The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 winner, Ryan Bader, will collide with Light Heavyweight rising star, Glover Teixeira, at UFC Fight Night 28, which takes place this Wednesday (Sept. 4, 2013) at the Mineirinho Arena in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Bader was a well regarded prospect after his TUF run, in which he laid waste to everyone he fought. Five straight wins in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), including one of mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, confirmed his talent.
However, Bader faltered when matched with another prospect, a man named Jon Jones. In his next bout, Bader was quickly finished by an aging Tito Ortiz, which caused many to question his relevancy in the division.
Bader stormed back, violently knocking out Jason Brilz and finally beating an elite fighter, "Rampage" Quinton Jackson. Just as Bader racked up some momentum, Lyoto Machida sent him tumbling back down, defeating "Darth" with ease. A follow up win over Vladimir Matyushenko got Bader back on track, and now he looks to once again break into the Top 10 by defeating Glover Teixeira in hostile territory.
But, does he have the ability to do so?
Let's find out:
Bader has taken the route that many wrestlers turned mixed martial artists have, transitioning the explosion of their takedown into a big power punch. Bader has developed formidable power, finishing seven of his opponents via knockout.
While Bader's right hand is clearly the bulk of his stand up, he has showed some improvement in his left. Most notably, his jab looked much improved against "Rampage," as he was able to land many at a distance and back out before Jackson could return his trademark hooks.
It wasn't a very crisp punch, but it did help Bader stay conscious.
Bader also has a pretty powerful left hook. He threw a tighter hook against Jackson, but he also throws a long, looping hook and often uses the momentum to coil up for his right hand. In addition to finishing Keith Jardine with a left hook, Bader dropped Matyushenko nice left hook.
Bader is very aggressive with his right hand. He can throw a tight right cross but prefers to lunge in with a huge overhand. Bader covers a ton of distance with his overhand, Bader's overhand is clearly his favorite punches, as he constantly throws it.
Bader does a pretty good job setting up his strikes with feints. While skilled strikers are able to see through them, those who can't are likely to get finished. Lastly, Bader is hardly a kickboxing specialist, but he is pretty active with inside and outside leg kicks.
Defense is not Bader's forte. When he fights cautiously, like he did against Jackson, his defense isn't a detriment, but most of the time this is not the case. Bader lunges forward with shots, often with his hands down, which leaves his jaw wide open to counters. This is the flaw that allowed Machida to knock him out with such ease, he was a perfect opponent for "The Dragon."
Bader is a two-time All-American wrestler from Arizona State University (ASU), who has been honing his skills with fellow ASU wrestlers at Power MMA and Fitness. Bader's wrestling has carried him to many victories, as it's quite formidable when combined with his athleticism.
Bader has a very nice double leg takedown. His ability to blast through his opponent is impressive, as is his ability to cut an angle or transition to a different takedown in the middle of his attempt. Bader can shoot doubles in the center of the Octagon or grind against the fence with equal proficiency.
He doesn't use it as often as his shots, but Bader's clinch wrestling is quite solid. This is a position where his immense physical strength is a big advantage, as he's able to muscle fighters around. Bader slammed Jackson from the clinch more than once, simply overpowering "Rampage."
Once Bader has his opponent on the ground, he primarily stays in their guard and lands short punches. He rarely tries very hard to pass but will posture up high over his opponent. When he stands above his opponent, his right hand is once again quite dangerous, now aided by gravity.
Bader's takedown defense is excellent. Except for Jackson's big slam, where he caught a knee and dumped Bader on his head, the only person to successfully takedown Bader is Jon Jones. There's no shame in that, as Jones is the best wrestler at 205 pounds, and possibly in the UFC.
Bader isn't extremely aggressive with his submissions, but he will take every opportunity his opponent gives him to squeeze on his neck. In addition to a rear naked choke and arm triangle on the regional scene, Bader arm triangle choked Kyle Kingsbury on TUF.
In his last fight, Bader pulled off a beautiful arm-across guillotine against Matyushenko. After dropping "The Janitor" with a left hook, Bader was trying to land ground and pound. Matyushenko rushed back to his feet, allowing Bader to grab a headlock. As he got back to his feet, Bader was forcing his arm under Bader's armpit, trapping the neck and arm in one grip. From there, all he had to do was pull guard and squeeze.
This technique works the same way as the d'arce and arm triangle. Bader cuts off one side of the neck with his arm while using Matyushenko's own arm/shoulder to strangle the other side. This effectively stops all the blood flow to the brain, leaving Matyushenko no choice but to tap or pass out.
Bader's submission defense is an interesting issue. He has fought on the mat with dangerous grapplers like Nogueira and Marshall without much of an issue, but was submitted twice. I don't believe the Ortiz guillotine loss was a flaw on Bader's submission defense, as he was barely conscious when "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" locked in the choke, and there isn't much he could do afterward.
However, Bader should not have been finished by Jones' guillotine. The guillotine Jones used is a brutal and effective way to choke someone, but it takes a fair amount of time to set up, especially from half guard. Bader basically just laid there as Jones locked in the choke, only moving once Jones began squeezing.
By then, it was already far too late.
There are only two explanations for this, either Bader wanted out of the fight, or he didn't recognize what Jones was doing. I suspect it was the first reason, but it would be much worse if it was the second, as Jones was hardly hiding his intention.
Best Chance For Success
Bader needs to fight similarly to how he fought against "Rampage." Stay on the outside while landing jabs and leg kicks, then explode into takedown attempts if he has the chance. Once he is wrestling with Teixeira, he needs to stick to him like glue and force a wrestling match.
Even if Bader can't get takedowns early, grappling against the fence with "Hands of Stone" is a good way to tire him out without getting clipped by a punch. Teixeira slowed down a little bit in his fight with "Rampage," so the fact that it is a five round fight may be Bader's biggest advantage.
If Bader can successfully fight on the outside, there's a good chance Teixeira will get very aggressive in hunting him down. This is the time for Bader to throw his big right hand, as he might be able to catch Teixeira coming in. However, he must avoid exchanges, so throwing one right hand then shooting for a takedown or clinching would be wise.
Bader cannot afford to leave his neck out against Teixeira. Teixeira capitalized on the slow reaction of James Te Huna to his choke, Bader cannot allow the same to happen to him. If he feels Teixeira going for his neck, it is imperative that he resists quickly.
Does Bader have what it takes to derail the hype train or will Teixeira move one step closer to Jones?