Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader: Head to Toe Breakdown
In what is in effect a title eliminator bout, Ryan Bader will look to make it three-straight victories when he takes on former UFC champion Lyoto Machida.
Already a pivotal bout in the light heavyweight division, the contest gained even more importance as Dana White let it be known the winner may be rewarded with a title shot.
Machida brings with him a blend of styles but is predominantly a karate fighter on the feet. He used his elusive style to capture UFC gold by defeating Rashad Evans at UFC 98. Bader was on the cusp of a title shot but was soundly defeated by the current champion Jon Jones.
Both men will be attempting to secure a rematch with the UFC champion Jones by putting on an impressive performance.
How They Got Here
Ryan Bader had run his professional record to 12-0 and in the process became one of the best blue-chip prospects in the 205-pound division. His victory over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira placed him in a bout with Jon Jones which would become a title shot after the injury to Rashad Evans.
Bader came out extremely flat and was summarily dispatched in quick fashion by Jones. Bader reached an all-time low in his career by dropping a fight to the aging Tito Ortiz in which Bader was finished in under two minutes.
The Ultimate Fighter winner revitalized his career by dropping Jason Brillz with a single punch and made former UFC Champion Quinton Jackson look like a noob.
Lyoto Machida himself saw his record go without a loss as the Brazilian started off his career with a 16-0 record. Machida won the UFC Light Heavyweight belt at UFC 98 by defeating Rashad Evans, and made a successful title defense against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 104.
The bout against Rua showed a break in the aura of invincibility of Machida and he was defeated by "Shogun" in their rematch. Another loss to Jackson brought questions about Machida's future in the division, but one perfect "Crane Kick" later and Machida found himself challenging for an UFC title again.
Machida enjoyed a few moments of success but would fail to capture the belt as Jones secured a tight guillotine choke that caused the Brazilian to slip into unconsciousness.
As with all MMA bouts, the fights begin on the feet. The biggest difference in the two mens' styles will be most evident when Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida engage one another on the feet.
Machida is a notoriously hard fighter to find, using his footwork to engage and back out before his opponent can respond. Machida's "score-first" style of karate striking won't lead to one-punch KO's but it will keep the Brazilian in front on the score cards.
Just as Machida is notorious for his method of striking, so too is Bader. The Arizona-based fighter has been known to look for the one-punch KO, loading up on the right hand. He has shown to have a dangerous right hand but without the proper combinations, Bader won't find a home for his right hand.
Machida is a much more balanced fighter on the feet as he utilizes his hands, kicks and knees with deadly efficiency. Not only does Machida land his strikes with quickness but he routinely escapes his opponent's retaliation strikes.
The Brazilian's style is tailor-made to counter the style that Bader will bring. Bader will look to land his right hand and test the chin of Machida but he'll be spending the duration of the fight attempting to chase down the elusive Machida.
Ryan Bader brings with him a NCAA Division I wrestling career that earned him a number of awards, including being named an All-American on two occasions. Bader entered MMA has a wrestler with a heavy top game and used his wrestling to control the action.
When Bader was unable to put away his opponents with his right hand, he entered wrestler-mode and utilized his wrestling skills.
Whereas Bader only has one background in grappling, Lyoto Machida is proficient in a number of grappling arts. He's a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and also has shown to have great skills in the art of sumo. Although Machida doesn't look like an oversized sumo wrestler, it no doubt helps him control the action inside the clinch.
Bader has a powerful double leg but doesn't always set it up properly. His shots can sometimes come from far out, which leads to his takedowns being stuffed. As the fights go on, Bader's shots tend to look more and more lethargic which will likely lead to more openings for Machida to counter.
If Bader can add some punches and kicks into his takedown transitions, he certainly has the strength to wrestle Machida to the mat.
Quick Preview of Each Round
Round 1: In the opening round I expect Lyoto Machida to work his feints and footwork to avoid Ryan Bader. Machida will need to avoid Bader's strikes in the early going as that will be when Bader will have the greatest chance to land his powerful strikes.
Machida will need to be prepared for Bader's wrestling as he may look to wear down the Brazilian and remove his elusiveness. The first round will be undoubtedly be Bader's best chance at a victory.
Round 2: Bader has been known to show conditioning issues in his fights, but seemed to erase that issue against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Bader looked great through all 15 minutes and didn't seem to tire. This is where Bader's conditioning will be truly tested after chasing Machida for five minutes.
If Bader has truly fixed his cardio issues it will show in this fight. It may have been just "Rampage" being that bad at UFC 144 but for Bader's sake, let's hope he's improved on his conditioning.
Round 3: By now Bader's conditioning issues will have likely shown through and Machida should look rather fresh. He's a master at avoiding damage and looked great in the final round in his bout against Jackson.
Machida may look for his infamous trip takedown to secure a final round on the judge's scorecards if the outcome is in doubt. Machida won't threaten with his top game and may in fact just ride the round out for a decision victory.
The same can be said of Bader as well. If he feels ahead on the scorecards he may look for a takedown just as he did against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.