UFC 126 Preview: 10 Reasons Ryan Bader Will Beat Jon Jones
When Americans Jon Jones and Ryan Bader step into the Octagon on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the immediate future of the UFC's Light Heavyweight division will be on full display.
Jones (11-1) and Bader (12-0), rated as the No. 7 and No. 6 top Light Heavyweight MMA fighters in the world by Sherdog.com, would both be undefeated going into this fight had Jon Jones not been disqualified against Matt Hamill back in December of 2009.
Jones was well on his way to at least a decision victory against Hamill before delivering an illegal elbow (in a 12 to 6 motion with the point of the elbow facing vertically downward) and leaving his record with its first blemish.
This matchup is in the classic Mixed Martial Arts mold of striker (Jones) vs. wrestler (Bader). Jon "Bones" Jones has been installed as the favorite for the fight, but after sizing up both competitors, I will present you with 10 reasons not to doubt Ryan Bader in this contest.
Tale of the Tape: Jon Jones
Jon "Bones" Jones
Record: 11-1 (seven knockouts, two submissions)
Weight: 205 lbs.
Reach: 84.5 Inches
Style: Wrestling, Muay-Thai
From: Endicott, NY
Fighting Out Of: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Team: Jackson's Submission Fighting
Sherdog.com Ranking: No. 7 Light Heavyweight in the World
Last Fight: 10/1/10, def. Vladimir Matyushenko via TKO (Elbows) at 1:52 of Round One
Tale of the Tape: Ryan Bader
Ryan "Darth" Bader
Record: 12-0 (five knockouts, three submissions)
Weight: 205 lbs.
Reach: 74 Inches
Style: Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing
From: Reno, NV
Fighting Out Of: Tempe, Arizona
Team: Power MMA and Fitness
Sherdog.com Ranking: No. 6 Light Heavyweight in the World
Last Fight: 9/25/10, def. Antônio Rogério Nogueira via Decision (Unanimous)
1. Ryan Bader Is Older and Has More Experience
Although Ryan Bader and Jon Jones have the same number of professional fights, its easy to forget that Bader made his way through the Light Heavyweight Tournament on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, and was crowed co-champion along with Lightweight Efrain Escudero.
On TUF, Bader picked up 3 extra wins that aren't counted towards his professional record.
He has also faced a wider variety of styles than Jon Jones. Bader has squared off with fellow wrestlers, brawlers, submission specialists, and Muay Thai practitioners. He has also faced, and prepared for fighters with unorthodox striking styles in the mold of his opponent on Saturday.
Jon Jones, while happy to be fighting Bader for a chance to move up and stake a claim as one of the best 205-pound fighters in the world, almost seemed disinterested in a recent interview in taking on yet another Boxer/Wrestler with this matchup.
One would think this would present an advantage for Jones, who would have become accustomed to facing a specific style. Clearly he wants to evolve as a fighter, and practice his funky Muay Thai on the stylings of other disciplines.
But Ryan Bader is probably the best Boxer/Wrestler that Jones has faced. If Jones is even the least bit complacent, Bader will have him on his back early.
2. Bader Has Bigger Wins Against Better Fighters
In his last two bouts, Bader has defeated UFC staple Keith Jardine and the lesser known, but very talented twin brother of future Hall-Of-Famer Minotauro Nogueira, Antônio Rogério Nogueira.
Nogueira was ranked as high as the No. 3 Light Heavyweight in the world prior to his unanimous decision loss to Bader.
Jon Jones' notable victories have come over Stephan Bonnar, who is 4-5 in his last nine fights and still somehow hanging on in the UFC, and Brandon Vera, who has lost his last 3 contests and has since been cut by the UFC.
Jones has dominated his opponents, sure. But the UFC has given arguably their top prospect an easier stable of matches in order to build his confidence and his record.
Bader will be the best fighter that Jon Jones has ever faced. I'm not sure if the converse is true.
3. Bader Has One Punch Knockout Power
At the very least, Ryan Bader has a puncher's chance against Jon Jones.
The compactly built Bader is a similar fighter to Dan Henderson in that he'll go into the Octagon knowing he can out-wrestle you, but first he's going to stalk you around for a while and try to end your night with one big blow.
It took until 3:20 of the third round, but Ryan Bader finally got one big crack in against the "Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine.
The world of mixed martial arts is filled with surprising endings and shocking upsets.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Bader come away with a flash knockout on Saturday.
To do so, he'll need to get inside Jon Jones' reach (the longest in the UFC at 84.5 inches). With Jones' propensity to push the fight forward, Bader won't have to travel very far.
One punch, that's all it takes.
4. Bader Is a Better Wrestler
Yes, Jon Jones has dominated Matt Hamill, an excellent wrestler on the ground. Yes, he has a tremendous reach to keep opponents at bay, enough speed to back away from takedowns, and the natural strength of a football lineman (one of his brothers, Arthur is in the NFL; the other, Chandler, is on the football team at Syracuse).
But Jon Jones has never stepped in the ring with a wrestler as good, or as decorated as Ryan Bader.
Bader was an All-American NCAA Division I wrestler at Arizona State University. He has extremely powerful takedowns and very dominant top control.
Jon Jones has a background in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling. And he is a better athlete than Bader. But his pure wrestling skills and technique are overshadowed by Bader's patience and motor.
This is the one area of the fight where Bader has a clear and distinct advantage.
5. Jon Jones Hasn't Been Hit or Put On His Back
Now, this isn't necessarily a knock against Jones since it clearly shows his talent level in that he's avoided taking a big shot or being forced to escape from guard.
The truth is, no one is really sure how Jones will react when something goes very wrong for him in a fight.
That's the true test of a fighter, when you back a guy into a corner and see if he folds or comes back swinging. Ryan Bader is very talented, and more than capable of making Jon Jones feel pain in the Octagon for the first time.
If Jones is able to avoid both taking a big shot and ending up on his back, he will surely be the victor.
But if he does get hit, and if it doesn't happen this fight than it will eventually, it remains to be seen exactly how Jon Jones will respond.
Ryan Bader needs to make Jon Jones feel uncomfortable right from the get-go, and take the phenom right out of his element; it's the only way for Bader to win.
6. Bader Knows How to Go the Distance
Sure, there have been questions about his stamina. But each of Ryan Bader's last four fights have gone to the third round (three decisions, one knockout).
Jon Jones hasn't seen a third round since UFC 94 back in January of 2009 against Stephan Bonnar. Much of that is credited to the quick work he has made of opponents.
Jon Jones is a tremendous athlete, and it is more than likely that he possesses better cardio than Ryan Bader. Bader's strength and style clearly wear on his energy throughout the fight; something that has been very obvious as he has clearly been winded late in his last few bouts.
However, big fights like this sometimes take competitors to places that they've never been before. It doesn't matter how hard they've trained, or who can run more consecutive miles on a treadmill. Late in the third round, all that matters is pushing yourself to want to win more than the guy standing across from you does.
Bader has been down this road more times than Jon Jones has, especially recently. Unless Ryan Bader can score an early knockout, he may have to rely on his experience in the third round of a tight contest in order to help himself to a win, and maybe an eventual title shot.
7. Jon Jones Can Be Reckless
Jones is an unorthodox fighter. He throws what he wants, when he wants to. Greg Jackson is a phenomenal trainer, probably the best in the business.
But he likes for his fighters to develop naturally. If Jon Jones wants to throw a spinning back-fist or a flying elbow, Greg Jackson won't stop him from going for it.
Showmanship, however, does not win fights. Efficient striking and control of the action does. Jon Jones is probably more naturally gifted than Ryan Bader. He might be the most naturally gifted fighter in the UFC.
By resorting to high risk, high reward strikes, Jon Jones leaves himself open to disappointment.
Ryan Bader knows that the younger Jones likes to get the crowd excited with his unorthodox maneuvers.
Bader will be waiting, right fist cocked and at the ready for Jones to make the first mistake by trying to do too much. If he does, it could be lights out.
8. Jon Jones May Be Rusty
After all, he hasn't fought in seven months. And even that was for less than two minutes.
Bader on the other hand has had a five month layoff, which is a much more standard break between fights.
Young fighters need to hone their craft as often as they possibly can. Go take a look at Mike Tyson's early fighting log and notice he was knocking out opponents every other week.
The world of MMA is more fickle than boxing. Sure, guys need to rest, but the UFC really wants to protect its prized possessions (Jon Jones, Cain Velazquez, etc.). Instead of fighting at least every few months like they should be, the young guys are getting protected and being forced to train, and wait, and train some more.
Does Bader fighting two months more recently than Jon Jones given him a specific advantage of any kind? Maybe, maybe not. But Bader is older, and has fought more high profile fights.
By now, he's used to the process and the layover between big bouts. Jon Jones is still getting accustomed to the whole thing. It's really all new.
Jon Jones needs to be on his game at the sound of the first bell. You can be sure that Ryan Bader will.
9. Everyone Is Picking Jon Jones to Win
Check out the predictions from around the net. It's rare that I've seem someone predict Bader to make it to the second round, let alone finish the fight or even win it.
On Bodog, Jon "Bones" Jones is a stout -280 favorite. Ryan Bader is a +220 underdog.
In America, everyone wants to be the first to proclaim that they accomplished a great feat despite being doubted. There are few forces in sports, or in life, as powerful as being doubted by everyone. Right now, everyone is doubting Ryan Bader.
A fighter who is 12-0; a fighter who clawed his way through The Ultimate Fighter Tournament and pulled off what was thought to be an upset in the finals; a fighter who is doubted because he's slow, and not as exceptional of an athlete as the men he competes against.
But Ryan Bader is tough, and he's got skills. He also doesn't quit.
It's rare that an undefeated fighter with an impressive body of work would receive such a lack of positive attention. The UFC has clearly tried to make Jon Jones their guy.
Right now, Ryan Bader is standing in his, and their way.
He thrives off of being the underdog, as he told ESPN.uk in a recent interview. I wouldn't doubt him, and you shouldn't either.
10. Vader Is a Cooler Nickname Than Bones
How can you even a question a fighter who walks in to this entrance music?
Prediction: Ryan Bader def. Jon Jones via third round TKO.
Everyone stops talking about Jon Jones and rightfully starts discussing Ryan Bader as a top Light Heavyweight contender.