In his two bouts so far in 2017, featherweight up and comer Justin Rader has had two separate experiences but managed to have the same results.
Against Zac Church in March and against Emmanuel Rivera in June, Rader was able to pick up unanimous decision victories, but they came in much different fashions.
“I really like the first fight I had this year (against Church),” Rader told MMAWeekly.com. “I felt like I performed really well. It was the first fight where I kept it standing pretty much the whole fight. I feel that was a good experience for me.
“I did much the same with Emmanuel until things started getting a little dangerous, then I resorted to my takedown game. My fight with Emmanuel showed me a lot of holes and things I can fix so I can continue to improve in my game.”
Rader’s two wins this year add to an overall winning streak of four victories in a row. The main reason for the turnaround in Rader’s mind is the fact that he’s been fighting at featherweight after a brief experiment with bantamweight.
“One thing that I did stop doing was trying to cut a lot of weight to 135-pounds; trying to make that weight is where my two losses occurred,” said Rader. “After that we decided that 145-pounds is the weight for me, so that’s where I’m staying. That was the biggest factor.”
Rader (7-2) will challenge for his first major MMA title when he takes on Kevin Aguilar (12-1) in the 145-pound championship main event of LFA 18 on Friday in Shawnee, Okla.
“Kevin is absolutely without a doubt the toughest opponent I’ve faced yet,” Rader said. “He’s got the most experience, and his only loss is to the former Legacy champ Leonard Garcia. He’s got highlight reel knockout wins, like the one against Damon Jackson.
“He’s got some real power in his hands, so standing and trading with Kevin is something I’m definitely going to try to avoid as much as possible. I’m going to try to neutralize his striking game and see if I can’t get it elsewhere.”
Rader feels that in order to get past the type of opposition that Aguilar brings, he has to be solely focused on this upcoming bout and not think of anything beyond it.
“I’m in for a tough fight, a tough war, and those are the kinds of fights that I’m looking for,” said Rader. “Those are the fights that will make me better. It’s always my toughest opponents that bring out the best in me, so I’m excited and very much am looking forward to it.
“Kevin is my only focus; walking into that cage and facing him down. Once the dust settles, everything will play out the way it’s supposed to play out, and that’s where I keep my focus. Right now nothing exists for me after August 4.”