For several fights of his UFC career, Ryan Bader seemingly forgot or lost track of the fact that he was an All-American wrestler once he discovered he held knockout power in his hands.
Going away from his grappling attacks did result in some knockouts, but it also took away the best weapon Bader had at his disposal from the first day he decided to transition from wrestling.
Over his last few fights, Bader has gone back to his roots and it’s resulted in three wins in a row, the latest coming over Ovince Saint Preux in the main event of UFC Fight Night from Bangor, Maine on Saturday.
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While outwrestling Saint Preux wasn’t necessarily the strategy Bader had before the fight started, he had the ultimate equalizer sitting in his back pocket when his hands weren’t coming close to catching his opponent’s chin.
Bader started with two takedowns in the first round to set the pace, although he allowed Saint Preux to come back on him in the second with a steady diet of punches and unorthodox offensive attacks. Just when it seemed like Saint Preux was finding his stride, Bader took him down to the mat again and again and again.
All told, Bader ended the night with nine takedowns in total on 21 attempts.
Putting the former Tennessee football player on the ground also opened up Bader’s offensive game, where he outworked Saint Preux by a total of 77-30 in strikes landed. Bader never put Saint Preux in any serious danger, but he did his best to break his will with a barrage of takedowns over all 25 minutes.
When the fight came to an end, there was no doubt that Bader won his third in a row, although Saint Preux didn’t have a bad showing for himself outside of a clear inability to stop the takedown. When he couldn’t get up off the mat, Saint Preux was like a fish out of water and failed to put together any combinations on his feet to stave off Bader’s attacks.
Bader was tired and bleeding by the end of the fifth round after Saint Preux did manage to land some elbow strikes during one takedown attempt, but it was his only real damage sustained.
The judges saw the fight 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 all in favor of Bader.
While the win did mark Bader’s third in a row, which also should guarantee him a slot against a top-five opponent for his next trip to the Octagon, the former Ultimate Fighter winner still seemed disappointed in his performance. He didn’t even want to call for his next fight when given the chance with a microphone in front of his face and a captive audience both in the arena and watching on FOX Sports 1 at home.
"I’ve got to take care of some injuries and get back together with everybody and see where we go from here," Bader said.
Bader could draw one of three opponents for his next fight depending on timing and how the UFC opts to match-make the light heavyweight division. Rashad Evans, Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson are all coming off wins and could make suitable opponents for Bader, but nothing figures to be decided until he gets healthy. But as everyone knows with the UFC, things change on a moment’s notice.