ROUNDTABLE: Where does Ryan Bader rank among the top heavyweights in MMA?

By Michael Hiscoe, Managing Editor

Ryan Bader
Ryan Bader (photo credit Troy Taormina © USA Today Sports)

After winning the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, where would you rank Ryan Bader as a heavyweight? How do you think he would do against UFC’s top heavyweights?

Michael Grocke, MMATorch Fight Handicapper

Ryan Bader is the best light heavyweight as well as the best heavyweight fighter in Bellator. He steamrolled through Bellator’s Grand Prix with hardly a scratch on him. The distance between Bader and the next best heavyweight is much bigger than at 205. I think Phil Davis, Liam McGeary, and Linton Vassell pose bigger threats to Bader than anyone in the heavyweight division. That said, I would pick Bader against all three aforementioned light heavyweights. When it comes to the UFC, I would put Bader comfortably in the top five. Bader’s last loss came at the hands of Anthony Johnson back in January of 2016. Back then “Rumble” was steamrolling through everyone not named Daniel Cormier. The 2018/19 Ryan Bader is a different fighter than the one that got stopped by Johnson in the first round at UFC on FOX 18.

Frank Hyden, Columnist – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

He’s definitely got to be up there. For me, it was the Matt Mitrione fight that really impressed me. Mitrione is a big man and Bader was able to handle him fine. I know Mitrione isn’t quite the wrestler some of the other guys are, but it showed that Bader is capable of fighting and beating a fair amount of them. I wouldn’t pick him to beat UFC Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier or anything (though I would love to see that fight), but I think he would be competitive against all the other top guys and could beat them all except for maybe Stipe Miocic. I’m not saying he would beat them but it would be close and depending on the gameplans could certainly happen.

Christian Moore, MMATorch Contributor

I don’t rank Bader high at all. Listen, he had to fight King Mo, who is a mediocre light heavyweight, Matt Mitrione who is subpar, and a broken Fedor Emelianenko. Bader still isn’t good and would get killed again by Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, Alexander GustafssVelasquezVelasquea, Curtis Blaydes, Derrick Lewis, Stipe, Miocic and most top light heavyweights or heavyweights in UFC.

Gary Meigs, MMATorch Contributor

I would put Ryan Bader in the top 5 of current heavyweights. I believe he would do well against Brock Lesnar or Derrick Lewis. Against Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier and even Jon Jones it wouldn’t end well for the new Bellator champ.

Cole Henry, Host – MMA Scope Podcast

He would be my favorite over everybody ranked in the official UFC Heavyweight rankings from 8-15. From there, things start to get a bit trickier. I don’t think he would beat Junior Dos Santos, but Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov seem like winnable fights for him. Curtis Blaydes would be my favorite over Bader, but then I think Bader would defeat Francis Ngannou who is currently sitting at number three. Derrick Lewis is number two and I think I would choose Bader over him as well. But from there I don’t see any winnable fights for Bader.

Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier would both defeat Bader, I think. Vitaly Minakov in Bellator would make for an interesting fight and I could see it going either way. So basically, to bring it all together I’ll say that I think Bader is likely a top 5 heavyweight. With that being said I don’t think Bader would be competing at heavyweight if he were still in the UFC and If he goes back, I think he’ll just stick with 205. Its fun breaking these fights down on paper but in reality, the Bellator division is just much thinner and that’s why Bader is competing there.

Sean Covington, Columnist – Covington’s Corner

I rank Bader as the top heavyweight in Bellator and number two in the world behind Daniel Cormier. I think Ryan Bader would not do as well as Cormier in the UFC’s heavyweight division. There are a lot of guys that would be a big threat to him, not including the champion, Daniel Cormier. Stipe, Brock, Curtis Blaydes; all guys who could beat Bader and stop his rise to the top before it even began in the UFC heavyweight division.


Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch Managing Editor

Right now I put Ryan Bader at the very bottom of my heavyweight top 10 list. He’s done enough to earn that spot, but until he has an opportunity to fight a top UFC heavyweight, it will be tough to rank him higher. You have to take into consideration the caliber of heavyweights he defeated to win this tournament. All of his wins in the tournament were super impressive, but as has been mentioned in this roundtable, King Mo is a light heavyweight, Mitrione is a legit but not top-tier heavyweight, and Fedor is a shadow of his former self.

I think his wrestling might give him some success in the UFC heavyweight division, but UFC’s best heavyweights would not let Bader control them on the ground the way he did Mitrione. The very best UFC heavyweights carry a lot of power and aren’t going to go down as easily as Fedor did.

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