Few had a better seat in the house watching Fedor Emelianenko vs. Chael Sonnen than Ryan Bader. It’s fitting, as Bader and Emelianenko will fight in January to decide who wins the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix as well as the vacant heavyweight title.
After Emelianenko TKO’d Sonnen in the final minute of the first round, Bader was invited into the cage to face-off with the Russian legend.
“It’s kind of surreal but not,” Bader told the media following Bellator 208. “I’ve been in there with guys like that. Guys that I kind of idolize coming up, to stand across the cage with them. It’s no different with Fedor. It’s one of those things that when you get that opponent, you know you’re fighting a guy, it’s just a man, a name and somebody standing in your way.”
Emelianenko happens to be standing in the way of Bader’s goal of becoming Bellator’s first dual-weight champion. “Darth” Bader entered the tournament as the promotion’s light heavyweight champ.
Sonnen’s Success vs. Emelianenko Could Benefit Bader
Bader got to see how Emelianenko fared against a fellow wrestler in Sonnen. Sonnen believes he might have keyed Bader in on how to find some success in grounding Emelianenko, telling the media, “I might’ve shown [Bader] some blueprints in the moments of success I had earlier tonight. To at least let him know where he should try to get this fight.”
“Chael took him down with kind of a single leg, the low, low single,” he said. “So, that balance there. It’s crazy because Fedor showed incredible balance in certain positions but then he got taken down by a low single and he had his feet together. I shoot my shots a little different than Chael’s. I either try to blow you off your feet or I don’t get in and stay in a good position, and I never like to be anywhere with my knees on the mat shooting at all. So, I saw some things there.”
Bader also noticed that Emelianenko seemed to be slowing down towards the end of the first round, as Sonnen had some success with his wrestling game. Emelianenko was able to use his size and strength to get out of those bad positions and get himself in mount on Sonnen. From there he was able to ground and pound his way to a TKO victory. Bader was hoping for a second round to see how Emelianenko’s stamina would look, but he managed to put Sonnen away with 14 seconds remaining.
“We didn’t get to see much in the [Frank Mir fight],” Bader said, referencing Emelianenko’s 48-second victory in the quarterfinals round. “We saw one round in [the Sonnen] fight. That’s why I said I’d like to see it go to the second round. [Emelianenko] looked very impressive. There’s definitely things that I saw that I could exploit and use and whatnot, but overall, a very gritty, good performance by Fedor.”
Planning for Emelianenko
Emelianenko has lured both Mir and Sonnen into fighting at his pace to their detriments. A crazy, frenetic pace that led to Mir being TKO’d early and Sonnen getting rocked early in their fight. Bader said watching those fights serves as a good reminder that he must remain composed when his turn to fight Emelianenko comes.
“Fedor, that’s his M.O.,” Bader said, “You come in there, he’s going to throw three punches at least at you, and they come from weird angles. Can you beat him to that punch when he has his hands down? Yeah. Do you want to play that game all the time, though? Probably not. So you’ve got to be patient.”
Bader continued that he plans for each opponent in a different manner. He plans to gather with his coaches, watch tape and come up with a game-plan to defeat Emelianenko. His reward would be champ-champ status in Bellator.