You know, its kinda funny. Initially I had mixed feelings on this bout as far as interest goes. But after watching the first fight between these two and seeing how evenly matched they were years back, curiosity has taken over and made this one a fight to watch. The first fight was pretty close with Phil Davis and Ryan Bader negating each others wrestling. It made for a mediocre kickboxing match with moments of clinch work and the occasion wrestling scramble. Being obsessed with patterns as of late, its curious to see which of these two have improved upon what worked in the first match.
Phil Davis is the reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion which speaks volumes about the talent pool that the UFC garners. Nevertheless, Davis now faces a familiar high level foe in Ryan Bader. While he may have lost the first match, Phil Davis has the opportunity to right the ship in this bout. Davis did a great deal right in the first match, but he discovered the weaknesses in Baders armor a bit too late and was already fighting from a deficit. His kicking game was particularly impressive considering his high level wrestling ability. His back leg front kick and round kick to legs, body, and head were money.
What the champion will need to do in order to win this rematch is embrace his length. Phil Davis has extremely long arms and legs and should be putting them to work. Rather than constantly move forward searching for the takedown and trying to score with jabs, he should instead hold his ground, back off from Bader will pumping his jab, then pushing forward with a left hook or overhand right. Once he has Bader biting on that combination, a nice level change to a reactive takedown will do nicely to dump the challenger on his back. Barring a takedown in the middle of the mat, Davis should pin Bader against the cage and fire elbows and knees in abundance to sap the challengers energy follow up with a takedown attempt.
Ryan Bader is the most recent high level Bellator convert since ditching the UFC. While the talent pool may not be the best to prove hes the greatest in the world, we have to remember that this is still a business. As such, Bader seems to have found a home he respects in Bellator. His first fight in is against a familiar face and style in Phil Davis. Where Davis is the wrestler with strong kicks, Bader is the wrestler with powerful punches. As such, Bader will want to do much of the same as he did in their first fight. Backing Davis up with a busy jab is the first order of business and is a tool that Bader needs to embrace once more.
While his wrestling is great, Bader should be using it simply to defend takedowns and threaten Davis. Its clear that Davis is going to want to take this fight to the ground, its just in his nature. Ryan Bader on the other hand embraces the power in his hands, sometimes to his detriment. Bader should touch his way in this his hand combinations and finish with a kick only when he has a proper 45 degree angle. As said before, a faked takedown could also set up some devastating shots as Davis will already be in the mindset to try and wrestle. Elbows while in the clinch will also be devastating especially against someone looking to take the fight to the ground.
Who do you think leaves the cage the light heavyweight champion?