The UFC returns to Florida with another big FOX card, one that tests aging veterans as well as returning or surging contenders against their contemporaries. No titles are on the line, but the stakes are considerable for a number of big names.
What: UFC on FOX 19: Teixeira vs. Evans
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.
When: Saturday, the four-fight Fight Pass card starts at 4 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX undercard starts at 6 p.m. and the four-fight FOX main card kicks off 8 p.m.
It's probably not all that fair to judge Evans based off of the loss to Bader. He had ring rust and that's entirely understandable. Win or lose here, I am expecting a better version than what he turned in in his last outing. Aside from the Chael Sonnen fight, however, he hasn't necessarily looked all that great for a while. Whether it's the steady decline due to age or factors outside of the cage, we don't know. Truth be told, for all of Teixeira's prowess, he's no spring chicken either. That said, his takedown defense is pretty excellent (albeit a little porous against the best of the division). Phil Davis was able to get around it and Davis lost to Evans, in large part because of Evans' wrestling advantage. But I'm hesitant to play MMA Math here, to say nothing of how long ago that Evans win over Davis feels like (over four years). Evans has everything it takes to at least make it competitive, and no one can rule out a victory for him. That would not be a shocking upset by any stretch, but forced to choose an outcome here, Teixeira seems like the more sensible choice. I suppose we'll see.
This is great matchmaking. Namajunas lost to Torres in what was only her third fight, a bout that took place nearly three years ago. A lot has changed since then. For me, Namajunas has developed much more as a fighter. She was always gifted, but in the first Torres fight was raw and unrefined. That's not the case anymore. She's still developing, of course, but is leaps and bounds better everywhere. Torres is still the better athlete and likely still carries a takedown advantage, but that shouldn't be enough against Namajunas anymore. They'll be some tough moments for her, but I'm looking for Namajunas to shine.
Horcher is by no means a bad opponent and we are talking about a Nurmagomedov coming off of a two-year injury layoff. That said, Nurmagomedov might be the best lightweight in the sport and is certainly the superior grappler here. As long as he isn't too rusty, this is his fight to lose.
This is a very tough call. Swanson is widely considered to be the better fighter - and for good reason - but styles make fights. Dias does not get into firefights very often, offers consistent takedown pressure and doesn't wilt easily. Swanson, by contrast, is more go-for-broke. He leaves himself open at the end of big strikes, something Dias can take advantage of. If the Brazilian wins, no one can be surprised. My hunch, though, is that Dias is more predictable as an opponent. Swanson must know takedown defense is critical to this contest. Dias isn't a bad striker, but he's limited. If the fight stays standing, his path to victory is narrow. Frankie Edgar relatively recently had the ability to get Swanson to the floor, but I wonder if that's because of the skill and takedown chaining he put together. In any case, it's a big test for Swanson if he wants to stay relevant at featherweight.
From the preliminary card:
Beneil Dariush def. Michael Chiesa
Raquel Pennington def. Bethe Correia
Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Court McGee
John Dodson def. Manvel Gamburyan
Michael Graves def. Randy Brown
Oluwale Bamgbose def. Cezar Ferreira
Omari Akhmedov def. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos