by Tom Hamliin – MMAWeekly.com
Wrestling-based light heavyweights Ryan Bader and Carmelo Marrero pretty much cancelled each other out over three grueling rounds at UFC Fight Night 18.
Early on, Bader’s lightning fast takedowns put him ahead on the scorecards. Every time Marrero planted for a punch, he was on the mat.
But Marrero knew how to avoid damage from his back, and whenever the TUF 8 winner moved to capitalize, there was an escape waiting. Bader’s first assault, an armbar transition from the mount in the first, was thwarted when Marrero rolled with the lock and released the pressure.
Still, Bader won the battle for positioning on the ground, running circles around the Pennsylvania native as the fight wore on.
In the second, Marrero grew more confident with his hands, stinging Bader with an overhand right, and later, a pesky jab that stopped his backward slide. Bader kept up with an overhand right that found its mark occasionally.
The two ran low on gas as the fight progressed, and with Marrero unable to stop the takedown, momentum slid away.
In the third, Bader threatened with an arm-triangle choke, again passing guard easily, with Marrero escaping once more.
By the third, the audience had wearied of the grapple-fest.
The Arizona Combat Sports fighter had clearly won the fight with his mat work – in the end, all judges gave him 30-27 marks – but he wasn’t satisfied with his performance.
“So-so,” I felt like I fought not up to my potential,” Bader told Joe Rogan afterwards. “But I’m young, I’ve got a long career here.”