Ryan Bader works out for the media in attendance at the UFC 144 open-workouts in Japan. Photo of Bader via Esther Lin for SB Nation.
Once hailed as one of the most promising Light Heavyweight prospects in mixed martial arts (MMA), Ryan Bader seeks to get back to the top of the of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) 205-pound division when he takes on the always dangerous Quinton Jackson at UFC 144 this weekend (Feb, 25, 2012) at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Coming up the ranks at the same time as current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, the two were destined to meet in the Octagon to see who would catapult into title contention and who would take a step back and have to start from scratch. The pair went toe-to-toe at UFC 126 last year at on Feb. 5, 2011, in a bout that saw Jones have his way with "Darth," finishing him in the second round.
The loss -- his first-ever -- was not one of Bader's most inspiring performances. Jones went on to receive his much-deserved title shot. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Bader, on the other hand, was next matched up against Tito Ortiz, whose career, it appeared, would come to an end at any given time. Heading into the bout as the favorite, Bader once again tasted defeat as "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" blasted his chin with a well-placed left hand and then sunk in a fight-ending guillotine to give the dazed All American collegiate wrestler his second consecutive loss.
At a crossroads in his MMA career, Bader was given yet another opportunity to redeem himself inside the Octagon when he was matched up with Jason Brilz at UFC 139. Bader finally got back in the win column, defeating Brilz via first round knockout and earning a much-needed win and confidence boost.
Three months removed from his latest victory, Bader heads "Far East" to meet Japan's adopted son, "Rampage," in a fight that can either catapult him right back into the mix or send him tumbling all the way down to the bottom of the pecking order.
A recent guest on Pro MMA Radio, Bader talked about what it was like to lose two consecutive losses after starting his MMA career undefeated (12-0), and what he has done in preparations to upset "Rampage" in Japan.
Check it out:
"I'm a competitor, I come from a college wrestling background. And I mean, you lose, I didn't lose all that often, but I did lose in college, especially in freshman year and all that. I had a rough patch in my junior year and I had to work through that and get back to my senior year and make All American again. It's the same here in MMA, you go on a streak of wins, and I ended up having a loss to Jon Jones, who know has been running through people and all that, so after that loss, it took me a good week, where I thought nothing than about that loss, more so, because I did not fight to my potential. I felt flat out there, Jon Jones is that goo too, but I felt so flat and didn't lay it out on the line. You get over those, but then having two losses in a row, especially to one you're supposed to win, you just have to get back to the drawing board and make changes and that's what we did."
On losing to former UFC 205-pound champion Tito Ortiz, a fight he was favored to win going into:
"I don't make excuses, I went in there and he (Tito) hit me on the chin and I went down and I don't remember from then, I came to at the very end when I was getting choked and I was almost out, so it's just one of those things where you get hit, it's MMA, small glove and big men. If you get hit in the chin, it happens you know."
On Jackson's aggressive style and what he feels he has to do to get the job done at UFC 144:
"I hear a lot of people saying that Rampage will have the home field advantage and this and that, but I don't think that's true, we both gotta fly over there, we both have to deal with the jet lag, were both fighting in the morning. I don't really think it is like in the PRIDE days, where everyone knows him. If anything it puts more pressure on him to perform, to try and get back to his roots and perform like the PRIDE days and all that. In his last couple of fights, he comes out trying to box you and trying to knock you out, tying to walk you down, he's not really fast so, he slowly uses his head movement. He has got a great chin and he can take shots, so he knows that he can just walk through it to land his big shots. He wants to take one to give one you know? The keys to victory for us to mix it up, not let him get in his comfort zone, not just go out there and take him down all the time, we have to mix up our hands and kicks and take downs. I have so much confidence going through this camp, I feel comfortable, I know what I'm doing with my footwork and setup and my striking wrestling and I look forward to this fight make mine and my camps predictions come true. If you beat Rampage your right up there."
With Quinton looking to put on a show for his Japanese fans, Bader has a tall task at hand in trying to upset "Rampage" and the fans at Saitama Super Arena. Not lacking any confidence, the bout against Jackson could prove to be a career-changer, not just for Bader, but for Jackson, too.
Does "Darth" have what it takes to upset the heavy-hitter Jackson? Or will "Rampage" hand Bader his third loss in four bouts?