In an effort to provide greater insights into the upcoming championship fights taking place at UFC 275, E. Spencer Kyte sat down with three of the sharpest coaches in the sport – Eric Nicksick of Xtreme Couture, Tyson Chartier of the New England Cartel, and Sayif Saud of Fortis MMA – to get their thoughts on the matchups, what could determine the outcome of each contest, and simply talk about the elite combatants poised to step into the octagon in Singapore.
Established vs. Unknown
The overwhelming theme in trying to forecast how Saturday's main event might play out was that Prochazka is still a gigantic question mark at this point in his UFC career.
The 29-year-old from the Czech Republic may have 32 fights under his belt professionally, but only two of those have come inside the UFC octagon, and while he earned second-round stoppage victories in each instance, the coaches all looked at this weekend's light heavyweight championship clash as a meeting between a battle-tested, fully established Teixeira and a challenger we're all still trying to get a better read on.
Saud: "(Teixeira) lost a championship fight, got dominated, but here he is back again. Guys like that are really dangerous because they've already been through the nightmare scenarios – they've already been knocked down and have persevered and continued to pursue excellence, and achieved it.
"I think that's a really big point and we just don't know that yet with Prochazka. We're not sure what he does. He beat Dom Reyes and Volkan Oezdemir, and those guys have not had a great run as of late. Besides that, there are a lot of guys that he hasn't faced. We don't really know about him."
Chartier: "This fight should be the test (Prochazka) needs to show where he’s really at because we don't know. Maybe he's a great five-round fighter and then you're like, 'Holy sh-t; that guy is the future!' We don't know."
Saud: "We know that Glover can face a dangerous striker, get hit, get hurt, and come back; we've seen it multiple times, over and over and over. We have never even seen Jiri really hurt or in trouble or on his back for a long period of time. So when you look at it that way, just by logical deduction, you've got to go with Glover because Jiri is unproven.
"Now, does he absolutely have the ability and the style and the length to knock Glover the hell out? He absolutely does, but he doesn't look infallible."
Potential paths to victory
One of the key roles for a coach in any training camp is studying the opposition and devising a plan of attack for their charge; figuring out the best way for them to deploy their skills, avoid as much trouble as possible, and end the night by getting their hand raised in the center of the octagon.
In advance of this fight, each of these all-star coaches took a seat in the corners of each of the combatants slated to battle for the light heavyweight title this weekend, and laid out the most likely path to victory for each man.
Nicksick: "To me it's a classic 'grappler vs. striker' matchup. Glover can strike and he has heavy hands, but where the discrepancies lie is between the grappling and the striking for each fighter. For me, I think Glover's obvious path to victory is getting this fight to the ground, and then Jiri, I think he's so creative in the things that he does that I think remaining creative is going to be his best attribute; catching Glover at an unexpected time.
"He's really good at that, and it's hard to train for that because you don't have people that can emulate that because he's so creative."
Chartier: "I think if you're in Jiri's corner, you're thinking, 'We've got to try to get this over fast' because he’s gotten late-round knockouts in the past, but not against guys like Glover. Glover hits hard, he's well-rounded, and he's been in there with very high-level guys. There's not very much you're going to show to him that he hasn't seen before.
"You've got to think that as the fight goes on, advantage Glover because his gameplan is to come forward, be disciplined, not waste a lot of energy. For Jiri, you're going to get less explosive as the fight goes on. That doesn’t mean you can't knock people out in the fifth, but you're not going to be as explosive and dynamic as you are in the first.
Saud: "I think we know Jiri wants to strike. I don't think it's a mystery that Jiri is an unorthodox guy that throws crazy, has got kind of a crazy pace, and that can be a problem for Glover. Even in the Karl Roberson fight, he was getting hit and hurt, and Glover gets hit a lot and has to come from behind, so I think Jiri's best chance to victory is for him to be able to jump out early on Glover.
"Vice versa, Glover's best path to victory is slowing the fight down, controlling the fight and grappling exchanges; wearing this guy down and seeing how does he look in the later rounds? How does he look when he's on his back for a sustained period of time? How does he look when he is against the fence for a long time and how does he defend submissions at that level?"
Nicksick: "We've seen Glover take some pretty big shots and weather the storm, find a way to get a takedown or get to his top-side position, so I think if you went in there and kind of banged on him a little bit, made him think, 'We're here to strike,' that may be your opportunity, but personally, I think Glover's best path to victory is to press this fight to the cage, take the steam out of Jiri's arms – make him pummel, make him wrestle, make him get up and do all those little things.
"It's a five-round fight, so you have plenty of time to work, especially if you're the grappler. How do you take the sting out of the guy that can strike hard and strike well? Make him pummel, make him grapple."
Chartier: "If you're Jiri's team, it's all about managing distance. You've got to keep him outside. It's a pay-per-view, so it's a bigger cage, you've got a little more space, so keep him outside at our range so we can land the big stuff, but don't let him close distance. It's all about managing distance and trying to land shots.
"Just keep touching him and don't look for the knockout because I feel like when you look for a big knockout, that's when he'll get taken down easy. But if he can look for just getting touches, not wasting energy, and taking what comes from it, maybe Glover breaks down and gets a little desperate, and that's where your opening could be.
"On Glover's side, I'd say, 'Feint often, try to pull those big wild things out of Jiri and then capitalize when he goes too big and he's out of position; that's your entry.' If you come out, hands up high, ready for all the BS that comes with these exciting fighters, be ready for the spinning stuff, the flying stuff, but fake – try to pull that out."
Saud: "This really comes down to the speed and execution of these two athletes on fight night because it's so different what they're trying to do to each other. It's going to come down to who can implement their will.
"It's going to come down to execution and we're going to know fairly quickly. If (Prochazka) gets put on his back and he can't f-cking move, well, guess what?"
With the consensus being "Prochazka early, Teixeira later" and the dynamic clearly established as "grappler vs. striker," what are the little pieces, the subtle nuances that could swing this fight in either direction?
Chartier: "If you look at Jiri, he's gotten hurt in the fights he's won, too. Against Reyes, he got hurt a little bit and it was chaotic; you thought for a minute that he was going to lose. I don't think you can do that against someone like Glover. You make one mistake against him and you're in a steel trap at that point.
"I think with big moves and big risks comes more downside. You can get that crazy spinning elbow knockout, but more often than not, that spinning elbow is going to turn into you getting your back taken and getting dragged to the ground against a guy like Glover."
Saud: "The thing about Glover is that his hands show up sometimes, and he can box; he's hurt people on the feet and Jiri keeps his chin straight up in the air. He does some things that are defensively not what you want to see, and he does those things and gets away with them because he's long, he switches stances, he comes from all different angles – he's created a good style and he can set traps with it as well.
"He can use it to his advantage, but Glover and his team are going to study that, and I think Glover setting some traps of his own is definitely a possibility, so we're just going to have to see. If Glover sets a trap in the very beginning, Jiri could walk right into that, too; you never know."
Nicksick: "I think that one of the things Jiri does so well is that in places where you're not accustomed to getting punched or kicked or kneed, he's the guy that does that. Off an exit, off a break, or any of those off-beat positions, you've got to make sure that your guard is up and you're ready to get hit in areas that you're not accustomed to.
"In sparring, we all have this unwritten rule, especially in the gym, where we break the clinch and we're not going to punch each other here; we're going to give each other the chance to fix your shin pad or whatever.
"But when you're training for a guy like Jiri, you've got to have somebody – Jay Hieron calls them 'boogers' because they're just all awkward and you don't expect where their sh-t is coming from. It's very difficult, but one of the things I think (Glover) is going to have to do is mind his Ps and Qs and his fundamentals defensively."
Eric Nicksick is the head coach at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, where he works with talented UFC fighters like Casey O’Neill, Brad Tavares, Miesha Tate, bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling, and heavyweight titleholder Francis Ngannou.
Tyson Chartier runs the show for the New England Cartel, which includes top-10 bantamweight Rob Font, and top-5 featherweight Calvin Kattar, who returns to action next weekend in a main event assignment opposite Josh Emmett in Austin, Texas.
"The General" Sayif Saud runs the show at Fortis MMA in Dallas, which has become a hotbed of home-grown UFC talent during the Dana White's Contender Series era. The list of graduates includes ranked competitors Geoff Neal and Ryan Spann, Kennedy Nzechukwu and Miles Johns.
This story first published at UFC.com.