When Ovince St-Preux was set to make his UFC debut, a lot of people thought he was overrated and going to lose to Gian Villante. I thought differently – that St-Preux was a quality light-heavyweight and would establish himself as such in the UFC. Mission accomplished: St-Preux is now 4-0 in the UFC, having last defeated Ryan Jimmo in a very impressive performance. St-Preux’s reward is a fight against Ryan Bader and a chance to launch himself into title contention in the light-heavyweight division. St-Preux is even a trendy upset pick headed into this one.
Unfortunately, this is the point where I have to step off the St-Preux bandwagon and wish it “bon voyage.” It’s not that I think St-Preux has no chance of beating Bader, it’s just that he’s reached the level of fighting where I think winning is going to become very difficult… because opponents like Bader will really be able to take advantage of his weaknesses.
What are those weaknesses? For one, St-Preux’s takedown defense is good… but not quite good enough for opponents like Bader. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante entered his fight with Bader with better takedown defense stats, and it didn’t matter. Bader took Feijao to the ground repeatedly en route to a lopsided decision victory. St-Preux has defended 71% of his opponent’s takedowns, against a history of opponents not known for their wrestling. Gegard Mousasi took him down four times. If Mousasi can do it, Bader can do it.
St-Preux’s striking defense is also worth questioning, even though he’s only absorbed 1.86 significant strikes per minute. That’s because St-Preux has been hit by 51% of his opponent’s strike attempts – the average is something closer to 40%. Cody Donovan took the fight right to St-Preux, landing some nice strikes in the clinch before St-Preux was able to knock Donovan out (because everybody knocks Donovan out).
Meanwhile, Bader has absorbed just 1.40 significant strikes per minute and his strike defense rate is a much stronger 71%. Bader really only loses to the top fighters in his weight class: Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida, and Glover Teixeira… OK, and Tito Ortiz too. I guess that should give St-Preux hope.
If the data is any indication, Bader enters as the better striker and wrestler and should win by decision. However, Bader has been submitted before, and has also been shown to be “chinny,” so there is potential for St-Preux to get a stoppage win. I just think Bader’s superior boxing/wrestling game will limit St-Preux’s offensive output.
Pick: Ryan Bader by decision