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Ryan Bader wins unanimous decision over Ovince Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night

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BANGOR, Maine - While Ovince Saint Preux was heavily hyped as "the next big thing" in the UFC's light heavyweight division, Ryan Bader proved he's still one of the best fighters in the world at 205 pounds, scoring a unanimous-decision win in the pair's headlining matchup.

The two met in the main event of Saturday's "UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Sanit Preux" fight card from Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine.

It was Bader (19-4) who was strongest to start, turning to his wrestling roots to stop the creative striking attacks of Saint Preux (16-6). It was an effective strategy, and Saint Preux's frustration was evident as he was forced to constantly work back to his feet and do whatever he could to stay there.

Saint Preux would have a few moments of success along the way, particularly in the second round, when he forced Bader to engage him in the boxing department. But he couldn't ever put together any real sustained offence.

At the conclusion of 25 minutes, Bader held nine takedowns to Saint Preux's two, not to mention an edge of 77 strikes to his opponent's 30, and he was awarded the win with scores of 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46.

"Tough fight," Bader admitted after the win. "'OSP' is really tough. I had to rely on my takedowns at the end. I didn't feel my hands tonight, a little slow, but I got it done."

Seeking his first win in two years, Gray Maynard (12-5-1) looked refreshed and sharp in the opening round of his co-feature matchup with fellow lightweight Ross Pearson (18-7). However, once "The Real Deal" found his range, it was lights out for Maynard.

Maynard moved well to start, matching the younger Pearson in mobility and looking to trade shots on the feet. Maynard mixed in a few takedowns, as well, but the wrestling specialist simply couldn't keep his opponent on the floor, and it would come back to cost him.

In a second-round exchange, Pearson scored with a quick counter punch that wobbled his opponent, and he immediately sensed the opportunity to finish. Pearson continued to press with strikes, and a barrage of punches sent Maynard crashing to the floor and ended the fight at the 1:35 mark of the second round.

"I told Gray after the fight what a huge fan of his I am," Pearson said. "I want all the things he's had in his career. The marquee fights and title shots are what I'm after.

"I'm ready for whatever the UFC wants next, but I've got a feeling there will be guys who want to fight me now."

Maine's own Tim Boetsch (18-7) struggled mightily against fellow Brad Tavares (12-4) for the better part of two rounds before scoring one of the most incredible comeback victories in recent memory.

It was Tavares who was quicker and more accurate on his feet from the start, and he busted up Boetsch's face with blow after blow.

But just when it seemed Boetsch was running out of options, he scored with a powerful, short left hand that stunned his opponent. Boetsch charged on the opportunity, and before Tavares could recover, "The Barbarian" landed a big right hand that ended the fight at 3:18 mark of the second frame and brought the crowd to its feet.

"Even when I was getting hit, I knew that if I caught him with my left I'd be able to finish him," Boetsch said. "I don't like to get beaten up, but I think that standing and trading was the best way to get the win and put on a great show for the fans. I felt that home crowd energy every time I connected with a hard shot tonight."

Alan Jouban (10-2) made a scintillating UFC debut, shaking off a few power shots from a game Seth Baczynski (18-10) to score a first-round TKO victory.

The two welterweights clashed in the centre of the cage from the opening bell, and both were happy to trade big strikes in the pocket. It was Baczynski who scored first, sending his opponent to a knee with a well-placed punch. But Jouban shook it off and battled back shortly after to score a pinpoint counter left that saw Baczynski drop to the canvas. Jouban followed with a few more punches to seal the win with 37 seconds remaining in the first round.

"I caught a hard shot in the first, and I was definitely rocked for a minute, so I just kind of went into recovery mode," Jouban said. "We got into a flurry, and I was able to land my left hand. It's very true what they say about the ones you don't feel being the ones that connect the cleanest because I didn't notice that one connecting as well as it did.

"I've dreamed this dream every night for nine years, and I'm just so happy that it's finally come true."

In a rousing heavyweight affair, Shawn Jordan (16-6) was battered and bruised but refused to quit, eventually earning an impressive third-round TKO over Jack May (7-2).

It was the much-taller May who scored in the early going, using heavy punches to cut Jordan open and frustrate his opponent from distance. But every time it seemed Jordan was done, he would dig deep and find a way out of trouble. The persistence paid off in the third round, when an early takedown left May vulnerable, and Jordan pounded away from top position until he was awarded the TKO win at the 2:03 mark of the final frame.

"I did my best not to deviate from the game plan Rich Clementi put in place for me, and that's what made the difference in the end," Jordan said after the win. "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. I was able to capitalize on that time and get the finish.

"I'm going to get stitched up and take some time to heal, but I'm ready to get back in there as soon as they'll let me."

In the night's first main-card matchup, Brazilian Thiago Tavares (19-5-1) impressed in his first bout at featherweight after moving down from the lightweight division. Tavares was aggressive from the start, and his efforts were rewarded with a first-round submission over Robbie Peralta (18-5), courtesy of a rear-naked choke.

"I'm a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but I think I can execute techniques even better now that I'm lighter, which will be very dangerous for my opponents," Tavares said after the win. "He was doing a very good job defending the submissions off his back, but I threw a little hook, and he opened up for a split second. I was able to throw my forearm across his neck and sink in the choke.

"I have a lot of experience in the UFC, and I'm just so happy to be competing at a high level with new challenges ahead."

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