Despite his much-talked about run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight division, ZUFFA officials decided against installing Ryan Bader as the No. 1 contender in his weight class, instead opting to give "Vader" a matchup with "Rumble."
Both he and the former title challenger Anthony Johnson are among the elite of the 205-pound class and occupy the No. 1 and No. 3 rankings. They've spent time chirping at each other and are now ready to battle in the UFC on FOX 18 headliner inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Jan. 30, 2016.
Wins have been easy to come by for Johnson and Bader of late, with the latter defeating the former's teammate Rashad Evans in resounding fashion last month and now the Blackzilians product looks to finish the one-time Arizona State University wrestler.
Johnson recently spoke to reporters at a UFC Fight Night 77 media scrum (via MMA Fighting):
It was an okay performance... [On future] I think it's put me right back in title contention. I never saw myself out of title contention. I think it's going to be a war no matter what. I think he's upset. If I was him, I definitely would want to fight the best. If he really feels he's up to the test, he should've asked to fight somebody in the Top 3. I think he was told he gets the next title shot if he beats Rashad [Evans]. I believe I'll catch him sooner or later, but [Ryan] Bader is good. He might not have the most entertaining fights, but he's a good fighter. I'm definitely going to go in and try to knock his head off. That's a given. I know I have to watch out. He's a big, strong and powerful guy. He has great wrestling. The elite guys definitely take me down. When I say that, I mean guys like Daniel Cormier. I don't believe Bader's up to that level yet. I'm not afraid of his wrestling, but I'm aware of it. We all know he's going to try and go for a takedown.
The 31-year-old might have it in his mind that Bader will try and take him down, but it's clear that the Power MMA fighter has added to his tool belt, after putting together a commendable striking attack against "Suga" at the UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) in October.
With the pair set to collide in just over two months' time, and champion Daniel Cormier expected to make his second title defense against the reinstated former pound-for-pound great Jon Jones sometime in the early part of 2016, much will be sorted out in the 205-pound title sweepstakes.
Oh, and did I fail to mention that two light heavyweight contenders go toe-to-toe in a very important tilt when former title challenger Glover Teixeira and All-American wrestler Patrick Cummins throw down in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 77 in Sao Paulo, Brazil this Saturday night (Nov. 7, 2015)?
You can catch more on that fight, as well as the entire 'Belfort vs. Henderson 3' card, here.