After winning season eight of 'The Ultimate Fighter,' Ryan Bader has improved on an undefeated record of 11-0 including four straight victories in the UFC. His most recent win being a KO victory over Keith Jardine at UFC 110. Lil' Nog will make his return after a very controversial decision win over Jason Brilz at UFC 114. Although 19-3 overall and 2-0 in the UFC, Nogueira needs a convincing victory here to maintain his status as an elite light-heavyweight in the UFC's stacked 205 pound division. The winner of this fight will garner some chatter of a title shot, while the loser will be knocked down a few pegs and be forced to climb back up a pretty steep slope.
A lot of people seem convinced that Bader will gas out during this thing and that his lack of experience will find him on the business end of a submission, but I'm not convinced. Along with not being known for cutting a huge amount of weight, he's been doing it all his competitive life. Are wrestlers know for having bad cardio? I wasn't aware. As for experience? How experienced is Jason Brillz? The man has gone 3-2 in the UFC fighting guys like Eric Schafer, Eliot Marshall and Tim Boetsch, not exactly world beaters.
Unless Lil' Nog can slow the pace of this fight with his footwork and his boxing, I think he's going to have a hard time dealing with Bader's pace. If Bader can establish a high paced work rate throughout the fight he's going to wear his opponent down. *See Bader's workout below.
I talked to Bader about how he plans on winning this fight, and the answers are not all that surprising.
I think my wrestling and my ability to scramble. Lil' Nog had some trouble with Jason Brilz primarily because he put a scramble into every position he had. Nogueira would be going for a half guard sweep and Brilz would use his wrestling to create a better position. Nogueira is a very well rounded fighter, but I think the main thing he lacks is a good wrestling base. I think I have him there with my ability to create scrambles. There isn't too much of a gameplan for this fight, just go where it goes. I have some power in my hands so I might be able to take him out that way, or get him on his back, be careful posturing up.
I'm not ruling Nogueira out, in fact Bader even admits that his time spent on 'The Ultimate Fighter' showed him how dangerous the Brazilian twins can be.
It definitely gives me an insight into how good they actually are. Big Nog would tell me to try to work out of his guard or stop a sweep, and I would have a hard time doing it. If anything, it makes me respect his skills even more. I'm not overlooking anything in this fight. It just makes me work harder knowing what they can do.
There's a lot going on in this fight and more than a few issues looking to play major roles. This is Bader's first fight since switching camps from Arizona Combat Sports and the Lally brothers to The Lion's Den in Scottsdale and opening his own facility, Power MMA. That change could have been a huge distraction, or it could have brought out new wrinkles in his game. This is also Bader's first fight since having surgery on his knuckle, a result of punching Keith Jardine square in the forehead. We'll have to see if the injury hampered his training.
All things considered, I have to like Bader in this fight. I know Lil' Nog will be coming out guns blazing for a chance to redeem his last performance, but I'm not sure he has enough to put Bader away.