Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The UFC finishes off a stretch of three fight cards in a week in dramatic fashion tonight in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
UFC Fight Night 28 isn’t one of those free-television events where fans can ignore all but the headlining bout and still feel up to date with the landscape of the promotion’s title pictures.
Three fighters are inching towards championship bouts in different weight classes at UFC Fight Night 28, which airs at 4 on Fox Sports 1. There’s light heavyweight Glover Teixeira, who’s gaining steam as a potential top contender but must get past durable wrestler Ryan Bader first.
Teixeira’s fellow countryman, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, is making a move in the weight class below. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion meets tough-out Yushin Okami in the co-main event.
Finally, flyweight Joseph Benavidez encounters Jussier Formiga in his path back to a championship match.
Read below for a look at the three fighters including whether they deserve a title shot, when it could happen and their chances of someday wearing a UFC belt.
Credentials: Having won four fights in a row and ranking second in the UFC’s official media poll, Teixiera likely deserves the opportunity with a victory against Bader. A detractor would point out the Brazilian has no wins over top-10 opponents — an undeniable drawback — but the pool of other contenders is shallow at best.
Timetable: There’s no reason Teixiera couldn’t challenge the winner of the UFC 164 main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson sometime in the first quarter of next year. Jones has already expressed interest in fighting him and likes to stay busy without long waits in between fights.
Likelihood: Seeing Teixiera holding the belt any time in the near future seems far-fetched. As impressive as his 19-fight win streak is, Teixiera has never defeated an elite-level wrestler. Even if he gets by Bader, he’ll be a major underdog against Jones, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Credentials: As a former Strikeforce champion and a fighter only beaten twice over the last decade, “Jacare” can’t be too far back in the queue. Everyone is aware of his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu game, but his striking has also come along to get closer to championship level.
Timetable: Souza probably needs to not only beat Okami, but also claim another victory or two. He’s not leaping over Vitor Belfort for the right to meet the winner of the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. Souza’s shot at UFC gold won’t come until late 2014 at the absolute earliest.
Likelihood: If Silva beats Weidman to win his title back, there’s a major roadblock. Souza and Silva are teammates and would refuse to fight each other. Against Weidman, Souza would be the underdog but not a major one. His championship prospects are probably brighter than Teixeira’s.
Credentials: It was less than a year ago that Benavidez fell to Demetrious Johnson in the inaugural UFC flyweight championship bout. But he’s still clearly the second-best 125-pound fighter in the world, a fact that will be further illustrated if he gets by Formiga tonight.
Timetable: Benavidez’s patience could end up costing him, as he’s vowed that he won’t call out Johnson if he beats Formiga. Meanwhile, Johnson has entertained the idea of moving back up to bantamweight for a champion vs. champion fight. Best-case scenario for Benavidez, a rematch happens before the end of the year. Worst-case, however, and he might have to take another fight in the interim.
Likelihood: Out of the three fighters near a title shot at UFC Fight Night 28, Benavidez has the best chance to convert on the opportunity. Oddsmakers favored him against Johnson the first time around, and the rematch would be close to a pick’em after the first ended with a split-decision verdict.