Jacksonville: Glover Teixeira dominated Anthony Smith and finally stopped him with punches early in the fifth round Wednesday night, earning an upset victory to cap the UFC’s second show since returning to action amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Heavyweight veteran Ben Rothwell grabbed an entertaining split-decision victory over Ovince Saint Preux, and Drew Dober stopped fellow lightweight contender Alexander Hernandez with a second-round barrage of punches during the second of three UFC cards over eight days at a fan-free VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
The promotion returned to action last Saturday with UFC 249 after an eight-week hiatus. The UFC established extensive protocols for health and safety in its return, and veteran fighter Jacare Souza was pulled off last weekend’s show after he tested positive for COVID-19 along with two cornermen.
The second show went off without a positive COVID-19 test, and more masks were visible on UFC personnel inside and outside the cage Wednesday. Middleweight Karl Roberson’s bout with Marvin Vettori was scrapped when Roberson was hospitalised overnight after he fell ill, but the illness was related to his weight cut and not coronavirus, according to the UFC.
The UFC’s third show in Jacksonville is Saturday night on ESPN Plus, headlined by veteran heavyweights Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris.
The UFC hopes to begin holding fight cards back home in Las Vegas later this month, but is waiting for clearance from the Nevada Athletic Commission.
The 40-year-old Teixeira (31-7) was shockingly dominant in his fourth consecutive victory. He took control with strikes in the second round, and almost finished Smith several times while dominating the ensuing two rounds.
Teixeira finally ended it 1:04 into the final round, earning his first stoppage by punches since 2017.
“It’s not how hard you hit,” Teixeira said. “It’s how hard you get hit and keep coming forward. The guy hits like a truck, but I moved my head a lot. I trained so hard.”
Smith (33-15) was in the cage for the first time since he had to fight an intruder in his family home in Nebraska last month. He lost a close fight to Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title last year, and Teixeira was superior after the opening minutes.
Smith appeared to be battered beyond repair by the end of the third round, but his corner declined to stop the fight after the third or fourth rounds. His corner didn’t stop the fight even when Smith told them: “My teeth are falling out.”
The 38-year-old Rothwell (38-12) punctuated his 50th professional bout with a back-and-forth meeting with Saint Preux (24-14), a former light heavyweight title contender who moved up to heavyweight after losing three of his past five fights. Rothwell improved to 2-2 since returning from a two-year doping suspension.
Dober (23-9) is a training teammate of Justin Gaethje, who won the UFC interim lightweight title with an electrifying stoppage of Tony Ferguson in UFC 249.
Dober lived up to Gaethje’s standard with an exciting performance capped by a series of dynamic strikes to force a stoppage of Hernandez (11-3).
“Coming from a muay thai background, I had trouble fighting guys who constantly moved,” Dober said. “I wasn’t trying to hit hard. I was just trying to hit often. The more times you touch a guy on his chin, the more likely he’s going to fall over.”
Andrei Arlovski, the UFC’s 41-year-old career leader in heavyweight victories, won a decision over Philipe Lins for his second victory in seven fights.
Earlier, Ricky Simon picked up the biggest win of his UFC career with a split-decision victory over veteran Ray Borg. The flyweights punctuated their lively fight with plenty of good-natured trash talk, which was audible on the television broadcast from the otherwise quiet arena.