Powerful wrestler, Ryan Bader, is set to rematch with longtime veteran, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, this Saturday (Nov. 19, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 100 inside Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Coming off an excellent knockout win over Ilir Latifi, Bader’s best performances in his entire career have come in the last several years. He’s better than ever, but Bader is still grinding toward his goal of an eventual title shot. Meanwhile, Nogueira bounced back from a pair of losses in a big way earlier this year, knocking out Patrick Cummins. Even at 40 years old, Nogueira is worthy of his Top 10 spot and has proven that there’s something left in the tank.
Let’s take a closer look at the skill sets of both men:
Of the two men, Nogueira is more well-known for his stand up attack. Nogueira actually represented Brazil in the Pan American games years ago in boxing, and it’s still the main part of his striking.
Working from the Southpaw jab, Nogueira has a surprisingly effective jab. That’s not often a standard tool for lefties, but Nogueira does a nice job of occupying his opponent’s lead hand before sneaking in a jab. Against Rashad Evans, this was a major part of his game plan (GIF). Obviously, the left hand is a big weapon. The Brazilian commonly follows up his jab with a cross, and it’s perhaps his most powerful punch. On one important note, Nogueira does a nice job of slipping as he throws the left, which allows him to avoid his opponent’s own cross (GIF).
On the whole, Nogueira puts his combinations together well. Opposite Cummins, Nogueira overwhelmed the wrestler with a series of left crosses and right hooks. One of Nogueira’s best aspects is his work in the clinch. Nogueira mixes in hard punches in close, slipping in hooks to the head and body. Furthermore, Nogueira crushed Tito Ortiz with a knee to the ribs, shocking the former champion and sending him to the mat (GIF).
If there’s one major problem to Nogueira’s striking game, it’s his lack of kicks. Nogueira boxes almost exclusively, which severely limits his range. Even modest strikers like Cummins have out-worked him from that range, and better ones have really made him pay. While Bader’s kickboxing used to be pretty non-existent, he’s really come a long way.
Above all else, Bader has become much more fluid with his movement. Whether he's actively attacking, feinting or simply circling around the cage, Bader no longer looks like he's trying his hardest to strike. Instead, Bader is relaxed and confident, which by itself is a step forward for any growing striker.
The main reason for this is that Bader now understands distance far better and fights accordingly. Even just a couple years ago, it was not uncommon for Bader to lunge with his right hand despite being well out of the boxing range, or for him to stand still after throwing his own combinations, merely waiting for his opponent to blast him with a counter punch.
Times have changed.
For example, let's take a look at Bader's duel with the former Light Heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans. Early on, rather than look to immediately move in with power punches or takedowns, Bader bounced around and attacked with long range strikes.
At first, Bader did a lot of work with his kicks. This is something of a new wrinkle to Bader's offense, as he's never been much of a kicker. Regardless, Bader scored well with right low kicks and a stepping left kicks. At one point later in the fight, he even landed a side kick.
While a solid addition to his game, the more important range strike for Bader was the jab. Bader has been slowly improving his jab for a while now, and that was on full display. Across much of the fight, Evans was trying to crowd Bader and land power shots, but he instead walked into the jab numerous times.
Finally, Bader has been known for his big right hand since he first stepped into The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) house. While he'll still look for the occasional looping overhand, on the whole he's gotten far tighter with that shot. Additionally, he builds off his right hand well.
Against Evans, Bader did a couple of things very well to set up his right hand. While he was still primarily working from long range early in the fight, Bader would first use a level change feint before coming out of that lowered stance with his cross. In addition to helping him set up the takedown later on, Bader's level change feint into the right hand allowed him to cover more distance and disrupt his opponent's defense.
Additionally, Bader routinely attacked with both the overhand and the uppercut (or at least an upward angle on the cross). By mixing up which shot he threw pretty often, Bader made it difficult for his opponent to easily defend. Essentially, Evans could simply wait for Bader's right arm to twitch and then block, as he had to wait and see whether the strike was coming under, over, or through his guard.
In his last fight, Bader really showed his comfort on the feet. After recognizing his Latifi’s habit of trying to duck down to avoid strikes and throw overhands, Bader timed a brutal knee and completely knocked his foe out.
Bader is a two-time All-American wrestler from Arizona State University (ASU) and still trains with several of his former collegiate teammates. When looking for takedowns, Bader is a double threat in that he can transition between shots well or simply blast his opponent from one side of the Octagon to the other.
Bader primarily shoots his power double and usually sets up the shot by throwing a lead right cross. Bader often drives his opponent right from his feet easily, but can often transition to another takedown or cut an angle mid-shot very effectively (GIF). In addition, Bader sometimes likes to finish his shot by hooking a leg behind his opponent's feet.
Opposite Evans, Bader used reactive double legs rather well. Since his opponent was so intent on pressing him, Bader didn't have to throw any punches to get his opponent out of position. Instead, he could simply change levels, catch him off-guard, and drive through.
If "Darth" pins his opponent against the fence with his shot, he likes to chain together different takedown attempts until one lands. He'll start with a double, switch to a single and starting running the pipe, return to the double, and finish off with an ankle pick. When Bader is chaining techniques like this, it's difficult to continually stop him.
Bader's chain wrestling has been pretty visible in many of his fights, but most recently Bader really showed Ovince Saint Preux the difference between a strong, athletic grappler and an All-American wrestler. Over and over, Bader simply outmaneuvered his opponent, repeatedly slipping past his early defenses to slam his opponent to the mat (GIF).
Despite his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess, Nogueira hasn’t scored a takedown inside of the Octagon in years. Even that one takedown came as the result of a sweep opposite Jason Brilz, so it’s safe to assume the veteran won’t often be looking for takedowns in this match up.
Defensively, Nogueira is an odd fighter. Against straight up exchanges where his opponent attempts to drive through a double leg or push him in the clinch, Nogueira tends to hold up quite well. However, "Lil Nog" has struggled with takedowns that test his balance or ability to chain wrestler. In one clear-cut example, Phil Davis failed to land any double leg takedowns in the first round, but he switched to single legs and threw his opponent around in the next two.
Nogueira is a third-degree black belt in jiu-jitsu, but he frankly hasn’t been able to show it all that much recently. Win or lose, most of his fights have taken place on the feet, or he’s been overpowered by stronger, younger fighters on the mat.
That said, Nogueira has shown off his deep half guard in multiple fights, which I analyzed in the video below.
Meanwhile, Bader has always preferred to smash his opponent with ground strikes rather than submit. That said, he scored an impressive arm-across guillotine opposite Vlad Matyushenko, another technique I broke down in person.
This isn’t the most sought-after rematch, but it’s a solid match up of Top 10-ranked Light Heavyweights. It’s really a test of Bader’s improvement, as well as whether or not Nogueira can make the necessary adjustments this time around.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.