The main card of UFC 174 appears to be coming into its own, with the addition of a top ranked LHW scrap. Old guard, and season 8 TUF vet, Ryan Bader has been tabbed to meet former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante. The bout will be the fourth on the card to feature at least one ranked fighter, and the third to feature two top fifteen fighters facing off against one another. The bout had been rumored since early this month, when Cormier was pulled from a fight with Cavalcante to take on Dan Henderson. The Canadian Press was first on the scene to give certainty to the early reports.
Bader will look to continue in his quest for a shot at the 205 lb title, something that has so far remained elusive. Last time out, he rebounded from a TKO loss to Glover Teixeira by beating several kinds of stuffing out of Anthony Perosh. The hippo may be a dangerous foe (as any naturalist will tell you) but he's not exactly the kind of resume building competition that moves a fighter up the rankings. A win over Rafael Cavalcante would carry a lot more heft if Bader wants another crack at his division's top 5.
For Cavalcante, Bader is a perfect next step in his quest to prove that he wasn't the product of a shallow talent pool in his Strikeforce days. Coming off a long suspension, due to a failed drug test in Strikeforce, Cavalcante's UFC debut was notable almost entirely for how poorly he lost. A dominant and agressive start just seemed to sputter and die midway through the first, leaving him at the mercy of Thiago Silva's heavy hands. Since then he's come back nicely by smashing Igor Pokrajac, but as with Bader, he needs bigger name wins than that if he wants to climb into divisional relevance.
This is a great fight between two successful vets who still need to prove they're among their division's elite and the winner will have a much clearer path to doing so. Both men tend to start aggressive and fade as the fight goes on, so this may be a battle to see who can strike first and who can weather the storm. UFC 174 takes place in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada and is set for June 14th. Here's a look at the card as it currently stands.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov
Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley
Ryan Bader vs. Rafael Cavalcante
Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Daniel Sarafian
Mike Easton vs. Yves Jabouin
Roland Delorme vs. Michinori Tanaka
Kajan Johnson vs. Tae Hyun Bang