UFC on Fox 4 is captained by a duplex of light-heavyweight bouts, each featuring a former 205-pound champion, to whittle out the next top contender. Coincidentally, each of the four highlighted competitors have all faced and been definitively finished by the seemingly immortal Jon Jones. The headliner consists of Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera while the inevitably enigmatic Lyoto Machida collides with powerhouse wrestler Ryan Bader.
Japanese-Brazilian Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (17-3) can't be discussed without a flowery tangent to emphasize his mystique, so here goes: in a sport populated by western boxing and Muay Thai stylists, he's a karate man; Shotokan to be exact. From the atypical horse stance, his footwork, strategic use of angles and overall cage flux are so elaborately perplexing that he might as well be dissipating and re-materializing at random vantage points, i.e. mano a mano via futuristic teleportation.
He's a BJJ black belt, a Brazilian Sumo champion, he's ultra-cunning with foot-sweep tomfoolery in the standing position and he unites the aforementioned mixture of attributes to wreak unadulterated havoc in the cage. Oh, and he drinks pee. Our abundant respect for Machida's inarguable talent and the ethos of traditional martial arts allows us to take such lewd consumption in stride.
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Ryan "Darth" Bader (14-2) was delivered unto the combat sports world via TUF 8. The 29-year-old carried a flawless 8-fight record (with 7 stoppages; 5 in the 1st- round) into the reality show along with the gaudy wrestling accolades of a 3-time Pac-10 champion and 2-time All-American at the D1 level (Arizona State University). The swathe he cut en route to winning TUF 8, which was consummated by beheading decorated grappler Vinny Magalhaes by 1st-round TKO, cemented that there was more to Bader than power doubles and top control.
After dipping his toes in the shallow end of the swimming pool with decisions over Carmelo Marrero and Eric Schafer, Bader stepped up to the plate and notched a pair of legitimizing victories against Keith Jardine (TKO) and Pride legend Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Bader, still undefeated, became a regular in the top-contender conversation. Mother MMA would then intervene to inflict her painful reminder of mortality, as Bader tasted submission-flavored defeat consecutively after meeting Jones and Tito Ortiz. Displaying impressive resolve, he penciled in another quick TKO and elite-level decision against Jason Brilz and Quinton Jackson, respectively.
Continued in the full entry.
Getting into the nuts and bolts of the match up, Bader's got his hands full here. Machida's striking artistry is a veritable nightmare for Bader's head-cracking -- but altogether basic -- boxing repertoire and the former champ's mind-bending puzzle is replete with absolutely stellar takedown defense.
Bader is undoubtedly athletic, game, hard-nosed and formidable, but impressive physical traits can rarely overcome prestigious technique, which Machida has an immeasurable volume of, and in many aspects.
When analyzing past failure modes, Machida performed quite uncharacteristically against "Rampage" by succumbing to basic bull-rushes through a lapse in the footwork and motion he's known for. Additionally, there's always a chance that Bader could uncork the type of overhand jackhammer that "Shogun" delivered vengeance with in his rematch with Machida, as that brutish violence is right up his alley.
Regardless of whether he attacks with wrestling or striking, Bader will have to be at a certain distance in order to mount effective offense, so the way he shrinks the gap against Machida will dictate his success. In this circumstance, that chain of events starts with his footwork, which will govern the range he's in -- but he'll have to sustain his creativity by using unpredictable angles and feints to pursue Machida even once he's achieved the ideal distance.
Getting inside on strikers with good footwork requires an intelligent sequence of events rather than a straight-line charge. With Machida, especially when he's on top of his game, opponents are forced to be twice as crafty because he's a master of staying elusive outside on the fringe as well as inside of the pocket. This means that once Bader is able to get close enough where he can actually make contact with punches or a takedown attempt, he'll still have to anticipate another jagged angle that Machida will throw at him.
And that's where Machida really shines, because he'll continually retreat in different patterns until his opponent starts to chase him down and take an extra step forward to compensate, then he'll switch gears and launch forward aggressively -- usually with a straight left, which is his best punch.
Machida's takedown defense is well known but his overall clinch tactics might still be under-rated. He's deadly from the body lock, which is the position from which he hurled Ortiz to the canvas, and has excellent takedowns from the clinch overall. I would not be surprised to see Machida attempt or even succeed in putting Bader on his back. When he's not entangled in tie ups, Machida's sneaky foot sweeps are also a threat, and one that's particularly tough to defend and anticipate. Off his back, Machida's submission grappling is top notch as well, but Bader's mature performance in the dangerous guard of Lil Nog leads me to believe he can survive in the top position through stifling control.
The bare bones of Bader's chances revolve around landing a big punch or enforcing takedowns and top control. Though Bader might be more of a decorated wrestler than anyone Machida's encountered, the way Lyoto conducted himself against Rashad Evans and Jones leads me to believe that Bader won't be any more successful than they were in taking him down. Or, even if he is, that he won't be able to mount more significant offense than Machida will.
My Prediction: Lyoto Machida by TKO.