In every sport, there are beginners. There are those that decide to dedicate themselves to a dream and go for it. This is true in every sport, but it is most apparent in Mixed Martial Arts.
The Ultimate Fighter has been giving many dreamers the chance to enter into the pantheon of MMA competition. It gives them the chance to compete against the other top fighters in the world of MMA and prove that they have the right and talent to be there. At the end of each season, one or two cast members are given this opportunity.
At the end of season eight of the Ultimate Fighter, Ryan Bader was the victor of the competition in the Light Heavyweight Division. He entered the Octagon to face Vinicius Magalhaes for the title of Ultimate Fighter with a perfect 7-0 record. Bader dominated the fight and knocked Vinicius out in the first round.
Bader attended Arizona State University and was a three time Pac-10 champion wrestler. He was two time All-American and graduated with degrees in justice and business. He wrestled alongside CB Dolloway and after college they trained alongside one another at Arizona Combat Sports. CB Dolloway was the runner up by the end of the seventh season of the Ultimate Fighter.
In Bader's first fight in the UFC, he faced Carmelo Marrero and controlled all three rounds to win by unanimous decision. His next fight in the Octagon was a dominating performance over Eric Schafer.
Bader's next fight was the biggest test of his career: A matchup with 205-pounder Keith Jardine. Many believed that Bader could win but wondered how we would deal with Jardines awkward fighting style. Bader came out and controlled the fight and did extremely well at avoiding blows and answering attacks. at the midway point of the third and final round, Bader landed a flying knee, followed by a left uppercut that made Jardine go limp and meet the canvas.
Now, considering that Jardine had lost his previous two fights, it would be a bit brash and hasty to jump to the conclusion that Bader's victory over Jardine puts him in title contention.
But what it does do is throw him into the mix at 205 pounds. Facing Jardine was a step up in competition for Bader and showed that Bader can hold his own, compete, and beat fighters at an elite level. Because whether or not he has lost his last three fights, Jardine is at an elite level in MMA competition.
Not only is Bader moving up in the world of MMA, but he is also a prime example of a wrestler turned Mixed Martial Artist. Many wrestlers have a difficult time making the transition, not necessarily on the grappling area of MMA, but in the striking aspect. With Bader though, this has not appeared to be case. He has transformed into a well rounded MMA fighter who is very skilled on the ground and has developed an extremely effective striking game.
Bader has reached the elite level of MMA. He has shown that he has what it takes to compete with the top fighters. There's nowhere else for Bader to go but up, and I can confidently say that he and all of us watching, will enjoy the ride.