With five years in the mixed martial arts (MMA) game and 16 professional fights (7-2 UFC) under his belt, you can barely call Ryan Bader a newbie.
Coming into the sport, Bader had a very extensive and decorated wrestling background at Arizona State University (ASU) and his credentials pretty much speak for themselves: Three-time PAC-10 Champion and two-time All American.
After earning a spot on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8, "Darth" blitzed through the competition and went on to win the "six-figure" contract and earn a place amongst the best light heavyweights in the world, which was arguably the toughest division at the time, by defeating Vinny Magalhaes in the Finale.
Fast forward eight fights later, which includes tough battles against the likes of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Tito Ortiz and most recently Quinton Jackson, and Bader now considers himself much more than a wrestler, but an all-around MMA fighter.
Now, Bader finds himself challenging another former champion in Lyoto Machida as he co-headlines UFC on Fox 4 this Saturday (Aug. 4, 2012) from the Staples center in Los Angeles, Calif., and he may also find himself vying or the 205-pound champion soon enough, should he impress his bosses over at ZUFFA.
Speaking at today's (Aug. 2, 2012) UFC on Fox 4 press conference, Bader talked about his progression as a fighter and says that his improvements over his last few fights will surprise many spectators, as well as "The Dragon."
"Were both mixed martial artists. He is not just a karate practitioner and I am not just a wrestler. For me, I am young in this sport. I came out of wrestling and started from nothing just a wrestling background. I feel have the ability to surprise some people because I can grow substantially every single training camp and every single fight. My goal so to come out, have more tools, look better and just be a more well-rounded MMA fighter every single fight I come out. So, for me, I think that surprises a lot of people and a lot of opponents because they are watching tape on a guy that is not even that guy anymore, so , I do believe I can surprise some people."
In 2011, Bader was on the cusp of receiving a shot at the 205-pound title, unfortunately for him he ran into Jon Jones at UFC 126, who currently rules all in the light heavyweight division, and was forced to tap out to a guillotine late in round two.
The former Sun Devil may have a chance at redemption against "Bones" soon enough, but first he has to get past the elusive Brazilian, who has his eyes on getting the title wrapped back around his waist, too.
What say you: Have Bader's improvements in his last couple of outings shown you that he is capable of competing for UFC gold? Does he have what it takes to defeat the elusive style of Machida?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.