UFC 126: Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader
While analysis of the Ryan Bader (12-0, 5 KOs, 3 SUBs) vs. Jon Jones (11-1, 7 KOs, 2 SUBs) fight itself could fill six columns, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak on the ways in which it fits into the always exciting and overcrowded light heavyweight title picture.
In any normal division this would be the match that would determine who would get the next crack at the title after Mauricio Shogun Rua and Rashad Evans fight at UFC 128. But, as it were, Boss Dana has a whole host of matchups in the coming months to look at and use as determining factors while choosing his new No. 1 contender.
Also on this very card we have Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin, then at UFC 129 there is Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida and Matt Hamill vs. Phil Davis, and finally at UFC 130 we have Rampage Jackson vs. Thiago Silva. I think we’ll probably see two of those winners plucked and placed in a title eliminator bout over the summer but, as always, time will tell.
To me, this fight is the most exciting thing the month of February has to offer. We are looking at a striker-vs.-grappler showdown though both of these guys are well-versed in both.
Bader, the former amateur wrestler, does have a few KO wins to his credit and I’ve heard word that his striking seems to be getting better every day during training. Of course it is hard to find anybody who can stand and bang with Jones and not find themselves in the hospital the next day and if I were in Bader’s corner I would advise him to avoid anything that even resembles a stand-up war. Jones can always hatch some sort of crazed plan to escape the clinch and then launch into one of his innovative offenses that are so exciting to watch.
For the gamblers out there, I have spoken out about how Bader, sitting at plus-290, is the most enticing line of the night for me. I know that to do so you have to bet against the man who is probably the hottest prospect in the game today and that at the end of this column I am going to pick against Bader, but this fight is going to be extremely close and the reality is that we have no idea at all just how good Jones is off his back. We do know, however, that Bader is awesome at keeping people there and bending them to his will.
We also know that Jones has steamrolled everybody in his path thus far (and that loss of his isn’t really a loss at all), however Bader is, hands down, his toughest opponent yet. By picking him to win I am saying that I think his quick hands and state-of-the-art violence-delivery system will catch Bader before Bader is able to catch him and grind him deep into the mat.
Pick: Jones via second-round TKO