BANGOR, Maine — Fighters typically accumulate a myriad of fighting skills during the course of their mixed martial arts careers.
But sometimes it pays to go back to what worked first.
For Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight contender Ryan “Darth” Bader, that flashback Saturday night involved a reintroduction to his wrestling roots while scoring a five-round unanimous decision over Ovince Saint Preux in the main event of the internationally televised UFC Fight Night 47 at the Cross Insurance Center.
Bader, a former wrestling All-American at Arizona State and winner of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter television series, scored a career-high nine takedowns to minimize the taller Saint Preux’s longer-range tactics in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 5,329 that turned out for the first UFC show in Maine.
“For a while I got away from [wrestling] a little bit and I feel like all my losses were when I went out and tried to exclusively kick-box with guys,” said the eighth-ranked Bader, now 19-4. “I needed to mix things up.”
The 10th-ranked Saint Preux, a former University of Tennessee football player who was taking on a top-10 fighter for the first time after winning his first four UFC bouts, had his moments in the final two rounds only to have Bader diminish the accomplishments with additional takedowns.
“[I learned] just to be patient and not try to take everybody’s head off with one punch,” said Saint Preux, now 16-6. “But it was a good fight, I’m still learning, Hat’s off to Ryan, but I’ve just got to be patient and pick my shots.”
Ross Pearson, a lightweight from San Diego, emerged from a close first round to score a second-round technical knockout of 12th-ranked Gray Maynard of Santa Cruz, California, in the co-main event.
Brazilian Thiago Tavares opened the six-fight main card by forcing Robbie “Problems” Peralta to tap out at 4:27 of the opening round with a rear naked choke .
Tavares improved his record to 23-5-1 while sharing performance of the night honors with middleweight Tim Boetsch of Lincolnville, who scored a second-round stoppage of Brad Tavares.
Heavyweight Shawn “The Savage” Jordan then scored a come-from-behind third-round stoppage of Jack “The Outlaw” May.
The 6-8 May bloodied the 6-foot Jordan with stinging strikes during the first round, then midway through the second round unleashed a flurry of strikes that nearly ended the fight.
But Jordan — a former fullback on a national championship LSU football team who occasionally trains with former University of Maine and now NFL players Matthew Mulligan and Mike DeVito — came off the cage wall swinging, using a right hook as the impetus to score a takedown that he used to maintain the advantage for the final 2:30 of the round.
“I’m a pretty compact and heavy guy so when I get top position it’s very hard for guys to get me off them,” said Jordan.
Jordan (16-6) then used a knee to score a takedown early in the third round and briefly pummeled May while maintaining back control, finally ending the fight at 2:03 of the final round with a series of unanswered left hands to the side of the head.
The 260-pound Jordan celebrated his victory with a backflip in the center of the Octagon.
I’m going to get stitched up and take some time to heal,” said Jordan, “but I’m ready to get back in there as soon as they’ll let me.”
Alan “Brahma” Jouban of Los Angeles made a successful UFC debut, getting in the last significant strike of a back-and-forth opening round — a left hook to the jaw — to knock out Seth Baczynski of Apache Junction, Arizona, at 4:23 of their welterweight bout, which earned Fight of the Night honors.
Brazilian Jussier Formiga, ranked sixth in the UFC’s 125-pound flyweight division, used his quickness to score a three-round unanimous decision over ninth-ranked Zach Makovsky in the headline fight of the night’s preliminary card.
In the lone women’s bout of the night, Gaffney, South Carolina’s Sara McMann bounced back from a 66-second loss in her title bid against UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey earlier this year to score a three-round split decision over previously undefeated Lauren Murphy.
Like Bader, McMann — a 2004 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling — used her grappling background to win the positional battle. But Murphy, making her UFC debut after winning the Invicta FC bantamweight championship last December, landed numerous strikes from her back to tighten the judges’ scoring.
“I was very surprised that it was a split decision because I was sure I had beaten her every round,” said McMann.
The honor of competing in the first UFC fight in Pine Tree State history went to bantamweights Frankie Saenz and Nolan Ticman, with Saenz scoring a convincing unanimous decision to improve his record to 9-2.
Southampton, England’s Tom “Kong” Watson then won the first two rounds of his middleweight bout before withstanding a final-round flurry by “Smile’n” Sam Alvey en route a unanimous decision.