The UFC will take over the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay on April 16 with a card full of potentially exciting fights. The card top to bottom looks compelling, and is headlined by a huge matchup at 205 lbs between Glover Teixeira and Rashad Evans.
Aside from that fight, the main card also features the return of one of the best lightweights on the planet and a bout that could be a strawweight title eliminator.
Glover Teixeira vs Rashad Evans
Both Glover Teixeira and Rashad Evans are looking to remain relevant in a suddenly clogged Light Heavyweight division.
Teixeira is 7-2 since joining the UFC with those two losses coming against Jon Jones and Phil Davis. The Brazilian enters the bout in Tampa coming off two stoppage victories, and a third win will get him one step closer to passing the status of being a gatekeeper. Evans has only fought once since 2013, as he dealt with injuries, and that bout was a largely convincing loss to Ryan Bader.
Teixeira would prefer to keep the fight standing and use his boxing skills. He has one punch knockout power in his hands, but is at his best when he can work his jab and keep his distance. Teixeira also has underrated wrestling skills, but tends to use them more defensively to keep it on his feet. That’s not to say he is uncomfortable on the ground, as Teixeira has a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and. Though he is far from flashy, his choke-based submission game is better than most give him credit for.
Evans has always been somewhat underrated, especially with so few fights over the past two years. He has black belts in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu and gaidojutsu to accompany his Division I wrestling credentials. Those skills combine to make Evans a great fighter at going the distance, with 10 of his 19 career victories coming from the judges.
‘Suga’ had been away from the Octagon for an extended period of time prior to his last bout and it showed. Evans seemed hesitant to pull the trigger in that match and seemingly chose to wait for Sportsbooks that never materialized instead of creating his own in the striking game.
The biggest wild card is the length of the fight. This fight was originally scheduled to be three-rounds, but injuries changed it to a five-round main event. Both men are good, but spending your camp training for 15 minutes and suddenly needing to be ready for 25 minutes could be difficult.
This fight is going to largely depend on which Rashad Evans shows up. If Evans enters the Octagon looking confident than he can realistically win this fight in most aspects of the game. However, if Evans shows up looking pensive and tentative like he did versus Bader, then Teixeira should easily pick him apart in the standup game.
Rest Of Main Card
Khabib Nurmagomedov makes his long awaited return to the Octagon by facing UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher. Khabib, who is a perfect 22-0 in his career, is one of the best wrestlers on planet. Khabib’s ability to pressure and suffocate fighters is almost unparalleled. Horcher is better than most people on the internet are giving him credit for. Horcher was probably going to get a call from the UFC soon even if he didn’t get the last minute call up for this fight, as the 28-year-old is 12-1 and is the CFFC lightweight champion. That being said, this should be nothing more than a tune-up fight for Khabib with anything but a complete domination by ‘The Eagle’ being a shock.
Rose Namajunas and Tecia Torres will meet for the second time in their young careers with the Sportsbook in prime position for a strawweight title shot. Torres has remained undefeated in her professional career with her aggressive, high volume striking causing fits for opponents. However, Torres did lose twice during her run on TUF when she was suffocated against the cage and on the ground. ‘Thug’ completely reinvented herself when she returned and decimated Paige VanZant in her last fight. Namajunas has grown by leaps and bounds through her young career and has learned how to use her length advantage properly. These two met back in Invicta in 2013 in an exciting fight Torres ultimately won by decision.
Lyoto Machida vs Dan Henderson was the co-main event, but Machida failed a drug test leading up to the fight and has been pulled. The fight has been replaced on the main card by Cub Swanson vs Hacran Dias.