After a lackluster fight card that was UFC 149, the fight organization aims to erase that memory with this Sunday’s UFC on Fox 4. What looked like interesting light heavyweight match ups between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera and Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader now have title repercussions. UFC president Dana White announced earlier this week that whoever wins in spectacular fashion among the co-main event fights, earns an immediate shot at the winner between champion Jon Jones and Dan Henderson. So how do we see these match ups play out? Here’s our take them.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Brandon “The Truth” Vera
Much of the talk surrounding this fight was focused on why this was made in the first place. Shogun was offered a fight against Brazilian Glover Teixera who is on a 15-fight win streak and blatantly refused—saying that fighting a no namer doesn’t make sense. He then accepts a match against Brandon “The Truth” Vera, who’s been a touted prospect for years, but hasn’t lived up to the hype as of late.
While it appears Shogun has the upper hand in this match up, Vera may end up being a tougher fight than expected. For one, the Filipino-American has decent Muay Thai skills that while not at par with Shogun’s, he can certainly hurt you with leg kicks. Add to that his wrestling base and he can certainly keep the fight standing. His chin has also been tested and he can take a ton hits.
But the question that begs to be asked is: Does Vera have the mental capacity to will himself to perform the way he did in his early days as a Heavyweight? Since he blitzed Frank Mir in 69 seconds back in 2007, Vera hasn’t been as dangerous. Recent fights have been lackluster and he can’t seem unleash those powerful kicks and knees that essentially built a hype of invincibility.
Shogun’s aggressive style made numerous strikers quit, and coming off a tough loss against Dan Henderson, he’s certainly motivated to get another crack at the title. Unless The Truth can channel his old self and matches his opponent’s aggressiveness, Shogun’s blitz style maybe too much to handle. We are hoping though that Vera ekes this one out in unexpected fashion. After all, Pinoys are great underdogs and we’re good at creating upsets.
Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida Vs. Ryan “Darth” Bader
Now this match up could easily been the main event of the card. The protagonists are on the opposite ends of the spectrum coming into this fight. Machida hasn’t fought after being choked out by Jon Jones back in December. Bader meanwhile, has earned wins over Rampage Jackson and Jason Brilz—inching his way back up the title ladder. This fight is a must win for both since a loss would mean being relegated to gatekeeper status in the light heavyweight division, and no one certainly wants that.
Their fighting styles make this match up compelling. The Dragon is a Karateka who darts in and out throwing unorthodox punches and kicks. His takedown defense is solid with fast footwork. Bader on the other hand is essentially a wrestler blessed with a powerful right hand that can easily change a fight. Darth also has solid ground and pound should he get you on the mat.
Essentially, the fight boils down to whoever can impose their style. While he’s not much of the Rubik’s Cube he once was, Machida’s elusiveness and good takedown defense are a lot to handle. Add to that the power in his hands and Bader’s in for a long night. Bader’s best chance is hit The Dragon with his straight right and keep testing the Brazilian’s chin. Otherwise, Machida takes this one and gets back closer to a title shot.
WORDS BY WAYNE JOSEPH TULIO