Like all good mixed martial artists, Ryan Bader aims to evolve. In the UFC Fight Night “Bader vs. St. Preux” main event on Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine, he not only evolved inside the cage but changed up his walkout game in a move that could re-energize his career.
Coming off the quickest turnaround of his Ultimate Fighting Championship tenure, Bader looked to cement his position inside the top 10 of the 205-pound division. Nicknamed “Darth” -- likely because of his unparalleled-boarding-on-manic obsession with George Lucas’ “Star Wars” film franchise and not the sound of his last name read aloud -- Bader normally would walkout to “The Imperial March.” Also known as Darth Vader’s theme, it was written by composer John Williams and is one of the most iconic pieces of music in movie history.
North of 30, Bader now walks to the cage to the sounds of The Rolling Stones’ 1966 song “Paint it Black.” Darth Vader wore black; Bader’s MMA shorts had some black color in them; and if you had bet on what was the former Arizona State University wrestler’s favorite color, there is a good chance it would also be black.
On a five-fight winning streak, Ovince St. Preux was never a big fan of science fiction films, but he does enjoy the critically acclaimed Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.” In the first main event of his UFC career, St. Preux had no time for coloring with crayons or re-enacting his favorite movie scenes in his backyard, so the Tennessee-based light heavyweight picked “No Games,” by Rick Ross, as his personal soundtrack. Off the sixth studio album from Ross, “No Games” was the second promotional single for the rapper’s 2014 “Mastermind” release.
Bader’s strategy against St. Preux was to test his opponent’s takedown defense. Over the course of the 25-minute bout, Bader unleashed a prime-paint-and-add-a-second-coat method of wrestling takedowns that left St. Preux on his back for most of the fight. All three judges scored the fight for Bader due to his aggression and wrestling offense. With a three-fight winning streak, Bader walks, not marches, back on the short list of UFC light heavyweights with potential championship aspirations.
In some cultures, bad often means good. Lightweight Ross Pearson was looking to put on a bad performance after he was the victim of the one of the most horrendous MMA judging decisions in recent memory in June. Dancing to the tunes of DJs David Guetta and Showtek, Pearson’s current favorite electro-house jam and new walkout pick is called “Bad,” from the 2014 album “Lovers on the Sun.”
Stepping up on short notice, two-time lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard was looking to snap a two-fight losing streak at Pearson’s expense. With his career perhaps hanging in the balance, Maynard went with the uplifting and positive tones of Kid Cudi’s 2009 track “Up, Up and Away.” In order to climb the UFC’s 155 pound ladder of contenders again, Maynard had to first put away Pearson.
Round one saw Maynard land two takedowns and win the striking battle inside. The fight turned on a dime, however, as a Pearson right hand counterpunch planted Maynard on the mat in the second round. Multiple strikes from Pearson went unblocked by Maynard, and the fight was waved off 95 seconds into the frame.
When Pearson throws with bad intentions, more often than not the results are as bright as the sun for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner.
The UFC Fight Night “Bader vs. St. Preux” prelims saw some championship-level walkouts. Former male model Alan Jouban’s warned young UFC fans to stay in school and out of gangs with his choice of Coolio’s 1995 anthem “Gangster's Paradise.” Busting faces and ghosts makes middleweight Tom Watson feel good, so the Englishman walked out to “Ghostbusters,” from the 1984 movie of the same name.
In the only women’s bout on the card, Sara McMann and Lauren Murphy brought the rock thunder. McMann moshed to the cage to the sounds of Metallica’s heavy metal classic “The Shortest Straw,” while Murphy started her UFC party with South African rock band Kongos and their breakout hit “Come with Me Now.”
UFC Fight Night ‘Bader vs. St. Preux’ Walkout SongsRyan Bader: The Rolling Stones “Paint it Black” | Aftermath (1966)
Ovince St. Preux: Rick Ross feat. Future “No Games” | Mastermind (2014)
Gray Maynard: Kid Cudi “Up, Up and Away” | Man on the Moon (2009)
Ross Pearson: David Guetta and Showtek “Bad” | Lovers on the Sun (2014)
Tim Boetsch: Kid Rock “American Badass” | The History of Rock (2000)
Alan Jouban: Coolio “Gangster's Paradise” | Dangerous Minds Soundtrack (1995)
Seth Baczynski: Tom Petty “Runnin’ Down a Dream” | Full Moon Fever 1989)
Shawn Jordan: Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” | The Downward Spiral (1995)
Jack May: Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg and Akon “Kush” | Kush (2010)
Robbie Peralta: Lil Scrappy and Trillville “No Problem” | Trillville and Lil Scrappy (2004)
Sara McMann: Metallica “The Shortest Straw” | ... And Justice for All (1988)
Lauren Murphy: Kongos “Come with Me Now” | Lunatic (2012)
Tom Watson: Ray Parker Jr. “Ghostbusters” | Ghostbusters Soundtrack (1984)
Sam Alvey: Train “Hey, Soul Sister” | Save Me, San Francisco (2009)
Frankie Saenz: Rage Against The Machine “Calm Like a Bomb” | The Battle of Los Angles (1999)
Nolan Ticman: Nate Dogg and Warren G “Nobody Does It Better” | G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2 (1998)
Zach Makovsky: The New Radicals “You Get What You Give” | Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed (1998)
Tommy Messano is the editor-in-chief of ULTMMA.com. You can contact him on Twitter at @ULTMMA.