One of the main components of any MMA fight these days is the game plan or strategy. Long gone are the days in which fighters would just be able to train without much thought of what they would need to do inside the Octagon to get the win.

Head coaches are often given the task of devising a structure to their fighters’ training camps to ensure that by the time the fight comes around it won’t feel like they are implementing a predefined game plan, but it will feel like second nature.

In this feature, we will look to identify the underdog in an upcoming bout and examine what is required of that underdog in order to overcome the odds and predictions and get the all-important “W” in the win column. The point, then, is to step into the shoes of a head coach to break down the fight and provide a game plan for the underdog.

This week’s subject is Ryan Bader, who squares off with Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 28 from the Mineirinho Arena in Belo Horizante, Brazil on Sept. 4.

This card comes fresh on the back of UFC Fight Night 27, in which Carlos Condit displayed that he is still one of the best in the world, and UFC 164, in which we saw a new lightweight champion crowned, with Anthony “Showtime” Pettis claiming a submission victory over Benson “Smooth” Henderson.

To round off the incredible week of fights, we have a main event featuring two top light heavyweights with title implications, according to UFC brass, should Glover Teixeira get the win.

The Breakdown

Teixeira currently finds himself in a similar position to that which his opponent Ryan Bader was faced with heading into his fight against Lyoto Machida. Teixeira, fresh off a couple of solid performances in the UFC, is being talked of as the next challenger to the light heavyweight throne. Bader, meanwhile, is looking to continue the rebuilding process after having had his rise up the ranks halted when he ran (literally) face first into Machida’s right hand.

Teixeira’s style has been mainly stand-up based in his UFC fights, albeit he did score a few takedowns for good measure. He has shown a tendency to throw similar combinations during his fights and overextend himself on his punches, leading him to get caught by Fabio Maldonado and also Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. His endurance always seems to be sufficient to last the distance, although this is helped by the fact that he has largely dictated the pace of all his fights thus far.

Teixeira has the added bonus of confidence on his side in that he is now riding an incredible 19-fight winning streak, which is practically unheard of in modern-day MMA. His last loss dates back to 2005 when he was defeated by UFC veteran Ed “Short Fuse” Herman.

When analyzing this fight, it would be a mistake on Bader’s part if he were to assume Teixeira’s skills rest solely on the feet. Teixeira is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and has showcased these skills with wins inside the Octagon against Kyle Kingsbury and, most recently, James Te Huna. In particular, his top position game is very strong, and he will look to mix in strikes to open up the submission opportunity.

Bader is a strong wrestler who has gone through The Ultimate Fighter experience, which is not to be discounted. Since his time on the reality series, he has developed better stand-up ability. However, he is by no means an elite striker just yet, as evidenced by his over-eagerness against Machida.

In his UFC career, Bader has fought against just about every style of fighter imaginable, which will give him confidence that Teixeira, whilst certainly skilled, does not possess any special attribute that he has not seen in some form or another previously. Teixeira is not the puzzle that Bader’s previous opponent, Machida, was, and as such, he can be more assured in his own movements inside the Octagon come fight night.

The problems which Teixeira is likely to present can be likened to that which Antônio Rogério Nogueira provided previously for Bader in the most part—a high-level striker with good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. In that fight, it was the threat of Bader’s takedown ability that allowed him to get a narrow victory over the Brazilian and continue on his path before suffering back-to-back guillotine losses to Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz.

The Strategy

Bader heads into this fight as a heavy underdog, tasked with derailing the hype train of Teixeira, which according to most is headed straight for Jon Jones.

There is no doubt that if Bader wants to win this fight, he is going to have to focus a large portion of his energy on ensuring that he avoids the power punches of Teixeira, who likes to attack the body as well as the head. Teixeira certainly has the power to stop Bader with one punch.

When approaching this fight, Bader must draw on his performance against Nogueira by ensuring he at least threatens the takedown from the very start, so as to at least make Teixeira aware of the impending threat.

The real key for Bader here is to mix things up with leg kicks, footwork and takedowns/clinch work against the cage. If Bader can keep Teixeira guessing in the early going, it will dampen the confidence that the Brazilian currently has and allow Bader to work his way into the fight before going for the takedown at the right moment instead of just launching forward from the opening bell.

Should he get the fight to the floor, Bader needs to maintain his composure in top position, making sure he maintains wrist control and doesn’t allow Teixeira any room to maneuver his hips. Hip pressure is key to ensuring Bader can keep the Brazilian’s attacks at bay. Bader should look to take a page out of Randy Couture’s book in keeping himself either in full guard or half guard during the fight, as this allows him the most control over Teixeira’s body.

Only once he feels comfortable should he look to finish the fight from the top position by unleashing some of the heavy ground-and-pound that he showcased during the Nogueira fight.

Overall, if Bader is to win this fight, he must avoid getting set into a rhythm and pattern on the feet which is comfortable for Teixeira in the early going. Instead, feinting the takedown and mixing things up with kicks and clinch work will be key to ensuring Bader is the one at ease with how the fight plays out. Later, he can look to work his wrestling and pressure Teixeira with heavy shots from the top in order to pull off a huge upset in enemy territory.

Photo: Ryan Bader (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer

Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.