UFC: Shogun vs. Vera PreviewFor the fourth time since debuting on American television giant FOX last November, the UFC will present a night of fights on the network. After successful FOX events on the backs of stars such as Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Rashad Evans, and Chael Sonnen, the UFC saw the ratings take a nosedive for its third event which featured lightweight standouts Nate Diaz and Jim Miller in the main event. For its fourth show, the UFC will bring back some bigger stars as former UFC and Pride champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua takes on Brandon Vera, and former UFC champion Lyoto Machida takes on Ryan Bader. Those two fights will be pivotal to the light heavyweight title picture as UFC President Dana White has stated that whoever wins their bout most impressively will get the next title shot at 205. Two more fights fill out the main card which goes down this Saturday night from Los Angeles, California. Here is the preview of UFC on FOX: Shogun vs. Vera.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Brandon Vera
Shogun Rua returns to action coming off his fight of the year performance in a losing effort to Dan Henderson last year. That loss came after his first round KO win over Forrest Griffin at UFC 134 in Brazil. As one of the best 205ers in the world, many expected Shogun to get a big fight following his war with Henderson. Instead, he takes on Brandon Vera. Yes, the same Brandon Vera that is 1-2 with 1 no contest in his last four fights. Yes, the same Brandon Vera who was nearly knocked out and submitted by Elliot Marshell, who no longer fights for the UFC. So why is Shogun taking on a fighter who is not even ranked in the top 20? Well you would have to ask Shogun that. He was originally offered a fight with Glover Teixeira, winner of 16 fights in a row, and all but one of those wins by KO or submission. However according to Shogun, a win over Teixeira does nothing for him at this stage in his career. Instead, he wanted an opponent that would boost his profile with a win over. So, Brandon Vera? Strange, I know. Despite all the grumblings from fans and media, this is the fight we are getting.
Let's be honest, unless Shogun returns to the form he was in against Mark Coleman in Ireland, there is no way he is losing this fight. Even then he would probably win. Vera is barely a UFC level fighter nowadays and is in no way shape or form in the same league as Rua. The two both prefer to stand and trade, and Shogun is a much better striker than Vera. Vera has all the tools to be a great striker, but in the past several years has been unable to take advantage of them. Even though it was against much softer opposition, there was once a time when Brandon Vera was one of the deadliest strikers in the UFC. But since the yearlong layoff he went through due to contractual issues in 2006/07, he hasn't been the same. He doesn't attack like he used to, and instead opts to strike from distance and point fight. When he does engage, it's usually just to hold his opponent idly against the cage. It sounds boring, and it is, but that's probably the best route for Vera to take in this fight. If he can somehow wear down Shogun against the fence and take him down, he will be in the best position to win the fight.
Mauricio Shogun just needs to do what he does best, fight aggressively. Yes, there is an outside possibility that Vera could catch him coming in with a big strike, but it's highly unlikely. Dan Henderson couldn't finish Shogun even after nailing him with his bomb of a right hand, the same of which KO'd the likes of Michael Bisping, Wanderlei Silva, and Fedor Emelianenko. So Shogun can take a punch to say the least. Unless this is the fight where the years of battles finally catch up to Rua in his ability to take a shot, Vera probably won't knock him out. I'm going to assume that Rua's chin still has some miles left in it, so fighting aggressively shouldn't be a detriment here. If he rushes Vera from the opening bell, I think he is more than capable of ending the fight early.
Prediction: It's a testament to the dominance of Jon Jones that Shogun is probably going to earn a title shot coming off a win over Brandon Vera. Vera is far from a top level fighter, and is in way over his head here. This is MMA and anything can happen, but I'm going with the safe bet and saying that Shogun knocks out Brandon Vera in the first round. Jones-Rua 2 might be the least anticipated light heavyweight title fight since one of Tito's title defenses over ten years ago.
Shogun Rua via KO
Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader
Top ten light heavyweights Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader square off in a 205 pound clash. Machida is trying to rebound off a brutal second round loss to Jon Jones which saw the former champion be choked unconscious. Bader is coming off the biggest win of his career, a unanimous decision victory over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in Japan. The problem with this fight is that lie Shogun, both these men have been thoroughly dominated by champ Jon Jones, and neither man getting a rematch sounds appealing at this point. However it is an intriguing clash of styles which is worth the co-main event status.
Ryan Bader is going to want to get this fight to the ground. His has power in his strikes, but he is rather plodding at times on the feet and in all likelihood won't be able to land anything significant if anything at all against Machida. Machida is notoriously hard to get a hold of and take down, but he has never faced anyone whose game plan is as dedicated to wrestling as Bader's. Bader needs to constantly be in Machida's face because if he sits on the outside he will get out struck. The only time anyone has had much success against Machida is when they rushed him or kept the fight in close. That's not to say that Bader has the same level of skill as Jon Jones or Maricio Shogun, but if he is going to win this fight he will need to follow the blueprint they set. Don't sit back, keep the pressure on.
For Lyoto Machida, it's all about stopping the takedown. If he can, he is in another league than Bader on the feet. I expect Machida to stay on his bicycle, moving around the outside of the cage constantly, keeping his distance and picking his shots. Bader's best chance at a takedown might be from timing a kick, so Machida will need to be wary if he throws leg kicks. Machida has the power to finish the fight, but whether or not he commits to a point fighting type of style will decide whether he does.
Prediction: Ryan Bader's strength is wrestling, but it's not like he has the best takedowns in the division. Whereas Jon Jones mixes up takedowns with sweeps, trips, and changing levels, Bader basically only has a power double that he will try over and over. Occasionally he might try a single leg, but it's not any more explosive than his double leg. I doubt Machida will have any issues staying away from the takedowns, and on the feet he is going to coast to a rather decisive decision win.
Lyoto Machida via Decision
Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner
After his stunning upset of the year type performance in knocking out Edson Barboza, former WEC champion Jamie Varner is back in the cage against Joe Lauzon. Varner was cut from the WEC after going 0-3-1 in a four fight stretch, and then even lost a fight on the regional circuit. Most counted the 27 year old out of the game, but when he was called on short notice to fill in as an injury replacement, Varner took the opportunity and ran with it. After knocking out one of the rising stars in the lightweight division, Varner is very much a relevant piece of the lightweight puzzle. If he can beat Lauzon he will be nearing the top end of the division at 155. Joe Lauzon is looking to get back on the winning track after being brutally knocked out by Anthony Pettis at UFC 144. Before that Lauzon scored the biggest win of his career, a first round sub over Melvin Guillard last October.
Both men are solid in all aspects of the game. Varner is the stronger wrestler, but Lazuon is better with submissions. Both are dangerous on the feet, Lauzon more so at the start of the bout. If Varner can whether an early attack he will have a better chance to win because Lauzon has been known to fade after the first round.
Prediction: This is probably the toughest fight to call on the card. One thing is for sure, it will tell us whether Varner is truly back at the top of his game or whether the Barboza fight was an anomaly. I think Lauzon is going to look good early and put the pressure on Varner. Sometime in the first round he will catch the former WEC champion with something on the feet, and finish it with a sub shortly thereafter.
Joe Lauzon via Submission
Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson
After years of injuries and setbacks, Mike Swick finally makes his return to the UFC after a two and a half year absence. His opponent is DaMarques Johnson, who at 4-4 in the UFC could be cut from the promotion with a loss.
If Mike Swick fights like he did at his best, he should have no problem taking out Johnson. Swick has better submissions, better striking, and is overall just a more talented fighter. The issue however, and it's a big one, is that Swick hasn't fought since February 2010. I can't remember a UFC fighter who has had such a layoff in a long long time. Even Frank Mir, who lost a year and a half of his career due to a motorcycle accident was back sooner than Swick. So I really have no idea what kind of fighting shape he is in right now.
Prediction: If Varner-Lauzon is the toughest fight to predict, this is the strangest fight to predict just because it's almost impossible to guess how one of the fighters is going to look. My prediction may as well be whether or not Swick looks decent rather than who will win. I'm going to say Swick looks somewhat capable and puts away Johnson with strikes in the first round.
Mike Swick via TKO
Published by Jeff Zanatta - Wed, 1 Aug 2012 07:16