Bader was Jon Jones’ last fight before Jones won the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, and Jackson was Jones’ last title defense. Both of these fighters are among the top contenders for the championship belt, and are fighting to place themselves at the top of the light heavyweight ranks. For Bader, it’s a shot at finally being part of the conversation, and for Jackson it’s a chance for a rematch. If Jackson loses, it will be devastating for his UFC career that skyrocketed after his impressive KO if Chuck Liddell in 2007. If Bader loses, he may have to wait quite some time and win some impressive victories before he ever gets a shot at the title.
Both fighters carry knockout power, but Jackson hasn’t won by KO since 2008 against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92. On the other hand, Bader scored a KO in two of his last three victories (Keith Jardine and Jason Brilz); his only two losses came by way of submission at the hands of Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz. Jackson has heavier hands and is much more experienced, but Bader is a stronger wrestler and an intuitive fighter that somehow finds ways to win. Here’s how it goes down…
Round 1: The fighters move quickly around the octagon before Jackson stops and holds his arms out as if to say “come at me.” Bader obliges and works Jackson against the cage before they square back up. Bader looks to have higher energy as Jackson plods his way around the octagon. Bader swings a big overhead right that Jackson ducks. Jackson slips a jab and Bader pushes forward, with no real attack. Bader whiffs a hook and tries a double leg. Rampage blunts the effort, but Bader pushes him into the cage. Jackson delivers an elbow and Bader swings an uppercut on his way away from the cage. Neither fighter can cleanly connect with their exchanges, but Bader is pushing the action (as well as Jackson) into the cage. Jackson fails in a takedown attempt and follows it up with a few powerful hooks that miss. A close round that can go either way, but Bader was pushing the action. 10-9 Bader.
Round 2: Bader starts the action with a feint left hook. Jackson is throwing some knockout hooks that don’t connect. Jackson misses another and pushes Bader into the cage until he literally picks him up and body slams Bader onto his neck. Bader gets back up and is soon met with a heavy leg kick to the body. Jackson stalks Bader into the cage with a couple more whiffing hooks, and Bader ducks to take Jackson down. In Jackson’s half guard, Bader throws a few elbows and tries to improve his position. The crowd is booing. Jackson lands some nice elbows on top of Bader’s skull. Jackson backs himself into the cage and sits up. Bader has a ball and chain, and pulls Jackson away from the cage. Jackson is able to stand up while Bader pelts his thighs with heavy knees. Bader pulls Jackson away from the cage and finds his back again. Bader isn’t strong enough to control Jackson from the back; he finds his way into Jackson’s full guard. Although Jackson slammed Bader onto his neck, Bader came back to dominate the rest of the round. 10-9 Bader.
Round 3: Jackson stalks and Bader dances. Bader pushes Jackson into the cage and delivers knees to Jackson’s quads. Bader releases his hold and swipes Jackson with a left hook on his way out. Bader is pushing the tempo and Jackson continually whiffs. I think Jackson’s prefight injury must have been his lower back; his body position looks awkward when he whiffs those hooks. Bader takes Jackson down and works his way to his back again — still not strong enough to keep the position. Bader falls back into Jackson’s guard to prevent Jackson’s escape attempt. The crowd boos as Bader remains in control in Jackson’s half guard. Bader throws intermittent hammer fists. The ref tells them to work, and Bader immediately goes for the kimura. Jackson gets free and Bader lands in side control. Bader tries to sink in a guillotine in the final seconds, as Jackson tries to stand up. 10-9 Bader.
Winner: Bader (Unanimous Decision: 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)