Former UFC rivals Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida met for the second time in the main event of Bellator 256 on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, and Bader, 37, grabbed the revenge win over Machida, 42, via a unanimous decision.
While Machida appeared to be making all the right moves in the first five minutes of the fight, Bader’s constant pressure and overwhelming grappling started to catch up with the Karate-style fighter in the second round.
By the end of the fifth round, that pressure had almost buried the brave but overmatched Machida in a mountain of pummelling.
Bellator labeled the win: “REVENGE!”
It was either that, or it was at least redemption. After all, Machida had scored a second-round knockout win over Bader when both fighters were with the UFC back in 2012.
Bader couldn’t get the revenge KO in the rematch nine years later, but he did the next best thing.
He dominated the action for nearly the entirety of the fight.
Judges scored it 49-46, 49-45 and 49-55 for Bader.
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Can Bader Recapture Gold at 205?
Bader, who is currently Bellator’s heavyweight champion, moved one step closer to recapturing his light heavyweight crown.
Bader was Bellator’s second-ever “champ champ”, but he stunningly lost his 205-pound belt to Vadim Nemkov last year.
Now, Bellator’s two top-ranked stars at 205 could meet again in the final of Bellator’s Grand Prix tournament in the light heavyweight division.
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Bader Dominated Machida in Rematch
Bader dominated Machida statistically. He threw and landed more strikes and nabbed five out of six takedowns, too.
Machida seemed to win the first round by keeping Bader at range with sharp kicks and timely counters. But it didn’t last.
Bader closed the distance near the end of the first five minutes, but the bell rang before he could corral Machida to the canvas to get any real work done.
Still, the template had been set for Bader.
Bader’s Takedowns Came Faster and Faster
When the two fighters came back to the middle of the cage for the second round is when the tide started to turn.
Bader nabbed a takedown with about two minutes left in the round. He pinned the striker to the fence and controlled the action with smart grappling and left-hand hooks until the round was over.
MMA Junkie’s Danny Segura posted, “Ryan Bader’s ground-and-pound is underrated. Dude can be a nightmare on top.”
Both fighters seemed to ramp up the aggression in the third round, but Bader is the one who got the best of things.
Machida dug hard kicks to the body from his southpaw stance, but Bader kept the pressure on the striker by finding his boxing range with more ease and regularity. That helped Bader get the takedown he wanted with three minutes left in the round, and he went right back to work.
Machida was notably more tired than he had been earlier in the fight, and Bader made things even harder on him by smashing him with nasty elbows.
MMA Junkie’s Dan Tom noted, “Been beating guys up like this before Khabib popularized it”.
Some Wanted Fight Stopped
By the fourth round, Bader was an avalanche of aggression.
He took Machida back down to the floor in less than a minute and went right back to work. He thew punches. He controlled his prey. He crushed him with elbows.
Some believed maybe the fight should be stopped there. Sean Sheehan posted, “Wouldn’t mind if the corner pulled Machida here.”
Later he posted, “This is making me sad.”
The fifth was more of the same. Again Bader grabbed the takedown, and Machida could do virtually nothing about it.
Bellator featherweight contender Juan Archuleta posted, “Damn @ryanbader Ground and Pound is vicious!!!”.
Bader scored the important win and now will face the winner of the upcoming battle between ex-UFC star Corey Anderson and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov.
Overall, the 205-pound Grand Prix is stacked with stars, and it serves as a good reminder that life outside of the UFC can be just as interesting as inside of it.
Bader got his revenge over Machida on Friday at Bellator 256, and he hopes to become Bellator’s “Champ Champ” again with two more victories.
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