TUF 8 winner and two-time Division 1 All-American wrestler Ryan Bader (15-4) will brave the Outback to tangle with Anthony Perosh (14-7) on "The Hippo's" home turf. Perosh, a semi-fossil at age 41, comes in hot after a shocking knockout of Vinny Magalhaes. Few gave the venerable sub-grappler a chance in what was assumed to be a nightmare match up and the indelible upset transpired in a mere fourteen seconds.
Perosh had a dually unsuccessful two-fight stint in the UFC (Jeff Monson by TKO, Christian Wellisch by decision) circa 2006, but embedded himself in the big leagues with a lucrative contract in 2010, though not by conventional means. Perosh scored a four-fight gig in exchange for moving up to heavyweight and fighting Croatian head-punter Mirko Filipovic at UFC 110 with a great big 48-hours to prepare. The reward was entirely well deserved as Perosh's pre-fight valiance was mirrored in his gutsy steadfastness against "CroCop," who teed off on the Aussie in a one-sided and cringe-worthy ass-kicking. Perosh begrudgingly fell by TKO in the second stanza but his courage and fortitude garnered him much respect in return.
He wasn't expected to make waves, or perhaps to even hang around by some, but Perosh made good on his sacrifice by reeling off three-straight stoppage wins (Tom Blackledge and Cyrille Diabate by rear-naked choke, Nick Penner by TKO) before Ryan Jimmo relegated him to GIF infamy with a hellacious seven-second KO in the 1st round. The best way to put such a disappointing loss in the rear-view mirror is to be on the opposite end of a quick and unforgettable beheading, which is precisely what Perosh did in the follow up against Magalhaes.
With four consecutive and increasingly impressive victories after clenching TUF 8, Bader was en route to a crack at Mauricio Rua's belt. Unfortunately, being christened number-one contender meant overcoming another skyrocketing prospect in Jon Jones, who tossed the decorated wrestler to the canvas, swarmed him with elbows, choked him out with a top-side guillotine and altogether violated him before going on to cement himself as today's alpha 205-pounder.
Most agreed that being paired with Tito Ortiz for the former light-heavyweight champion's bon voyage performance was like heaving Bader a big fat softball, but it was Ortiz who connected on the big swing. Duping the young lion with a crafty ploy, Ortiz subtly feinted a takedown, abruptly changed gears and transitioned into a scorching straight right that floored Bader, then strangled him with a vice-like guillotine choke when he tried to regain his footing.
The former Arizona State University wrestler's first experience with defeat was definitive, in duplicate and demoralizing. Bader's comeback trail since those back-to-back losses is rock solid: three very promising wins (Jason Brilz by 1st-round KO, Quinton Jackson by decision, Vladimir Matyushenko by 1st-round submission) and two highly respectable defeats in former champ Lyoto Machida and current number-one contender Glover Teixeira (both stoppages via strikes). That run isn't miraculous, but it's pretty damn good and Bader gets bonus points for jumping right back into the 205-pound frying pan.
The irony of portending Bader as a keenly unfavorable match up for Perosh -- just like I and many others did before he trampled Magalhaes -- is not lost on me. Still, even though the ingredients are slightly altered with Bader's stalwart wrestling in place of Magalhaes' stellar submission grappling, the concoction should be equally unappetizing to "The Hippo"; perhaps even more so.
Notwithstanding atypical highlights like his 1st-round shellacking of Jimmo, the bulk of Perosh's wins come from dominant positions: most of his TKO's, submissions and decisions were facilitated by top control, back control, a stifling clinch game or some other position of authority. And that's a tough perch to assume against a rugged wrestler like Ryan Bader, whose physical presence and athleticism are still probably his most prized attributes.
Bader doused any concerns of being one-dimensional in his win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, in which he confounded the Brazilian boxer and BJJ artist with explosive boxing combinations and seamless transitions into stifling takedowns. The lanky Perosh will have about an inch of height on Bader, but any and all other physical comparisons go Bader's way. What makes this such a steep test is that Bader's overall striking game is almost equally sloped in his favor. Along with his wrestling game.
Summarily, that gives Bader a substantial edge in the categories of physicality, athleticism, striking and wrestling. Let's throw experience and room for improvement in there too, so that's a subtle hint as to my eventual prediction.
To be fair, there's no question that Perosh is the far superior submission artist and, after all, half of Bader's losses are via submission. It's not likely to bear fruit, but Perosh could pursue a choke from the clinch or during any of Bader's takedown attempts if he isn't ultra-careful with his head position. If he can stay entangled, Perosh might even be the better scrambler. If Bader makes even one itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny little mistake, Anthony Perosh was literally delivered unto this world for the sole purpose of capitalizing on it, either through round-winning control or immediate asphyxiation. Also, Perosh has shown one of the biggest hearts and some of the grittiest determination in the biz, and he could always just lumber out of his corner and rattle Bader's teeth like he did to Magalhaes.
My Prediction: Ryan Bader by TKO.