Leading into UFC on Fox 4 in 2012, the fans were excited to see a co-main event match up between the UFC’s most elusive karate fighter and a heavy handed All-American wrestler. Lyoto Machida vs Ryan Bader was by no means a mismatch back then, but for fans of “The Dragon”, it was common knowledge that Machida had a history in taking advantage of Bader like styles in the past against opponents such as Randy Couture and Rashad Evans.
In the first round, Mike Goldberg makes a fitting comparison between rushing Machida, and walking into a wood-chipper, a statement that became even more fitting, one round later when Bader Rushed forward and took a straight right hand before going unconscious.
While Bader wasn’t necessarily in trouble before this, Machida had established successful distance control, clearly winning most of the exchanges for most of the fight. Yet going into their April 9th rematch of this year, Bader walks in as an approximate -290 favourite, while Machida, the +245 underdog.
The two will be meeting again in the first round of the Bellator 205lb tournament, the winner of which will be crowned Bellator’s #1 Light heavyweight in the world. Let’s go over exactly what happened over the past 9 years that have led to such a unique rematch.
Both men walked into their first fight within the 205lb weight limit, but neither man was destined to stay there. Following this fight, Lyoto Machida would fight at Light Heavyweight just two more times before dropping to 185 to take on the Middleweight division.
He would win two in a row before dropping a title fight to Chris Weidman by decision. Following this loss, Machida’s career goes on a bit of a decline, while he still competes with the best in the world he manages to finish out his UFC career with just a 3-3 record in his last 6. He then makes the transition to Bellator where he alternates between middleweight and Light Heavyweight for his last 4 fights going 2-2.
While Machida was taking a stab at the Middleweight division, Bader continued his run at UFC’s 205lb division for another 10 fights, never quite reaching the belt. In 2017, Bader parted ways with the UFC, to try his hand over at Bellator, who offered him an immediate shot at their Light Heavyweight title against his former opponent Phil Davis.
Bader edges out a split decision for the Bellator crown, and defends it once before making the move up to heavyweight to compete in their Heavyweight grand Prix, the winner of which becoming the Heavyweight champion of the world.
This is exactly what Bader does, and against the Legend of all Heavyweights Fedor Emelianenko no less. Bader’s following fight saw a disappointing no Contest against Cheick Kongo where an accidental eye poke saw to the champion retaining his title.
Bader’s first loss in 4 years would follow that. Vadim Nemkov was not a huge name to those MMA fans who primarily follow the UFC, but with a second round TKO of Bader, proved that the division is an extremely competitive and unpredictable one.
Bellator’s April 9th card will answer a lot of questions about the two fighters. Although the first fight may have been somewhat one sided, so much has happened in both of their careers since. While Machida has seen many ups and downs in the past 9 years, he’s consistently been a fight or two from divisional glory. It seems following the loss to Lyoto, Bader has only gotten better, he may be coming off a loss but going 13-3-1 since their first meet up is no joke.
At the same time, the saying goes ‘styles make fights’ and we’ve already seen Machida’s style come out on top once, will it be enough again or has Bader improved enough to bridge that gap?