The UFC 144 co-main event will feature a light heavyweight fight between former TUF 10 winner Ryan Bader and former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. This is an extremely important fight for both fighters. Bader wants to prove he belongs among the elite, and Jackson needs to rebound after being outclassed by Jon Jones in his last outing. Let’s see how this one breaks down.
Ryan Bader comes into this fight with a career record of (13-2) with six wins via TKO/KO and three wins via submission. Bader was last seen in action putting Jason Brilz away via TKO in very impressive fashion at UFC 139. It was a huge win for Bader after suffering back to back losses to Jon Jones, and a huge upset loss against Tito Ortiz. Bader comes from a wrestling background as he was a two time All American at Arizona State University. He also has good power in both hands.
Rampage Jackson comes into this fight with a career record of (32-9) with 14 wins via TKO/KO and four wins via technical submission. As mentioned earlier, he was last seen in action getting submitted for the second time in his career against Jon Jones back at UFC 135. Jackson had won two of three fights prior to the loss to Jones since returning from a hiatus in which he was filming a movie. Jackson still has some of the best boxing in the division, a great chin, outstanding takedown defense, and arguably has some of the best head and body defense in MMA. The knock on him is that he’s vulnerable to leg kicks and has become pretty one dimensional with is offensive attacks, relying solely on his boxing most of the time.
Jackson is the favorite at (-250) and Bader as the underdog at (+200).
I think those odds are about right, maybe Jackson should be valued a tad lower as he’s coming off the loss and some maybe questioning his commitment to MMA at this point. However, Jackson usually performs well against fighters with the skillset Bader brings to the table.
I think Rampage will do what Rampage does and that’s look for the knockout. Bader will likely try to strike just enough to set up his takedown attempts. I think Rampage will be able to defend most of those attempts as he has great hips and is very difficult to take down with shots from long range. However, look for Bader to transition out of his takedown attempts in an effort to land power shots from Rampage from close range. What I mean by that is he’ll shoot for a takedown, but not fully commit to it and then will transition back to striking to try and catch Rampage off guard.
Rampage has a great chin, so it’ll take Bader landing his best punch to put him away in my opinion. Rampage is the more polished striker in this matchup, he’ll need to avoid the big overhand right from Bader while looking to counter with punches of his own.
I think this fight will look similar to the fight Jackson had with Matt Hamill, but a little more competitive. I think Jackson will do well with defending the takedowns, and should be able to out strike Bader to win a decision. However, he might surprise us and get his first KO win since knocking out Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 in 2008?