Nearly nine years after losing to Lyoto Machida, Ryan Bader finally got his revenge in Friday's Bellator 256 main event.
Bader defeated Machida via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45) to advance to the semifinals of the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Friday's clash was a rematch from their 2012 bout in the UFC, which Machida won via second-round knockout.
Bader, a former Bellator light heavyweight champion and the reigning heavyweight titleholder, will face the winner from Corey Anderson versus Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov, which takes place at Bellator 257 next week.
Machida had a strong start to the second tilt, maintaining distance and landing damaging body kicks. But Bader turned the tide in the second round and dominated the rest of the fight with his grappling.
"Redemption felt good," Bader said in his postfight interview. "I knew I just had to be tough out here. First couple rounds are tricky with Machida. I knew I had to throw heavy, back him on the fence, and finally get that takedown."
"Darth" took Machida down with two minutes left in the second round and scored a takedown in each stanza after that - but they came quicker as the bout progressed.
Bader opened up with heavy ground-and-pound shots in the third round and onward. In the fifth frame, he got Machida to the mat in less than 30 seconds and held him there until the end of the contest, busting him up with hammer fists and elbows.
With the victory, the 37-year-old rebounded from his 205-pound title loss to Vadim Nemkov last August. Bader is 8-1 (1 NC) in his past 10 outings.
Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, has now lost three straight fights after winning four in a row from 2018-19.