Don't put a nail in the coffin of Glover Teixeira's title aspirations just yet.
The former 205-pound title challenger is on the cusp of making one final run at UFC glory, following an extremely important win against Anthony Smith at UFC Fight Night on Wednesday in Jacksonville, Florida. Teixeira was the betting underdog going into the bout, but it did not play out that way, as Smith looked mentally beaten from the third round on. Teixeira ultimately finished him in the fifth.
Teixeira's performance even prompted a comment from champion Jon Jones, who defeated Teixeira back in 2014, on social media: "Man, Uncle Glover ain't playing tonight."
So, what's next for Teixeira, following his fourth consecutive victory? Here's ESPN's take on Teixeira's future, as well as some of the other big names from UFC Fight Night.
Glover Teixeira (defeated Anthony Smith by fifth-round TKO)
Who should be next: Jan Blachowicz
Teixeira has been a special light heavyweight over the course of his entire career, so let's not get too carried away as far as saying this run came out of nowhere. I mean, we were aware he had this in him. But at the same time ... this run has come out of nowhere.
Teixeira, 40, is less than two years removed from a 2-3 skid, in which he was finished twice and lost every round in the loss he managed to go the distance. This is a massive win, his fourth in a row, and I like the idea of him being in a No. 1 contender bout off this performance.
Blachowicz is currently the man waiting in the wings, but I believe Jon Jones' next title defense should be a rematch against Dominick Reyes. A veteran Teixeira against the surging Blachowicz is the fight to make, with a title shot on the line.
Dark horse: Thiago Santos
If Teixeira were to fight Blachowicz next, the man who would be left out in that situation is Santos. He fought Jones to a very close split decision loss in July 2019, and he did so on a badly injured knee that has kept him sidelined ever since. It wouldn't be ideal to see Teixeira jump him in line, but I think you have to reward Teixeira for such a massive win on Wednesday.
Depending on how the division shakes out, though, Teixeira vs. Santos would also make a ton of sense. And it's another one that could come with a title shot on the line.
Anthony Smith (lost to Glover Teixeira by fifth-round TKO)
Who should be next: Johnny Walker
This was a very tough loss for Smith, all the way around. Tough to lose in the main event, when you're angling for a second crack at a UFC championship. Tough to lose to a 40-year-old, even a 40-year-old who is still very dangerous in Teixeira.
Smith took a lot of damage in this one, and he is probably in need of some time off to recover. Smith might still have plenty in the tank, even though at 31 he has had nearly 50 professional fights, but he could probably benefit from a break. When he comes back, a matchup against Walker, a man who seemed as if he was flying to the title but has now lost two in a row, would be very intriguing.
Dark horse: Aleksandar Rakic
Like Walker, the 28-year-old Rakic has been viewed as "new blood" at 205 pounds, but he stumbled his last time out in the form of a split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir. Rakic still has an incredibly high ceiling. Smith will likely remain highly ranked after this defeat, but he does have losses in two of his past three contests, and this most recent one was in devastating fashion. This matchup would make sense from a rankings standpoint, and it's one I'd want to see.
Drew Dober (defeated Alexander Hernandez by second-round TKO)
Drew Dober drops Alexander Hernandez in Round 2
Drew Dober knocks down Alexander Hernandez with a powerful left hand in Round 2.
Who should be next: Diego Ferreira
I had a hard time with this one. Every way I look at it, Ferreira is the right opponent for Dober to fight next. Ferreira is on a six-fight win streak. He is ranked inside the Top 10, according to the UFC. And it's a very intriguing stylistic matchup. The reason I'm having a hard time is that Dober was scheduled to fight Ferreira originally, but the opponent changed due to the UFC reshuffling events due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, I'm basically advocating for Dober to get the exact same fight he was supposed to get, despite a terrific performance on Wednesday. But sometimes, that's just the way it works.
Both Dober and Ferreira are on great runs, but they've been kind of quiet, great runs. And it still makes sense for them to put their winning streaks on the line against each other.
Dark horse: Anthony Pettis
What were Dober's postfight comments again? He wants to fight the best strikers in the division, because he wants to stand and slug it out in fan-friendly contests (just like his training partner, Justin Gaethje). Pettis says he desires to go back to 155 pounds after a stop at welterweight, and Dober has certainly earned a big-name opponent. Sign me up.
Ricky Simon (defeated Ray Borg by split decision)
Who should be next: Sean O'Malley
Earlier in the night, another bantamweight by the name of Brian Kelleher called O'Malley out, following a knockout win. And I'm not gonna lie, it was a good callout. But if anyone from Wednesday is fighting O'Malley next, I think it's Simon. The UFC has been high on this Dana White's Contender Series prospect, who began his UFC career 3-0. Simon got knocked off track by Urijah Faber in his first main event, then he suffered a decision loss to the always-underrated Rob Font. At 27, Simon is back in the win column with this victory over Borg, and all the potential is still there.
Simon is a powerful wrestler, and O'Malley has claimed his jiu-jitsu is much improved. If nothing else, Simon would pressure O'Malley in a fight -- and Simon competes with a little swag. He flexed his arms in the middle of Wednesday's bout, when he heard the broadcast team talking about his size. This would be a fun fight, and it would tell us a lot about both youngsters.
Dark horse: Kang Kyung-Ho
Kyung-Ho has won six of his past seven contests, so he might be looking for a higher-ranked opponent. But like Simon, Kyung-Ho is well-built for the division, and I'd like to see if he can defend Simon's takedown. Yes, he might deserve an opponent higher in the rankings, but Simon has some name recognition, and this fight could be the one to propel Kyung-Ho into a top-10 fight, if he wants it.