Preview of UFC on FOX 18: Johnson vs. Bader

By Owen Phillips     25/1/16

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Anthony Johnson (red trunks). Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog

Anthony Johnson has thunderous power. He has knocked out names such as Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. His only problem is with fighters who can take his power and push him to the later rounds. That does not leave many opponents who can get the best of Johnson. Ryan Bader will attempt to join Daniel Cormier, the current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light-heavyweight champion, as one of those people. Cormier withstood a barrage of punches in the first round to grind down Johnson and get a third round submission to claim the gold belt for the first time.

Bader (20-4) has put together a portfolio of work that has him knocking on the door of a title shot. If he manages to get past Johnson (20-5) in the eagerly awaited UFC on FOX 18 main event on Sunday (Australian time), he would surely have earned it. Bader started out his mixed martial arts (MMA) career primarily as a wrestler but has evolved his striking significantly. He has the ability to get the knockout and offer another threat other than his high level grappling. Bader is now capable of standing with the best strikers in the division and to see how he performs against the lethal hands of Anthony Johnson will be a key determinant of the outcome of the fight.

In the co-main event ‘Big’ Ben Rothwell (35-9) crosses paths with Josh ‘The Warmaster’ Barnett (34-7) in a heavyweight bout that promises to be an absolute spectacle. Two of the real characters in the sport, ‘Big’ wears a hooded robe during his walk to the octagon, has a special ‘evil’ laugh and choreography that is let loose in post-fight interviews. ‘The Warmaster’ is original as his own character, with interesting opinions, displayed in an eloquent manner more akin to a doctor or a lawyer. Both fighters have a high level of experience, having fought in numerous MMA promotions around the world. Rothwell has good power in his hands and potent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu if the fight hits the mat. Barnett likes to suffocate his opponents in the clinch, mixing up an arsenal of knees and dirty boxing, and has submission skills to end the contest.

Another fight that is placed on the main card is an intriguing matchup between ‘Super’ Sage Northcutt (7-0) and late notice replacement Bryan Barberena (10-3) at welterweight. Sage Northcutt burst into the MMA public eye after being hand-picked by UFC president Dana White on the television series Looking for a fight. He has a karate background and a reasonable MMA game. At 19 years old and with seven professional fights, ‘Super’ has plenty of time to continue to improve his skills and will have to keep on doing this against UFC calibre fighters. Bryan Barberena is filling in for Andrew Holbrook, who was more dangerous with his submissions, where Barberena likes to stand and trade strikes. ‘Bam Bam’ Barberena has never been knocked out, will look to do damage on the feet and get the stoppage. He has managed to get the KO/TKO in 8 out of his 10 professional MMA wins. In his last fight Barberena hurt Chad Laprise but succumbed to a unanimous decision loss. This broke a seven-fight winning streak after he stopped Joe Ellenberger with punches in his UFC debut.

One fight which is must-see television is a welterweight scrap between Jake Ellenberger (30-10) and Tarec Saffiedine (15-4) which is placed on the Fox Sports preliminary card. Ellenberger is an enigma in this sport. He can be one of the most devastating competitors when he decides to let his hands go; powerful combinations that have brutal effects and fight-ending consequences. All fight fans are hoping for ‘The Juggernaut’ version of Ellenberger to step into the octagon and not the tentative, disconnected version. Tarec Saffiedine has been at a high level in MMA for a long time. He was the last welterweight champion for the Strikeforce organization before it was bought by the UFC. He utilises an effective kickboxing attack to wear out his opponents and get decision victories. His leg kicks are particularly dangerous and he does his best to keep the fight standing.