skelly survived -- and did enough to win the fight.
Skelly (18-4) snapped a two-fight losing streak. The 34-year-old Texan has won seven of his past 10 overall and is a perennial tough out in the featherweight division. Griffin (17-7), a 29-year-old Wisconsin resident, has dropped his first two UFC fights after earning a contract on Dana White's Contender Series in 2018.
Louis Smolka def. Ryan MacDonald via TKO (Round 1)
Smolka clips MacDonald with left hook
Louis Smolka nails Ryan MacDonald with a strong left hook in Round 1. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Louis Smolka has been in the UFC for parts of the past five years and this might have been his most technical striking performance.
The Hawaii native stopped Ryan MacDonald via TKO at 4:33 of the first round Saturday. He punished the body with combinations throughout the round, then moved to the head. A gorgeous left hook from Smolka rocked MacDonald and Smolka flurried from there. A right hand seconds later dropped MacDonald and forced the referee to stop the bout.
"It feels amazing to get the knockout, that might be the first standing TKO that I've done with my hands, so that felt amazing," Smolka said. "I didn't even feel it connect honestly, I hit that left hook and it felt like it went right through his head, it felt amazing. That double straight left hook is something I've been doing all camp, it freezes the dude because it's an unusual thing to see."
Smolka (16-6) has won five of his past six fights, including two of his past three in the UFC. The 28-year-old Team Oyama product was cut by the UFC in 2017 after a rocky run at flyweight, but returned last year as a bantamweight after success on the regional circuit.
MacDonald (10-2), a 26-year-old Nebraskan, has dropped his first two UFC bouts.
Austin Hubbard def. Kyle Prepolec via unanimous decision
Hubbard takes Prepolec down in Round 3
Austin Hubbard avoids damage on the feet and is able to secure a takedown, then looks to advance position. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Once Austin Hubbard was able to adjust and get the fight to the ground, he was in the clear.
Kyle Prepolec hurt Hubbard with punches in the first round, but Hubbard took him down in the second and third en route to a unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). It wasn't just Hubbard's wrestling, either. Once he got Prepolec down, he was able to use his grappling for control, then landed some nice ground-and-pound with wrist control, especially in the second round from half guard.
This was Hubbard's (11-3) first career UFC win, bouncing back from a loss in his UFC debut against Davi Ramos in May.
"It feels great to get that first win, it's a big stress relief to get that first win and not be 0-2, so definitely happy about that," Hubbard said after the fight.
The 27-year-old Colorado resident has now won four of his past five fights. Prepolec (12-7), a 30-year-old Canadian, has lost two straight to begin his UFC career.