This weekend, UFC will make its fourth appearance on network television in the United States. While Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera will get main-event billing for their fight, the real main-event of the show is just under it. And like Shogun/Vera, this fight also resides in the light heavyweight division.
Machida has already tasted victory in championship fights, being a former UFC light heavyweight champion. Of course that title reign was overshadowed by controversy as his only successful defense came against Shogun in a fight that the great majority of people (including this writer) believed Shogun won easily. The rematch was an even easier win for Shogun and Machida has been looking to regain the title ever since that loss over two years ago.
The closest Machida got to regaining the title was an unsuccessful challenge of the title this past December against Jon Jones. Machida wasn't Jones' original opponent, but was inserted when Rashad Evans wasn't medically cleared to fight Jones. The first round of that fight was Machida's and was the best single round for any of Jones' UFC opponents. In round two, Jones took over and choked Machida out on his feet.
Bader has been close, but ironically it was Jon Jones who put a stop to that. The two met in early 2011 and like just about every fight of Jones' UFC career, this one was a slaughter. Most people forgave Bader for that loss, but it was his followup that sent Bader back to the drawing board.
Last summer, Ryan Bader was the victim of arguably the upset of the year in MMA for 2011 when an aging Tito Ortiz submitted Bader in the opening round of a fight that many believed Bader would win easily.
Since then, Bader has gained wins against Jason Brilz and Quinton Jackson. The wins showed off Bader's positives and were impressive wins for the most part, but neither win did much to give people the idea that Bader is a viable title challenger. A win against someone like Machida could change that perception.
The stakes in this fight seem to be very different from the card's main-event. With Shogun/Vera, the stakes are career direction with Vera looking for his first win against a big name in years and Shogun trying to break out of a funk (losing three of his last five fights) that a UFC light heavyweight title reign couldn't fully alleviate. Whereas Machida/Bader is about the pursuit of title gold and who will have the inside track on getting a future title shot.
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