Ryan Bader won a “Performance of the Night” bonus when he knocked Ilir Latifi out cold at UFC Fight Night “Arlovski vs. Barnett” (online betting) with a knee to the face in their matchup. Alexander Gustafsson dominated Jan Blachowicz in their co-main event showdown and with both men having their hands raised in victory, it inches them both closer to a potential crack at the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title.
Gustafsson already had a chance to capture it but he was edged by then-champ Jon Jones via decision. Bader never has gotten over that hump, but the perennial contender has come close umpteen times. Both men know what they want but their mindsets going forward are slightly different.
“I got into the mode of winning at all costs,” Bader said at the post-fight press conference. “I’m not taking it too seriously and I want to have fun out there and take risks. I had a great mindset going in and it allowed me to go in there and take more risks.”
His risks paid off in that he got a highlight reel knockout win for his effort. But though “Darth” Bader claimed that he no longer is thinking or worrying about a title shot, it’s something he undeniably covets.
“It felt good,” Bader said. “I got five wins in a row and I was always looking for a title fight. I had a terrible fight last time. I had all this pressure. I gave it my all and I do what I’m capable of. A lot of fights I didn’t show who I was out there.”
Gustafsson had lost three of his last four coming into Saturday’s bout and he felt an overwhelming sense of relief to get back on track. He knew he could ill-afford another loss and his triumph over Blachowicz boosted his confidence but he’s not worried about what the future holds at the moment.
“I just felt good to be back in the Octagon and have fun in the cage,” the Swede said of snapping his two-fight losing skid. “I take one fight at a time so let’s see what the next challenge is. Let’s see what the UFC has for me. Let’s see what happens.”
The question on who he wants to fight next was posed but Gustafsson was non-committal as to what his desires are. He said he just wanted to win and now that it’s out of the way, he said he wants to recharge his battery and not have to worry about who will oppose him the next time out.
“I don’t really care that much (who I fight),” Gustafsson stated. “It was a tough year, last year. It was great getting back into the Octagon and getting the win. My goal is to be a contender again and fight for the title again.”
Bader remains a top contender but with both of them winning on the same night, it seems logical that he could face the lanky Swede in the near future in what would be a pivotal showdown.
“I think our paths will cross at some point,” Bader remarked with a smile. ‘But I’m just out to have fun in the cage.”
Whether Gustafsson and Bader will lock horns with each other the next time they climb through the Octagon’s door remains to be seen.