DETROIT—Fast rising UFC light heavyweight contender Ryan Bader took center stage today just before the UFC 123 combatants tipped the scales at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
He was the subject of an intimate, hour long question and answer session hosted by Mike Goldberg and attended by UFC Fight Club members and various members of the media.
Bader is currently set to face fellow up-and-comer Jon Jones at the UFC 126 event on February 5, 2011 during Super Bowl weekend.
He wasted no time in analyzing the forthcoming ‘prospect vs. prospect’ matchup stating, “We are both on a collision course. This is the next logical step. We were bound to meet sometime, why not now? We are right there. Yes, it is going to knock one of us off, but I am sure whoever loses this fight will be right back. I think it is time to fight and get it over with.”
It is no secret Jones is a unique specimen.
Physically, he is long and lean. He has the longest reach of any fighter in the UFC at 84.5”. Furthermore, he has a well-rounded skill set at his disposal and is fast and explosive.
In other words, he is a tough draw for any mortal.
“It is hard to emulate Jon Jones (in camp). Jon is a very dynamic, exciting fighter. He is flashy – spinning elbows, spinning back kicks. I am more of a grinder. I just go out there and get the job done. I think he has to respect me a little more than he has with his last few opponents as far as being taken down or landing good power shots. I am sure he is going to try some flashy stuff, but I think it is going to be more toned down a bit,” said Bader.
If he continues his crowd pleasing ways, Jones could very well present an opening or two for Bader to pounce on and exploit.
“If he is coming at you with a spinning back elbow he has his back turned toward you for a split second. It could be a double leg (takedown). He has fought and destroyed some great wrestlers, but every fight is different.”
The Bader/Jones winner will certainly be a huge factor when the UFC management finally gets around to determining who will receive the next title shot against the Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Rashad Evans victor.
The Lyoto Machida vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson UFC 123 winner will have a seat at the table. So will the winner of the upcoming Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin matchup.
The upper echelon of the 205-pound light heavyweight division is littered with quality challengers. So what else is new?
Does Bader feel he would vault to the front of the line with a victory over Jones?
“I will go out and just fight. If I have four more in front of me I just have to keep my head down and go out and win the next fight, and the next fight, and eventually it will take care of itself. I have to keep my nose to the grindstone.”
It is almost an old proverb-like attitude elicited from a young man on the verge of the biggest challenge of his professional life.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to CBSSports.com, MMAmania.com, and FIGHT! Magazine (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.