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UFC 144 main card recap: Ryan Bader upsets ‘Rampage’ Jackson, earns unanimous decision victory

Neither the Pride theme song, or the overwhelming support from the crowd in Japan could help “Rampage” Jackson defeat Ryan Bader at UFC 144. Bader was able to score effectively on his feet and then execute his gameplan of putting Jackson on his back, as he outworked “Rampage” over three rounds of action en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Bader effectively used his reach and straight punches to keep the distance to start the bout, mixing in leg kicks to keep Jackson guessing early. An early shot from Jackson was stuffed by Bader, as he reversed and put “Rampage” on the cage. After a brief battle in the clinch, Bader backed out and took the center of the cage. Bader then uncorked a flush overhand right that scored as Jackson came forward. After failed takedown attempts by both fighters, Bader locked up a front headlock and fired off several knees up the middle, forcing “Rampage” to put a hand on the mat to ground himself. After the break, it was Jackson that looked for a takedown but failed to get it, but followed up with a big body shot to end the first round.

Bader started the second round landing leg kicks and scoring with his right hand. “Rampage” tried to counter with his big left hook, but only fired off one punch at a time compared to the multiple punches of Bader. Jackson then relived a bit of his past, elevating and slamming Bader to the mat with authority. Bader scrambled to his feet but looked dazed as he absorbed knees in the clinch from Jackson. Jackson then came forward with a blistering body shot, but Bader was able to duck under the next punch from “Rampage” and get a takedown of his own. As boos erupted from the crowd, Bader continued to work from the top with grinding elbows, and short left hands. “Rampage” tried to scramble, but Bader maintained control, taking the back of Jackson and firing off knees. “Rampage” was able to get back to his feet, but only for a moment as Bader secured another takedown with 30 seconds to go in the second round. Bader maintained top control for the remainder of the round, landing more strikes from the top.

As the third round opened, Bader again looked to establish his jab while “Rampage” swung for the fences. Bader immediately closed the distance and clinched, putting Jackson on the cage and executing some nice dirty boxing. After separating, Bader landed a nice right hand on the exit before taking the center of the cage. Bader then used his jab to set up an explosive shot, driving Jackson toward the cage and onto his back. Once there, Bader moved to side mount and went to work with knees to the body. “Rampage” effectively used the cage to push off and retain guard, but with half the round gone it was apparent that he could not spend much more time on the ground. As Jackson got to his feet, Bader immediately dragged him back to the mat. As boos escalated from the crowd again, Bader remained very busy on the top, not risking a stand up at such a critical time in the fight. A flurry of right hands and stifling top control continued for Bader, as Jackson struggled to get off his back. Bader worked for a kimura with time running out on the bout, but the bell would sound, putting an end to a very impressive performance by Ryan Bader.

With scores of 30-27 across the board, Ryan Bader (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) made the most of his trip to Japan, earning the hard-earned unanimous decision victory.

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