Written by Ty Reynolds @MMAtylander
1. GLOVER TEIXEIRA
Glover Teixeira was in desperate need of a performance like the one he experienced in Nashville, TN on Saturday night. Steamrolling over the currently 6th ranked and hometown favorite Ovince Saint Preux (18-7, 6-2 UFC) has the potential to serve as the perfect first step towards rebounding back into contention for the light heavyweight fighter after dropping consecutive decisions to former LHW champion Jon Jones and the now Bellator-bound wrestler, Phil Davis.
A third defeat in as many contests would have all but eliminated any chances of another championship opportunity for Teixeira and would have likely placed the veteran contender on the verge of relinquishing his spot in the Top 10, if not his spot in the promotion. Now, however, after squeezing the consciousness out of his opponent’s beaten frame in the 3rd round of their bout, those concerns can be set aside for the time being . With the victory, the 4th ranked Teixeira (23-4, 6-2 UFC) can once again, at least temporarily, feel secure in his place near the top of the division while enjoying his newly-improved prospects of earning a second shot to claim a UFC title.
In fact, with Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader set to compete in October (the men directly above and below Teixeira in the UFC’s official rankings), Alexander Gustafsson in line for a shot at UFC LHW Champion Daniel Cormier the same month, and recently repelled #1 contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson looking to recoup his standings by taking on Jimi Manuwa next month during UFC 191, the 35-year-old Brazilian finisher is arguably only one win away from facing whoever emerges from the main event of UFC 192 as champion. Defeating the winner of either Evans/Bader or Johnson/Manuwa in his next bout would all but force the UFC into naming Teixeira as the next man to challenge for the belt.
The possibility of such an outcome would have been nearly impossible to have foreseen after witnessing Teixeira come up short against Jon Jones only 16 months ago. At the conclusion of the event in Nashville, however, the odds of successfully performing the feat now seem to have morphed from a theoretical, yet highly unlikely contingency to truly and legitimately feasible.
2. AMANDA NUNES
Amanda Nunes (11-4, 4-1 UFC) fought her way to the most significant victory of her career by forcing Olympic medalist Sara McMann to submit in the 1st round of a battle between Top 10 contenders in the UFC’s women’s 135 lbs weight class. Like her countryman listed above, the end of the action came due to a rear naked choke. Also like Teixeira’s victory, the outcome of the fight placed its owner within reaching distance of championship glory.
Ronda Rousey, the current megastar Queen of WMMA, is already looking at facing Meisha Tate for a third time later this year, but should she regain the title, Rousey was going to be faced with a landscape which has been rendered virtually bare of worthy challengers. By forcing McMann (8-3, 2-3 UFC) to surrender, Nunes has effectively altered this reality in a manner that could prove to be monumentally beneficial to her career. It is likely, and maybe even probable, that Nunes will now rise to the #4 ranking, the position now temporarily occupied by her latest victim.
The Brazilian heroine may have to win another bout if she is too wary of waiting for her chance at the pinnacle, but considering the fact that Rousey has already defeated every woman currently ranked in the Top 5, it is clear that Nunes should be in prime position to succeed Tate as the next lady to test her ability against the stiffest test WMMA is capable of confrontering her with.
3. DEREK BRUNSON
While it hurt the heart to witness a man as positive and beloved as Smilin’ Sam Alvey (26-7, 3-2 UFC) has become during his brief career with the world’s premiere MMA organization get viciously and unmercifully pummeled, it is still impossible, or at least unreasonable, to view Derek Brunson’s (14-3, 5-1 UFC) victory as anything less than impressive and indicative of his overall ability.
Before finishing the mindbogglingly powerful Alvey via strikes in the 1st round, the former Strikeforce product provided an exciting display of aggression that saw him willingly place himself in direct danger of his opponent’s most effective weapons, heavy counter strikes. It may have been an audacious and rightfully questionable strategy to basically dare Alvey to KO him, especially when considering Brunson’s wrestling pedigree, but the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative’s gamble proved profitable as he forced Mario Yamasaki to halt the bout at 2:19 of the opening round.
The “W” marks the third consecutive victory for Brunson and pushes his recent record to five wins in six assignments , all of which have come in the UFC’s revitalized and densely packed middleweight division. Starching the unranked Smilin’ Sam with blistering punches won’t propel Brunson far above the #15 position he currently protects at 185 lbs, but it does set him up for a ranked opponent the next time he enters the cage in anticipation of combat. If he can find a way to once again emerge on top, Brunson will be afforded an opening to become a Top 10 combatant in what has recently developed into a marquee division for the UFC.