With three solid showings already, the FOX network broadcasts a card deserving a spot on the Pay-Per-View rotation as the UFC presents UFC on FOX 4: Shogun vs. Vera. “Quick” Mike Swick (14-4) returns after a two-year hiatus to battle with “Darkness” Damarques Johnson (15-10) in the main card opener. “C-4″ Jamie Varner (20-6-1) hopes to continue his resurgence in the lightweight division when he meets submission specialist “J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (21-7). In the co-main event, “Darth” Ryan Bader (14-2) returns after an impressive victory at UFC 144 to take on the unorthodox “The Dragon” Lyoto Machida (17-3). The landscape of the light heavyweight division is bound for drastic change as a title shot is up for grabs in the main event. Former champion “Shogun” Mauricio Rua (20-6) will try to make his way to the top of the mountain, but he will have to challenge a fellow Muay Thai wrecking machine, “The Truth” Brandon Vera (12-5). Each has dawdled in the light heavyweight division rankings but now that the path to gold is set in stone for them, it’s crucial for both men to make the best out of this opportunity.
At First Glance: Rua and Vera are in very tight spots within their careers. Since arriving in the UFC, Rua has seen his definite ups-and-downs with gaining the UFC light heavyweight title as the highlight of a 4-4 stretch. After being a handed a decision loss by “Hendo” Dan Henderson (29-8) in 2011’s “Fight of the Year”, Rua stands in a very precarious situation as a possible win over Vera could spell redemption and a path back to a title shot. Sharing troubles as well, the former undefeated prodigy, Vera, has gone 1-2-1 in his last four bouts with a lackluster victory over “Fire” Eliot Marshall (10-4) in his last outing. Vera is the underdog and is seen by many as a can coming in just to be hand-fed to Rua as he was thrust into the card’s main event but if he can pull a victory over the former PRIDE Grand Prix and UFC champion, the hype that used to be synonymous with his name can very well return and be validated that night.
In Depth: As of late, the first memories of Brandon Vera will be the broken nose given to him by Thiago Silva (14-3) and a broken orbital bone from current champion “Bones” Jon Jones (16-1). What many are going to forget is that Vera, while on the roughest patch of his career, is still a lethal and well-rounded mixed martial artist. “The Truth’s” greatest weapon is his textbook Muay Thai as it has been troublesome for many. His clinch-work has troubled most opponents including former champions Frank Mir (16-6) and “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-11) and his kicks have derailed those who come unprepared as his TKO victory over Mike Patt (12-4) will attest. Rua is a highly aggressive Muay Thai practitioner himself, possessing an equally dangerous clinch and violent kick as his opposite but against the quality of opponents he has dismantled such as Lyoto Machida and “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (32-10), Rua stands as the bigger threat. Rua does not own the wrestling that Vera does but his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu has made him able to sweep his way back onto his feet and ground even elite grapplers as he did with Dan Henderson in his recent performance. “Shogun” will wait for his opening and once seized, will look to press the action immediately, get Vera back-pedaling, and try to call it a night from there. For “The Truth” to pull out a victory, his chances on the feet are his best bet where his two-inch reach advantage and taller frame will heavily assist his striking. He will have to utilize his reach to a full extent and stay nimble. If he can keep Rua at bay until the later rounds where his conditioning can be compromised, Vera might pull the upset of the night.
The Wild Card: The conditioning of both men needs to be highly considered. Immediately, it should be noted that this will be Vera’s first possible venture into the later rounds in the main event. He might have seen his share of troubles in his last bouts, but Vera has proven he can still hang on as long as he has the will to do so. Rua’s endurance has always been the x-factor in his fights. One fight he can deliver hell as he did five rounds with Machida and another he looks as if he trudged through mud as he did with Jones. Why his stamina is considered again is due to his recent bout at UFC 139. After the tumultuous five-round affair with Dan Henderson, he left the cage with a laundry list of injuries including a 180-day suspension due to a possible skull fracture. If any injuries linger to where his conditioning became compromised, Rua’s chances of belittling Vera decrease significantly as the fight carries on.
The Verdict: There are many fights that can be considered gross mismatches and due to a combination of injuries, scheduling, and late replacements, this has become one of them. Vera has great Muay Thai but Rua’s “berserker” like approach has made his adaptation of the art excellent in relation. On the ground, “The Truth” can grapple and handle his own but even then “Shogun” edges him out. Vera has the perfect stage to pull off one of the biggest victories and upsets in his career but unless he can find a way to tame the ferocity Rua delivers, he might not have much ground left underneath him to make another relaunch in his career. Rua via TKO (Strikes), Round 1