Photo by Esther Lin for SBNation
Over the first three seasons of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), the light heavyweight division was featured twice. The first season was famously won by Forrest Griffin while season three -- coached by Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz -- saw Michael Bisping emerge as the 205-pound champ.
Then for over two years and four seasons, nothing. Oh, there was plenty TUF action to be had but everyone was 185 pounds or lighter.
It wasn't until the eighth season the light heavyweight division returned and gave the Ultimate Fighting Championship the likes of Tom Lawlor, Krzysztof Soszynski and the man who would end up winning the entire tournament, Ryan Bader.
After winning TUF, Bader went on a four-fight winning streak which culminated in a knockout over Keith Jardine and a unanimous decision over PRIDE Fighting Championships veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. These two fantastic wins put him within arm's reach of a title shot.
But then "Darth" stepped inside the cage with Jon Jones.
Like everyone the now-light heavyweight champion has faced in his career, Bader was demolished handily. Following his lose to "Bones," he got submitted by Ortiz, giving "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" his first win since 2006.
It might have been easy to write Bader off at that point but the Arizona State University wrestler has roared back with two straight wins including his most recent, a one-sided decision over Quinton Jackson at UFC 144.
Next weekend (August 4) at UFC on Fox 4, he tries to make it three in a row against another former champion in Lyoto Machida. Before he steps inside the Octagon with "The Dragon," let's take a look at how Bader won TUF.
Are you ready?
The TUF hopefuls touch gloves in the center of the Octagon and Bader immediately pressures Vinny Magalhães against the chain-link fence. The American throws a leg kick his opponent's way and Magalhães responds with one to the body before circling away.
An inside leg kick from Bader connects and he dodges out of the way as Magalhães throws one of his own. A hook from "Darth" lands as does the counter from the Brazilian. The two exchange punches but nothing of consequence lands and Magalhães backs Bader up by doubling up on his jab.
Early into the fight, it's as even as it can get.
Another leg kick from Bader and nearly a minute into the bout, we haven't seen a sniff of his vaunted wrestling credentials. Perhaps the Brazilian's submission acumen has given the American reservations about taking the fight to the mat.
After Magalhães throws another body kick, Bader opens up with his hands some more, landing a couple of counter punches. Shortly thereafter, he lands a nice two-punch combination which snaps his opponent's head back. It's becoming apparent Bader likely won't need his wrestling in this bout.
A head kick from the Brazilian misses and Bader rushes in with a knee to the body which jars Magalhães' frame against the cage. Bader slips on a body kick but the submission wizard fails to make anything out of the opportunity.
Bader is constantly pressuring his opponent, throwing all manner of strikes his way. Bader will fake the jab only to come across with a hook and then will change levels to attack the body. All the while, Magalhães finds himself back against the cage.
Then, suddenly, an anvil of an overhand crashes behind Magalhães' ear and the Brazilian drops to the mat. He instinctively flips over onto his back but is met with a vicious hammerfist. Again instinctively, he turns back over onto his stomach to avoid the onslaught but Bader is unrelenting in his attack.
Magalhães curls up on the mat and the referee is forced to save him.
The heavy-handed wrestler has become the latest TUF champion.
Can he experience similar success in Los Angeles against Machida?