Some guys are gifted UFC title shots as if they’re going out of style. Others, like light heavyweight Ryan Bader (pictured), have to take the scenic route for a crack at the crown.
With five straight wins, Bader is the hottest fighter in the division. He thought January’s victory over Phil Davis was good enough to secure him a title shot. “Darth” thought wrong. Last month’s win over former champ Rashad Evans? Still not good enough, especially with the UFC hellbent on rightfully granting Jon Jones an immediate opportunity to reclaim his belt after getting stripped following April’s felony hit-and-run arrest.
Bader is on a torrid run, but unfortunately for the wrestler, the UFC is not only about wins and losses. It’s primarily a business, as the UFC’s controversial and highly-scrutinized Reebok sponsorship deal will attest to, and marketability reigns supreme.
Granted, Bader has rattled off five consecutive wins, but they were all of the decision variety. With no highlight reel finishes against top tier competition to solidify his top contender status – or more importantly, for the UFC to use in footage to promote a title tilt on pay-per-view – Bader once again finds himself on the outside of the cage looking in.
On Wednesday, it was announced Bader will have to prove his mettle against Anthony Johnson. “Rumble” is arguably the most dangerous fighter in the division with his one-punch KO power, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Johnson as the favorite to beat Bader on January 30.
The UFC hasn’t promised the victor anything.
A loss would be devastating for Bader. At 32, will never come this close to sniffing a championship affair again.
Sure, Bader can be bitter with the UFC for sliding Daniel Cormier right back into a title bout just four months after getting demolished by then-champ Jones in January, and the fact Alexander Gustafsson leapfrogged him into last month’s championship about against current champ Cormier despite coming off a first round TKO blasting from Johnson. Or, he can posterize Johnson on national television to cement his spot in line.
A decision win over Johnson to notch six straight would be impressive, but no more impressive than the previous five decisions he already has under his non-championship belt. If Bader has truly received the UFC ‘s message, then he’ll look to post a devastating finish on Johnson.
Everyone else has heard the message loud and clear, it’s time for Bader to open up his ears … and his arsenal.