BANGOR, Maine — Bangor is about as far away from Arizona as one can go and still be in the United States. With a population of a little more than 30,000 residents, or roughly half the size of the student body at Arizona State University, this charming riverfront city has to be one of the most unlikely hosts ever for a premiere mixed martial arts event.
But that’s exactly what happened on Saturday night when the UFC sold out of the Cross Insurance Center in downtown Bangor to bring fight fans UFC Fight Night 47.
Headlining the night’s main card was a pivotal light heavyweight matchup between former ASU wrestling All-American Ryan Bader and former University of Tennessee linebacker Ovince Saint Preux.
Early in the bout, Saint Preux’s confidence in his striking was evident as he continuously dropped his hands below his waist in the center of the cage, baiting Bader to try and stand and bang with him. Bader, who revealed he may have fallen into this trap early in his career, refused to play Saint Preux’s game and quickly secured a takedown early in the opening round.
While Saint Preux did manage to climb back to his feet, Bader utilized quick head movement and crisp striking to nullify his opponent’s raw punching power.
The massive reach and unpredictable striking of his opponent seemed to get the better of Bader in the second round as Saint Preux connected with a series of vicious body shots, before landing a takedown of his own.
“It was different. I hadn’t fought a southpaw since [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira, which was four or five years ago,” said Bader “Not only that but he’s very long, one of the longer guys out there. So for me, I knew I had to definitely improvise a little bit. I felt flat, so I had to rely a little more on my takedowns.”
Bader seemed to catch a second wind heading into the third frame and was able score takedowns almost at will, even bringing the crowd to its feet with a powerful slam against the fence. Saint Preux, to his credit, never gave up and continued to fight his way back up to his feet, only to be dumped right back down.
The fourth round was pretty much a repeat of the previous frame as Bader continuously ducked the looping shots from Saint Preux before employing his powerful wrestling attack.
Saint Preux’s corner pleaded with their fighter to pick up the pace heading into the final round. Sensing he needed a finish if he had any hopes of pulling of the victory, Saint Preux scored the early takedown before opening up a cut on the forehead of Bader. But the Ex-Volunteer simply had no answer for Bader’s wrestling attack and overwhelming top game. Bader would cruise through the final frame, scoring a handful of takedowns until the bell signaled a conclusion to the fight.
In the end the judges’ scorecards read 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46 in favor of Bader, pushing his win streak to three straight in the UFC’s 205-pounds division. For St. Preux, the decision not only snapped his five fight win streak but also marked his first loss under the UFC banner.
“Tough fight. OSP is really tough,” said Bader following the official announcement. “I had to rely on my takedowns at the end. I didn’t feel my hands tonight, a little slow, but I got it done.”
When asked if he had anyone in mind for his next opponent, Bader revealed he was actually looking for some time off to recover from some nagging injuries he had suffered leading up this fight, but would welcome a matchup with any fighter the UFC offered him.
While he did not elaborate on any specific injuries immediately after the fight, Bader revealed to ArizonaSports.com that he actually suffered a broken hand four weeks before his fight with Saint Preux.
“[The broken hand] does mess with you in camp. I couldn’t really grapple for four weeks so it did mess with me a little bit,” said Bader. “But I put in the work, and I wasn’t going to pull out of a main event slot. In the fight it felt fine, I could throw it and it held up. The only issue was being in camp and not being able to do what I wanted to do.”
This bout also marked the first time in Bader’s career he reached the distance in a five-round fight, a feat Bader feels showcases his ability to compete at the championship level.
“It’s not fun going five rounds but I actually caught a second wind near the end,” revealed Bader. “All the rounds get kind of jumbled up…I had never gone the distance in a five-round fight. It was good to get that under my belt for those championship fights.”
With the UFC’s light heavyweight title picture clogged up at the moment, Bader’s most logical choices for a next opponent would most likely be Anthony Johnson or Alexander Gustafsson, both of whom are coming off violent knockout victories. But Bader reiterated it does not matter who he meets in his next bout. He’s simply hoping for an opponent above him in the rankings and place on UFC’s upcoming FOX card, currently scheduled to take place at US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix on Dec. 13.
“[Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson] sound good,” Bader said. “I know [Maruicio] ‘Shogun’ [Rua] and [Dan] Henderson are the guys in front of me who don’t have fights and I know Gustafsson is waiting for a title shot. But you never know, I’ll wait to hear from the UFC and see what they have to say because they might be thinking something totally different. But those are the kind of fighters that are on my mind.
“It’d be nice to get on that Phoenix card. I think it’s going to be a huge card out there and people are passionate about the UFC in Arizona,” said Bader. “They’ve been waiting for a long time and that’s all I been hearing about. People are always asking me if I’m going on be on that card so I’d like to. It makes sense and it’s a good timeline so I hope so.”