Those questions came to a grinding halt on Saturday night, as did Bader.
Machida knocked Bader out cold at UFC on Fox 4 in Los Angeles.
The first round didn’t exactly have the fans brimming with excitement, but it did set the tone for the fight. Bader’s strategy was to close Machida’s standard countering distance by lunging in with a powerful right hand.
Machida, however, was too elusive to fall for such tactics, deftly avoiding nearly everything that Bader threw at him, and countering with various strikes. Machida didn’t do a lot of damage in the opening round, but he kept Bader off kilter and scored.
More importantly, the first stanza set up the big finish in round two.
Machida kept his distance, still looking for counter openings, while Bader insisted on lunging forward. The former All American wrestler tried the tactic one too many times, however, lunging in with his right hand as Machida launched his own.
It was Machida’s that connected, sending Bader crashing to mat, out cold.
UFC president Dana White, in the lead-up to the fight, said the most impressive winner in the night’s final two bouts would be next in line for a light heavyweight title shot. Machida definitely made his statement, returning with a fury after losing to current champion Jon Jones at UFC 140.
“I feel very well. I’m thinking it was a great performance,” said Machida after the fight, before declaring, “The Dragon is back!”