Heavyweight title fights tend to naturally generate some excitement, and this one happens to be between two charismatic – and, most importantly, highly victorious – fighters. The timing of it, understandably, though, gave some people pause.
Two weeks ago, Lewis (20-5 MMA, 12-3 UFC) left the octagon after a heroic come-from-behind win saying that he wasn’t ready for a five-round effort due to a lack of training commitment . Add to it that he has just recently started addressing lingering back issues, and questions about his conditioning in a four-week turnaround became understandable.
Cormier (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC), on his end, has been dealing with a hand injury stemming from his July title win over Stipe Miocic. He’d been talking about returning in January, specifically in a super fight against ex-champ Brock Lesnar, before agreeing to compete on Nov. 3. And that has led to some people to conclude he might be taking Lewis lightly.
Like Bellator’s own double-championship hopeful Ryan Bader.
“I think Derrick Lewis is funny, the whole deal, I like his personality, I like his post-fight speeches and all that kind of stuff,” Bader told MMAjunkie Radio. “But I really think this could be Cormier’s easiest fight in a long, long time. I see Cormier going out there, jabbing him in the face a few times, hitting the outside single, putting Derrick on his butt and it’s going to be game over, pretty much.
“That’s why we saw Cormier take this fight, even though he’s got a hurt hand, even though it’s a month away. He’s like, ‘Wait, I get to go out there, put my heavyweight title on the line and fight a guy who just said that he doesn’t even deserve to be in a title fight? That he’s tired and can’t go five rounds? Of course Cormier’s going to do that. I actually think Cormier’s going to run away with that, for sure.”
Although they were both atop the UFC’s light heavyweight division at around the same time, and there were attempted matchups, Bader (26-5 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) and Cormier never got to meet inside the cage. As fate would have it, though, the two find themselves in similar conditions, as 205-pound champ Bader prepares for a heavyweight title bid in his current home.
Bader meets Fedor Emelianenko on Jan. 26, at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., in what will be the final bout of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix.
Obviously, the thought of becoming champ-champ, especially with a win over a legend of the sport, is something Bader quite appreciates. But, as it usually happens whenever champions venture into other divisions, it also sparks some questions; namely, how is he going to conduct two title reigns – if he gets to conduct them at all?
Bader says there’s still a lot to be figured out there before making any definite plans. But, as of now, his idea is to keep and defend both titles.
“It’s one of those things where, you defend that heavyweight first, it might be a bigger fight, it might be a bigger money fight – might be something I’m interested in,” Bader said. “And then I’m holding up that 205 belt for how long, do they do an interim, do they try to strip me? There’s a lot of moving parts there. Right now, I’m saying I want to do both.
“I want to not only get both, be two-division champ, but also defend both, something I don’t think a lot of people have done. So, that’s initially what I’m thinking right now, but we never know. Like I said, there could be a way more intriguing heavyweight fight that makes more sense financially, the whole deal.”
Bader knows this, though: He doesn’t mind not cutting weight. And, judging by his dominant display over lifelong heavyweight Matt Mitrione at Bellator 207 to advance to the tournament’s finals, it would appear size isn’t really an issue.
At this point, it’s wait and see for Bader, who must first get past Emelianenko. If there does come a point in which he has to defend the heavyweight title, though, he agrees with the majority of MMAjunkie Radio listeners and would like to extend Cheick Kongo (29-10-2 MMA, 11-2 BMMA) the type of opportunity that he believes he was denied in the past.
“(Sergei Kharitonov), he looked great, but I don’t know who his last fight and whatnot,” Bader said. “Kongo’s had a seven-fight winning streak, the whole deal. (Vitaly Minakov), he’s been out the whole time, and I’m always for the guy that’s been putting his dues in. That’s what I like about Bellator, that’s what I like about this tournament. You win, you move on.
“I’ve been in that position before, where I’ve won fights against tough opponents and (they) gave a title shot to a guy that got knocked out, stuff like that.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Ryan Bader: Derrick Lewis could be Daniel Cormier's 'easiest fight in a long, long time'