(Light heavyweight contender Ryan 'Darth' Bader faces former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida this Saturday at the Staples Center, L.A., live on FOX. This is part three of an exclusive four-part series from Bader.)

On Saturday night in Los Angeles, I will be an underdog, yet again. This is a position I'm used to, of course, and one that carries no fear for me. In February I was a heavy underdog against former world light heavyweight champion Rampage Jackson, yet dominated him for the rounds to take home the victory. I knew how good I was going to be that night, and knew I'd made vast improvements in training. The underdog label didn't matter to me.

I may be an underdog again this weekend, but people are basing that on the fighter I used to be. I've made a lot of improvements of late, and am more than ready for a test like Lyoto Machida.

The news that – if I win impressively – I could get the next shot at the UFC title is just extra motivation. I was already looking to be aggressive, so it won’t change my plan of attack, but you couldn’t ask for a better stage to showcase yourself. I’d love to fight Jon Jones again. He was my first loss and I could have done so much better than I did. But first I have to beat Machida and Jones has to beat Dan Henderson.

My stand-up has improved massively over the course of the last 12 months, and I'm now able to do much more than just throw concussive right hands. I can set that punch up properly now, by using other shots before it or feints, and this has opened my eyes up to the striking element of the sport, something I have come to pretty late.

Of course, my wrestling ability will always be there, and that is an aspect I'm also working hard to improve, but, as everybody knows, fights start standing and it's crucial to be able to handle yourself with fists and feet. While my striking has never been particularly sloppy or poor, there has been room for improvement and I've gone away and made those improvements. To be honest, I had no choice in the matter. To continue with my career at the top level, and compete with the likes of Rampage Jackson (my last opponent) and Lyoto Machida (my opponent Saturday), you need to evolve and tighten up your stand-up skills.

Lyoto Machida is difficult to read, very unorthodox and comes with a karate style, but, more than anything, he's very well-rounded. He mixes his natural base with muay-thai and also jiu-jitsu, and this makes him dangerous in all areas of the fight. He usually prefers to stand and strike with opponents, but if he isn't feeling it there, he's very skilled at takedowns, trips and various other methods with which to get the fight to the floor. There is no hesitation on Machida's part, either. He knows he's good enough to submit guys on the ground. And, if you look at past fights of his, Lyoto's actually take down some of the best wrestlers in MMA.

With that in mind, I have to be on my toes, and I have to be mentally zoned in for the whole fight. You can't afford to take a moment off against someone like Machida. He lulls people to sleep a little bit, and that's when he pounces. You know you're going to have to endure long spells of very little action against Machida. He likes to have a look and take time out and, during those moments, you need to remain switched on and ready to react. If you don't stay awake, he'll catch you with something.

This is all stuff we've been working on in camp, though, and I've no doubt that, come Saturday night, you'll see me awake and alert for every second of every round. I've prepared myself to push the pace, stay active and work this guy over.

Some fighters are unpredictable because they are technically flawed and there is no method to their madness, but Machida isn't like that. He thinks about every move he makes and is always looking to set you up for something. That is what makes him dangerous, far more than just his unusual style.

My sparring has been excellent for this fight and, although people say it's difficult to replicate what Machida does, I've been lucky enough to work with a couple of guys who mimic him perfectly. In fact, if you'd seen them with head guards on, you'd swear it was Machida in there with me during sparring. That kind of work has been priceless for me, and has readied my body and mind for the type of battle I expect to go down on Saturday night.

Sure, Machida is tricky and unpredictable, and you can only prepare for that to an extent, but from this point on, it's all about me and what I plan to do. We've worked on the habits of Machida for over eight weeks and, on Saturday night, it's just a case of me executing my game plan and doing what I do best. If I'm able to do that, and able to fight the kind of fight I want to fight, I've no doubt I will end the night with my hand raised and another big victory on my record...

Follow me on Twitter @RyanBader.

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Will Penn State alums scale back donations after scandal?
Brett Favre still giving folksy interviews as high school football coach
Adrian Wojnarowski: Kobe Bryant pleased with Lakers' new offense

view original article >>
Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Ryan Bader and Rogerio Nogueira Talk Rematch, Six Years in the Making (video) | MMAWeekly.com

  • 18 days ago
  • 7 views

Ryan Bader and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira talk about the past and their first fight six years ago, as well as the future and what they see happening this time. read news >>

Ryan Bader vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira 2: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown

  • 18 days ago
  • 10 views

The 100th UFC Fight Night takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil Saturday with a light heavyweight showcase. No. 4-ranked contender Ryan Bader (22-5) takes on No. 9-ranked Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (22-7) i read news >>

Ex-UFC champ Lyoto Machida accepts 18-month sanction following anti-doping policy violation

  • 17 days ago
  • 11 views

Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has accepted an 18-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).Filed under: News, UFC read news >>

Lyoto Machida Accepts Lengthy, but Reduced Suspension for Using Banned Substance | MMAWeekly.com

  • 17 days ago
  • 18 views

UFC fighter Lyoto Machida has accepted a lengthy, but reduced suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. read news >>

Video: Watch Ryan Bader and 'Lil' Nog's' first clash ahead of Saturday's UFC main-event rematch

  • 17 days ago
  • 6 views

On Saturday Ryan Bader and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira clash in UFC Fight Night 100’s main event, and it’s a rematch from a fight six years ago.Filed under: News, UFC, Videos read news >>

Ryan Bader expected 'Shogun' in UFC Fight Night 100 headliner, but satisfied with first career rematch

  • 17 days ago
  • 4 views

SAO PAULO – Eight years into his UFC career, Ryan Bader has faced a who’s who list of light heavyweights. He thought he was going to add another name to that tally before plans changed.Filed under: F read news >>

Ryan Bader vs. Rogerio Nogueira UFC Sao Paulo Media Day Face-Offs (video) | MMAWeekly.com

  • 16 days ago
  • 8 views

Heading into Saturday's UFC Sao Paul, headliners Ryan Bader and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira square off, along with Thomas Almeida and Albert Morales. read news >>

Watch Ryan Bader and Rogerio Nogueira's First Fight (UFC Sao Paulo Free Fight) | MMAWeekly.com

  • 16 days ago
  • 8 views

Ryan Bader got the best of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in their first bout at UFC 119. Re-watch the fight before they meet again in the UFC Sao Paulo main event. read news >>

The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 86: Ryan Bader, Justin Scoggins, MMA Masters' Daniel Valverde and Cesar Carneiro

  • 16 days ago
  • 4 views

Episode No. 86 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast, featuring Ryan Bader, Justin Scoggins, as well as MMA Masters’ Daniel Valverde and Cesar Carneiro, is now available for streaming and d read news >>

Ryan Bader Fighting Out His Contract at UFC Sao Paulo | MMAWeekly.com

  • 16 days ago
  • 9 views

Ryan Bader has decided to fight out the last fight on his current contract at Saturday's UFC Sao Paulo, rolling the dice on free agency afterward. read news >>