UFC light heavyweight and all-around nice guy Ryan Bader (pictured) thought last January’s victory over Phil Davis was good enough to secure a title shot. It wasn’t.
Bader then crashed champion Daniel Cormier’s UFC 187 post-fight conference in May demanding a crack at the crown. Despite the impromptu WWE-esque promo the rivals cut, which resulted in Bader being escorted from the presser by security, UFC brass were still not sold on pitting Bader in a championship affair.
No problem, October’s unanimous decision victory over former champ Rashad Evans would certainly seal the top contender deal then. Nope, it didn’t.
Which leads us to today, where Bader looks to prove his mettle against Anthony Johnson, the most physically intimidating man in the division. If Bader can tumble “Rumble,” there’s no way the UFC can deny him a title tilt, right?
If Bader beats the #3 ranked light heavyweight tonight to post his sixth consecutive win, it still might not be enough for the bosses to slide him into a fight for the belt. All of Bader’s victories during this torrid run have been via non-highlight reel decision. Most believe that if he gets past Johnson, it will be in the same ho-hum, grind-it-out manor.
In fact, the UFC hasn’t even built up tonight’s main event on FOX as a top contender contest. So the only thing that the 32-year-old Bader is essentially guaranteed is he’ll never sniff a UFC title fight with a loss.
The UFC is a pay-per-view business. It’s tough to sell Bader based on his effective, yet aesthetically unappealing, wrestling-intensive style.
However, Bader could punch his championship ticket if he can somehow punch Johnson into unconsciousness. He needs to throw caution to the wind and throw haymakers. If he repeats what he’s done in his past five bouts tonight, he’ll still find himself on the outside looking in.
It’s now or never for Bader.