Anthony Johnson turned Ryan Bader to mush in the span of 86 seconds.
Keeping his place near the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight division, Johnson waylaid Bader with punches in the first round of their UFC on Fox 18 main event on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Referee Keith Peterson swooped into save an already unconscious Bader from further abuse 1:26 into round one.
A tactical error sent Bader tumbling into the abyss. “The Ultimate Fighter 8” winner lunged for a single-leg takedown from too far out inside the first minute and put himself in a disadvantageous position beneath a sprawling Johnson. The scene went from bad to worse for Bader. Johnson wheeled out of the sprawl, moved to the back and eventually advanced to full mount, with the Power MMA Team rep clinging to a hopeless kimura. “Rumble” freed his arm when Bader surrendered his back and uncorked a series of punishing blows for the finish.
The loss snapped Bader’s five-fight winning streak. FightMetric did not credit him with a single thrown strike.
In wake of UFC on Fox 18, here are five matchups that ought to be considered:
Related » UFC on Fox 18: By the Numbers
Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier-Jon Jones winner: Johnson is one frightening individual, this much we know. The 31-year-old Blackzilians rep has won 11 of his last 12 fights, losing only to Cormier in a clash for the vacant light heavyweight championship in May. Johnson outside of that one hiccup has been thoroughly dominant, with eight of those victories coming by knockout or technical knockout. His list of victims includes Bader, Jimi Manuwa, Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. While an official date has not yet been announced, Cormier and Johnson are expected to meet in a rematch at UFC 197 in April.
Ben Rothwell vs. Stipe Miocic: Injuries to champion Fabricio Werdum and No. 1 contender Cain Velasquez have left the heavyweight division in a state of flux. In terms of how the matchmaking plays out during the first half of 2016, much depends on their health. Rothwell made a resounding statement in the UFC on Fox 18 co-main event, as he became the first fighter to ever legitimately submit Josh Barnett, a 10-finger guillotine -- or “gogo choke,” as Rothwell referred to it -- forcing the surprising tapout in the second round. The monstrous Kenosha, Wisconsin, native has won his past four bouts, all of them finishes, to stake his claim as a serious title contender. Miocic last competed at UFC 195 on Jan. 2, when he needed just 54 seconds to dispose of Andrei Arlovski with punches.
Jimmie Rivera vs. Michael McDonald: Rivera has taken it upon himself to climb the bantamweight ladder one rung at a time. So far, so good. The Team Tiger Schulmann standout pushed his winning streak to 18 fights with his unanimous decision over former Jungle Fight champion Iuri Alcantara. Strategic aggression and timely takedowns paved Rivera’s way to victory. The 26-year-old has not lost a fight since he wound up on the wrong side of a split verdict against Jason McLean in November 2008. Injuries have stunted McDonald’s growth, but at just 25 years old, he remains one of the most promising bantamweights in the sport. “Mayday” returned from a two-year absence at UFC 195 in January, when he submitted Masanori Kanehara with a rear-naked choke.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Albert Tumenov: Back in the cage for the first time since Oct. 4, 2014, Saffiedine looked like he never left. The former Strikeforce champion withstood two harrowing encounters with Jake Ellenberger power punches, one in the first round and another in the third, to best the Kings MMA export by unanimous decision. Saffiedine bludgeoned Ellenberger with kicks to the legs and arms, piling up points from the perimeter. The Belgian has compiled a 6-1 record over his last seven outings, a technical knockout loss to current Tristar Gym stablemate Rory MacDonald his only misstep. Tumenov, 24, has made himself a factor in the welterweight division on the strength of a five-fight winning streak, including a split decision over Lorenz Larkin at UFC 195 on Jan. 2.
Ryan Bader vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Bader must make the bitter walk to the drawing board yet again. The 32-year-old saw his five-fight winning streak grind to a devastating halt in his knockout loss to Johnson in the main event. The setback erases much of the equity Bader had built with successive victories over Rashad Evans, Phil Davis, Ovince St. Preux, Rafael Cavalcante and Anthony Perosh, and one has to wonder if he will ever get the opportunity to fight for the UFC’s light heavyweight crown. Gustafsson, meanwhile, has suffered consecutive defeats and has not competed since he bowed in a split decision to Cormier at UFC 192 in October.