Two former title challengers will headline this weekend's UFC on FOX card (8 P.M. EST, FOX), as light heavyweights Glover Teixeira and Rashad Evans collide in the main event, live from the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay on April 16.
Teixeira (24-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC), a heavy-handed boxer with loads of punching power, has won two straight bouts. And if his last two performances are anything to go by, Teixeira has returned to elite form after dropping a pair of decisions in 2014.
Evans (19-4-1 MMA, 14-4-1 UFC), who is a former light heavyweight champion, predominantly relies on his wrestling pedigree. A winner on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, Evans earned his first UFC title shot in 2008, after knocking out Chuck Liddell, Teixeira's mentor. But a recent string of injuries kept Evans out of the Octagon for the better of two years, before he made his return in October 2015 in a losing effort to Ryan Bader.
Recently promoted to a five-round fight, this bout is likely to start slow, as both Teixeira and Evans will be hesitant to avoid mistakes. And while they'll spend the better part of the first round establishing range, Teixeira will eventually start to pressure forward to close distance.
Evans will back peddle, employing counter punches and kicks to keep Teixeira at bay. But with the Brazilian stalking forward, the two will end up in the clinch, near the cage, where Evans will be tempted to bring the bout to the ground, but will avoid the mat out of respect for Teixeira's jiu jitsu game.
The fighters will then trade close-range strikes and underhooks against the fence. And, eventually, Teixeira will find an opening to stop the fight via technical knockout.
Co-main event: Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres
Four months after an impressive main-event performance against Paige VanZant, former strawweight title challenger Rose Namajunas is back in action, looking to avenge a 2013 loss to Tecia Torres.
Namajunas (4-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC), the UFC's number-three ranked 115-pound fighter, has looked exceptional in her last two UFC appearances. Her technical mastery of both the striking and grappling games has positioned Namajunas as one of the most intriguing figures at strawweight. She not only controls the Octagon, but Namajunas has a knack for finishing fights.
Conversely, Torres (7-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC), a karate-style fighter who trains at American Top Team has never finished an opponent, despite her unblemished record.
Torres does possess a refined kicking game, but it's a lack of finishing power and instinct that has kept her out of the title picture.
Both women will come out patiently and try to establish range. And while Torres will keep Namajunas at bay for the first frame, Namajunas will eventually find her opening to land some damaging shots.
But don't expect a finish here. Rose Namajunas takes the bout via decision.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Darrell Horcher
It's been two years since Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) last fought. The UFC's number-two-ranked lightweight has battled a series of knee and rib injuries since he thoroughly dominated current champion Rafael Dos Anjos in 2014. His comeback fight, which was originally scheduled as a main event against top contender Tony Ferguson, will now take place against late-replacement Darrell Horcher (12-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), a regional champion who will make his Octagon debut.
For Nurmagomedov, the key has always been his wrestling. The Russian national is widely considered one of the best grapplers and takedown artists in the mixed martial arts game. His strength, power, and top control are unparalleled in his division.
Horcher, who has won five straight bouts, stepped up on short notice after Ferguson was declared medically unable to compete. The former Cage Fury Fighting Championship titleholder is a solid prospect, but not quite at the same level as Nurmagomedov. And the difference will show in Tampa.
Look for Nurmagomedov to come out slow and eventually set up his takedowns with strikes. And while Horcher will be able to return to his feet from time to time, Nurmagomedov will keep the bout on the ground, where he will eventually land the TKO, probably by ground and pound, in the second round.
Cub Swanson vs. Hacran Dias
A pair of top-ten featherweights kick off the main card, as veteran Cub Swanson takes on Brazilian Hacran Dias.
Swanson (21-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC), a well-rounded grappler and striker, returns to the Octagon after a yearlong layoff. The California native has taken his time to make a comeback after two straight losses, and upcoming opponent, Dias (23-3-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC), is a stiff test.
Dias, who trains out of famed gym Nova Uniao, has won two straight bouts. His combination of boxing, muay Thai, and grappling make Dias a legitimate threat to finish the fight any time.
As this is Swanson's comeback fight, look for him to start slow, allowing Dias to control much of the action early on. And while Swanson will eventually find his rhythm, it will be too late. Dias takes the decision.
Michael Chiesa vs. Beneil Dariush
Headlining the UFC on FOX under card (6 P.M. EST, FOX Sports 1) is a pair of ranked lightweights.
Michael Chiesa (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), a wrestler who won The Ultimate Fighter in 2012, returns to the Octagon on the heels of two straight wins, and for his stiffest challenge to date, he'll face seventh-ranked Beneil Dariush (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC), a Brazilian jiu jitsu wunderkind.
Dariush, who has won five-straight contests, is a formidable grappler with an improving striking game. But against Chiesa, Dariush will need to employ his BJJ submission game off of his back, as the wrestler is likely to bring the fight to the ground and control position.
A important bout for both fighters, this contest will be scrappy and action-packed, with both athletes controlling the pace at times.
And while Dariush has looked phenomenal during his UFC run, the bigger and stronger Chiesa will emerge victorious here. Chiesa takes the decision in a likely candidate for ""Fight of the Night" on account of his takedowns, top position, and submission attempts.