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Antonio Rogerio Nogueira’s gameplan against Ryan Bader? Be the attacker

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will have the chance to avenge his first UFC loss on Nov. 19, as he headlines UFC Fight Night 100 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, against Ryan Bader. But that wasn’t the original plan.

The PRIDE veteran, initially slated to meet Alexander Gustafsson at Sao Paulo’s Ibirapuera gymnasium, saw the Swedish light heavyweight pull out of the contest due to an injury, and welcomed Bader with open arms.

But even though he enjoys facing "Darth" Bader a second time, he thought Gustafsson was a bigger opportunity.

"Every time I told someone I was going to fight Gustafsson, they said ‘wow, that’s a big fight,’ but I think Ryan Bader also has a big name," Nogueira said during a recent media day. "He’s the No. 4 in the division, beat some of the best, and only lost to guys like Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson, who are the Nos. 1 and No. 2 of the division today. He’s well ranked, and this win over him puts me in a good spot."

Fresh off a vicious first-round knockout over Patrick Cummins in May, "Minotouro" will have the chance to headline a UFC card for the first time in his career, and weights the differences between Bader and his original opponent.

"I’m a fighter that, throughout my career in PRIDE and the UFC, 90 percent of my fights were tough fights," Nogueira said. "Despite some times being back from injuries and not being that well, I never got an easy fight.

"They are both tough, I can’t compare them. Gustafsson is very dangerous because he hits hard, is fast and more skilled than Bader, but Bader is dangerous because he hits hard and has a good wrestling game that wears you out. If you let him impose his game, he will follow that until the end. It’s a dangerous fight, but we focused a lot in the takedown defense."

Six years after losing a unanimous decision to Bader at UFC 119, Nogueira has changed his approach to the game. More used to fighting in a cage instead of a ring, the Bahia-native wants to be the attacker at UFC Fight Night 100.

"The best way to defend from a guy like Ryan Bader is to attack first," he said. "Put my hands on him so he respects me and don’t be the first to engage. It would be kind of what I did in the third round of the first fight.

"Ryan Bader has evolved a lot physically, he’s stronger. He’s more confident in his boxing, he’s throwing more punches. His right hand is dangerous, but I don’t think he has the same experience that I have standing, and I have to explore that. Those are some holes in his game."

Bader is 3-2 against Brazilians under the UFC banner, with knockout wins over Vinny Magalhaes and Rafael Cavalcante. This time, Nogueira wants to give the American another stoppage loss.

"God willing, that’s my intention, to get the knockout," Nogueira said. "Ryan Bader moves forward, he likes to fight. If he doesn’t come only to wrestle and grab me, we will end this by knockout."

Once ranked among the best in the division following victories over former champions Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz, "Minotouro" believes that Bader could be his ticket to the top of the UFC ranking.

"I have to focus on Bader and get into the top 5," Nogueira said. "I was there but I got injured and got pulled from the ranking. I’m slowly coming back. I had a good fight with ‘Shogun’ (Rua), and now I’m No. 9 or 10 after this win over Cummins. I’ll be back to top 5 now, and then get to top 3, and who knows, one day get my dream of fighting for the belt."