Bellator 256 breakdown: Can Lyoto Machida prevail over Ryan Bader again, nine years later?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Dan Tom
·6 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for Bellator 256.

Bellator 256 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Showtime and MMA Junkie following prelims on MMA Junkie.

Ryan Bader (27-6 MMA, 5-1 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6'2" Age: 37 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 74"

  • Last fight: TKO loss to Vadim Nemkov (Aug. 21, 2020)

  • Camp: Power MMA (Arizona)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info: + Former Bellator light heavyweight champion + Bellator heavyweight champion + 2x Division I All-American wrestler + 3x Pac-10 champion + 12 knockout victories + 3 submission wins + 10 first-round finishes + KO power + Good cardio and conditioning + Improved striking and footwork ^ Accurate left hand + Excellent wrestling ability ^ Explosive power-double takedown + Strong inside the clinch + Good transitional grappler ^ Solid positional awareness and rides +/- 2-0 in career rematches

Lyoto Machida (26-10 MMA, 2-2 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6'1" Age: 42 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 74"

  • Last fight: Decision loss to Phil Davis (Sept. 11, 2020)

  • Camp: Machida Karate (Brazil/California)

  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info: + Former UFC light-heavyweight champion + Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt + Shotokan karate black belt + 11 knockout victories + 2 submission wins + 5 first-round finishes + KO power + Crafty feints and footwork ^ Deceptive distance closer + Accurate left cross ^ Coming forward or off the counter + Dangerous kicks and knees + Strong inside the clinch + Traditionally counter wrestles well ^ Solid base and balance +/-0-3 in rematches

Point of interest: Striking the second time around

The main event for Bellator 256 features a rematch between two notable names to kick off the promotion's light heavyweight grand prix. In their first meeting back at UFC on FOX 4, we saw a much greener version of [autotag]Ryan Bader[/autotag] get exposed on the feet by a crafty counter-puncher in [autotag]Lyoto Machida[/autotag]. Since then, Bader has steadily rounded out his striking skills under coaches like Chaz Turner, showing a more well-rounded game, overall. With a focus on opening up Bader’s hips and stance, the two-time All-American wrestler has shown to more fluidly hit and move while stringing his strikes together. Quietly developing an active and accurate left hand, Bader has been able to bludgeon the eyes of both Phil Davis and Rashad Evans with jabs, as well as drop Fedor Emelianenko and Muhammed Lawal with authoritative left hooks en route to winning the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix. That said, I will be curious to see how long the former champ looks to stand given Machida's looming left hand. Typically circling along the outside of striking range, Machida will lure his opposition into his space, keeping left-cross counters on a hair-trigger for anyone who commits to entering. Once finding offensive angles to his liking, the Brazilian is not beyond blitzing in left-to-right punch continuums. When feeling in stride, the 42-year-old will unleash his patented left body and head kicks, weapons that have seemingly gotten stronger since his time spent with Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. In said time, Machida has opted to throw more leg kicks in his repertoire, a trend I will be curious to see if he carries over to this fight considering the potential level-changing threats that will, once again, be coming his way. Next point of interest: Potential grappling threats

Point of interest: Potential grappling threats

Considering where the biggest on-paper skills differential lies, I will be curious to see how often Bader looks to lean on his wrestling chops. Bader has an explosive power double-leg takedown that he always keeps in his back pocket and is more than capable of scoring or reversing from the clinch (as the Pac-10 champ is not beyond hitting hip tosses of his own). And if Bader is able to establish any variation of top position, then it could spell trouble for Machida, who is not exactly a bottom player despite his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Nevertheless, Machida still offers decent obstacles in regards to the initial layers of takedown defense. The former UFC champion has historically been hard to take down outside of well-timed shots or an outright out-muscling. And when fighters attempt to clinch Machida, he usually does well at re-swimming for underhooks or even limp-arming his way to safety when he needs to. Still, despite his increased technical index of defense, Machida has seemingly had more of a difficult time avoiding clinch scenarios in recent years, which could be something to watch for in this matchup. Machida can offer up submissions from his back (as we saw in his rematch with Gegard Mousasi) but has traditionally fared poorly when put there for prolonged periods of time. If Machida can't replicate the successes of Vadim Nemkov in regards to scaring off Bader from his back, then the Brazilian veteran will need to get urgent if he means to stay out of the American's wheelhouse. An excellent positional player, Bader likes to earn control time through punishing rides that allow him to put on beatings that make some opponents look like a video game character whose operator momentarily stepped away from the controller. Utilizing cross-wrist rides (or “Dagestani handcuffs”) to secure UFC wins well before Khabib Nurmagomedov was popularizing these techniques inside of the octagon, Bader has been quietly continuing to sharpen his ground game under the care of fourth-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jair Lourenco. I'm not sure I see either man submitting the other, as I suspect that positional play will be the priority in grappling exchanges. Next point of interest: Odds, opinion and prediction

Point of interest: odds and opinions

The oddsmakers and public are siding with the former Bellator light heavyweight champion, listing Bader -290 and Machida +245 as of this writing. Considering how second meetings typically fare for older fighters (especially one who currently sits at 0-3 in rematches), I am not surprised to see Bader installed as a wide favorite. Outside of getting hit by a rare right hand from Machida nine years ago, Bader has managed to stay perfect against southpaw fighters for the entirety of his professional career. I also suspect that the five-round nature of these grand prixs will only continue to suit an athlete like Bader. Not only has Bader seldom shown to tire in professional competition (which is pretty crazy considering the divisions that he competes in), but the 14-year pro has proven that he can both wrestle and strike throughout an entire 25-minute duration. Unless Machida is able to recreate history and land another perfectly-placed counter shot, then I see Bader successfully corralling Machida toward the cage to eventually force a stoppage via ground strikes by the fourth round.

Prediction: Bader inside the distance

1

1