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UFC Fight Night: Ryan Bader vs. Ovince St. Preux Preview and Prognostication

Ryan Bader looks to make some more noise in the LHW division against a fellow late blooming prospect in Ovince St. Preux. Which late bloomer can take it to the next level?

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Ryan Bader vs. Ovince St. Preux Light Heavyweight

When we last left our heroes...

Is it possible for a loss to be so embarrassing that nothing you do from now on in victory could distance yourself from that defeat? Bader is probably the only fighter alive who can claim such a title.

He's an exceptional fighter, having come a long way since the days of finding a Ghandi-esque patience to avoid striking Junie Browning by the TUF house pool. But July 2nd, 2011 will forever live on in infamy as Tito Ortiz' lone UFC win since 2006.

Regardless, you can't argue results. He's 10-4 in the octagon with some pretty big wins that include Quinton Jackson (who was still good despite a steep decline by then), and Rafael Cavalcante. He's one of the better TUF products in recent memory, and the best part is that despite being 31 years of age, seems to continue improving.

On the other end is OSP, who happens to be the same age. Like Bader, OSP is a late bloomer. His Strikeforce career got a lot of people's attention, and when he finally took a real step up in competition against Gegard Mousasi, he didn't embarrass himself. He hasn't lost since, although he hasn't had the opportunity to really shine in the proper context.

After all, a Von Flue choke is nice, but beating Nikita Kyrlov with it is like using Stanley Kubrick to direct a Transformers movie.

Needless to say, if the staff predictions were any indication, there's not a lot of faith in OSP's chances. A lot of that comes from the fact that he's the anti-Charles Oliveira. He's 31. Give him some tough fights already. I think observers underestimate OSP because of what they haven't seen, which is OSP against strong competition. Frankly I thought he fared well against Mousasi, who while tactically much different, is a fighter of similar quality: not a champion, but somewhere between contender and gatekeeper.

He's got some 'splaining to do, which is what makes this a good fight (whether it belongs on the undercard is a discussion we're well beyond at this point).

What both men can violently do...

Bader has managed to become more than a one wrestle-box pony.

While I feel like Feijao dropped the ball a bit, I think Bader would have beaten him at any point in his career,inspired or otherwise. He was doing something had never previously looked comfortable doing that fight: landing shots, and using movement while doing it. Bader is a lot like Gray Maynard: his strength masks his flaws, but he's not so flawed behind a wall of overly developed biceps and deltoids that he has to rely on being able to easily manipulate his opponent's weight. Difference is, Bader has really learned more than just a right hand, and the odd combination.

Still, his wrestling is great for the division. It'll be interesting to see how it conflicts with OSP's more improvised style. Bader is Metallica to OSP's Charles Mingus.

What I've always liked about OSP is not his striking, which is more of a high wire act then anything else. But his grappling. His movement is fluid, and to a lot of observers his grappling is raw, but I disagree. The most efficient MMA grappling is the grappling that isn't telegraphed by gym habits. OSP doesn't telegraph his work on the ground, and it's enabled by a solid wrestling component. In addition, I feel like his kicks will be the story of this fight should he gets his hand raised in victory.

What both men can't violently do...

Still, for all of their ostensible strengths, there's plenty to be exploited. Although the exploitation is usually subtle. Bader is a very good fighter who will win more often than not, but one of the reasons why I think OSP can win is that his enormous reach advantage on the feet will play a huge factor at range. Bader will never become Gennady Golovkin. He's got power, sure, but he's the slower striker in most fights. OSP will have an important advantage here, even though OSP's defense is actually worse than Bader's. I tend to think Bader needs an ugly, clinchy, grindy wrestle-fest to win.

And in that respect, I'm not sure he can. While it's possible Bader can wear OSP down over five rounds, and use top control to win over the judges, OSP is too slippery for that. I realize it was just for a split second, but Ovince scrambled his way into mount against Gegard Mousasi. Sure Mousasi can get lazy in fights, but not that lazy. St. Preux is skilled enough to potentially win by submission. Perhaps a guillotine? It wouldn't be the first time Bader got embarrassingly stuck in one.

Bader is the smart pick, but you're not reading from a smart man. I like OSP to slither his way out of top control, and land high impact leg kicks while posing a danger to Bader's many double leg attempts.


Ovince St. Preux by Decision.

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