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UFC 119: Is Bader ready for the big time?

Can favored Ryan Bader advance his MMA standing this weekend at UFC 119?

Ever since “Darth” Bader (11-0-0) first showed up on the Ultimate Fighter Season 8 gym, he’s been a wrecking machine. He cruised to the Ultimate Fighter title and has beaten every opponent that has been put in front of him since then.

Poised to enter the title contender picture, Bader likely needs one or two more wins to get his shot at the Light Heavyweight title, currently held by Mauricio Rua.

But those wins will have to come against a couple of the best in the division. The Light Heavyweight division may be the weight class that has the most legitimate contenders, and if Bader hopes to get a match against top-tier fighters like Rashad Evans, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, or Jon Jones he must first beat the dangerous Antonio Rogerio “Little Nog” Nogueira (19-3-0).

Nogueira will be coming off a narrow split-decision win over Jason Brilz and will need to be better against Bader. Little Nog has wins over some big names in MMA like Vladimir Matyushenko, Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, and Kazushi Sakuraba, so counting him out against a relatively inexperienced Bader may not be the best strategy.

Bader only has one win over a top Light Heavyweight contender, which came in his last fight via third-round KO against an aging Keith Jardine. Bader will surely be facing his toughest test to this point in his career against Nogueira, but most think he’s up for the challenge.

Bodog have Bader as the -165 favorite, while Nogueira will pay +135 for the upset. Bader should be able to dominate the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt in a striking match, but if Nogueira happens to dominate in the stand up, Bader has the option to switch to a wrestling/ground-and-pound approach and control the fight from on top.

Nogueira’s best chance to win the fight will be on the ground, but that chance will increase depending on the position he’s able to achieve. He will be dangerous on his back, but if he can manage to find himself on top he could easily find a way to submit Bader for the win.

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