This Saturday night (July 2, 2011), new school will meet old school on the UFC 132 main card as The Ultimate Fighter season eight winner Ryan Bader takes on former five time defending UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.
Ryan Bader was on the fast track to a title shot before the unstoppable force that is Jon Jones put him down at UFC 126. He's trying to use the former champion, Ortiz, as a stepping stone to get back on the track.
Tito Ortiz is a desperate man. Once the most feared fighter on the planet, he hasn't won in nearly five years. Injuries, petty arguments and disputes have taken their toll on the former UFC champ, and he has his back against the wall on Saturday night when he's fighting for his UFC life.
Will Bader take it to the former champ and send Ortiz packing? Can Ortiz rise to the occasion when the stakes are at their absolute highest? Can the old dog learn some new tricks?
Let's find out:
Record: 12-1 overall, 5-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 126)
How he got here: Ryan Bader started out as an All-American wrestler at Arizona State University. He got his big break on season eight of The Ultimate Fighter where he would dominate with his superior wrestling, ground and pound and top control.
Bader would cruise through the UFC, working his way up the ladder with big wins over Eric Schafer and an impressive knockout victory over Keith Jardine.
The victory over Jardine would earn him a shot against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 119 and "Darth" used his superior wrestling to squeak by with a decision victory. It was the largest win of his career and the UFC felt it was time to match two of it's top 205-pound prospects against each other.
Bader fought Jon Jones at UFC 126 but was dominated in every category and even forced to pull guard at points. Jones eventually secured a fight-ending modified guillotine choke to earn the win and a title shot.
Now, Bader is trying to work his way back up the ladder and former UFC champion Tito Ortiz is in his way.
How he gets it done: Bader is very strong in two areas, wrestling and power. Tito Ortiz is many things, but he's not that great off his back (although he did throw up a decent triangle on Lyoto Machida).
What Bader will likely try to do is shoot early and often and put the former champ on the canvas. Matt Hamill proved it could be done at UFC 121 and Bader is younger, stronger, and more explosive than Hamill so he should be able to succeed if he really commits to a takedown as well.
Once on the ground, Bader just needs to utilize his heavy hands and try to hurt Ortiz.
If he chooses to keep the fight standing, that's not a horrible decision either because Ortiz has always been limited with his striking. Bader doesn't have great technique in his stand-up but he hits very, very hard. If he can land a massive power strike standing, it could be lights out for Tito.
Record: 15-8-1 overall, 14-8-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Matt Hamill (UFC 121), Lyoto Machida (UFC 84), Chuck Liddell 2x (UFC 66, UFC 47)
How he got here: Tito Ortiz has spent nearly his entire MMA career fighting for the UFC, all but one fight. After working his way up to and losing a title shot against Frank Shamrock at UFC 22, he would get another shot at the vacated title after Shamrock retired at UFC 25 where he used his superior wrestling to defeat Wanderlei Silva.
With the win, Ortiz would go on to defend his title five consecutive times before Randy Couture spanked it away from him at UFC 44. After losing to Chuck Liddell in a number one contenders match, he would proceed to go on a five fight win streak and earn one last shot at the belt. Chuck Liddell would defeat Tito again via third round TKO and this would begin Tito's dramatic fall from the top.
After the loss to Liddell, Ortiz has suffered multiple injuries, gotten in trouble with the UFC brass, renegotiated a deal and has gone 0-3-1 in the last four years. Many were surprised he was even given another shot after losing to former Ultimate Fighter protege Matt Hamill at UFC 121 but Ortiz is on his last legs against Ryan Bader.
If he loses to Bader at UFC 132, he's likely all but done with the promotion.
How he gets it done: Ortiz's wrestling is what got him to the top, but his shot is no longer nearly as quick or powerful as it used to be. Years of injuries, surgeries and overall wear and tear have taken their toll on the former undisputed champion of the world.
What Tito should be doing is trying to get in Bader's head with his excellent trash talk, but he's not doing it. Bader is stronger in just about every area than Tito and the ex-champ needs to try to get him to make a mistake or lower his defenses.
Tito's biggest advantage is experience. He's been in the game since 1997, well before Bader was even wrestling in college. He'll need to utilize all of his tricks to pull this one out.
The smartest thing for Tito to work on would be his clinch game and his sweeps and submissions off of his back. It's likely he'll be taken down in this fight so he needs to be prepared for it. He showed he's capable of pulling off a decent triangle against Lyoto Machida and he'll likely need something like that to help him earn a win.
Also, Bader is a fighter who's pace has dramatically slowed late in fights. If Tito's been working on his conditioning, he might be able to outwork the younger fighter in the later rounds.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this fight is Bader's response to a loss. Some men just aren't the same after the first loss of their career. Will Bader be afraid to take the same risks that he used to? Will his shots have the same force behind them? Will he commit to his punches the same? His team at Power MMA in Arizona has not performed well lately and that may be infectious.
Bottom Line: This bout has potential to be exciting whether it's on the ground or on the feet. If it's kept standing, most of the fireworks will likely come from Bader as his punching has significantly more power behind it. On the ground, Bader will try to earn top control and beat up Tito while Tito tries to relentlessly sweep and throw up submissions off of his back. If Tito can somehow reverse Bader or put him on the ground, this fight will get very interesting, very quickly. Tito is not only fighting for his job, he's fighting for his career. That's a lot of motivation.
Who will come out on top at UFC 132? Let us know in the comments section below!