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UFC on FOX 18 fight card primer: Anthony Johnson vs. Ryan Bader

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Bloody Elbow presents a preview of UFC on FOX 18: Johnson vs. Bader in our fight card primer series. Here we look at the main event: Anthony Johnson vs. Ryan Bader.

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In the main event at UFC on FOX 18: Johnson vs. Bader, Light Heavyweights clash as former title challenger Anthony Johnson (20-5 MMA; 11-5 UFC) faces Ryan Bader (20-4 MMA; 13-4 UFC). This five round fight caps off the four fight UFC Fight Night main card. The UFC rankings have Johnson as the #2 contender at 205 pounds, with Bader just below him at #4. UFC Fight Night: Johnson vs. Bader airs live from New Jersey this Sunday, January 30. The main card airs on Fox with a fight time of 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT, with the prelims starting at  5:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and 3:30 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.

Johnson vs. Bader is a key match-up in the Light Heavyweight division with two top 5 fighters looking to make their claim as the next title challenger. Stylistically, these are two similar fighters - both have insane one punch KO power, and both have the ability to use their wrestling to grind things out (though Bader tends to favor that wrestling a bit more than Rumble). This has the potential to be a 5 round war of attrition, or it could be over in 30 seconds for either man.

How do these two stack up?

Johnson: 31 years old | 6'2" | 78" reach
Bader: 32 years old | 6'2" | 74" reach

What have these two done recently?

Johnson: W - Jimi Manuwa (KO) | L - Daniel Cormier (Sub) | W - Alexander Gustafsson (TKO)
Bader: W - Rashad Evans (UD) | W - Phil Davis (SD) | W - Ovince St. Preux (UD)

How did these two get here?

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson had a UFC run some years back where he went 7-4 at Welterweight and seemed like a case of missed potential. Then he moved up to Light Heavyweight, went 6-0 outside the organization (including a Heavyweight win over Andrei Arlovski), and was brought back in 2014, where he has been on a real roll. Johnson has terrific KO power and a very good wrestling game, and he's used that to steamroll opponent after opponent. His lone loss since 2012 was a title fight last year with Daniel Cormier. He looks to earn a shot at avenging that loss here.

Ryan Bader is now entering his 8th year as a UFC fighter, first entering the organization as the winner of TUF 8. With his strong wrestling and KO power, Bader has always been a respectable top 15 presence in the Light Heavyweight division (bizarre 2011 loss to Tito Ortiz aside), but in recent fights, he has looked more like an actual top contender. He's now riding a 5 fight win streak against increasingly tough opposition, culminating in a big win over former champion Rashad Evans in October. There was talk of a Bader title shot against Cormier at one point - and though he doesn't seem like a highly marketable challenger, that talk would have to seriously intensify with a win here.

Why should you care?

Depending on what happens with Jon Jones, the winner here could be next in line for a title shot. Plus, with these two, a lights out KO is always just a second away.