A preview of this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 4 event which features some good fights between dudes who got beat by Jon Jones and won’t draw on television.
Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera: This fight isn’t going to tell us if Vera is finally any good, it’s going to tell us whether or not Rua should think about retirement. I was someone who defended Vera for years and always held out hope that he’d become a top fighter, but that ship has sailed. He’s only back in the UFC because Thiago Silva is built like a horse and in his return fight, he nearly lost to Eliot Marshall and still got his arm broken. Now he’s getting an undeserved high profile fight against one of the best light heavyweight fighters of all-time. The worst thing is that Vera could win this fight because Rua isn’t nearly the fighter he used to be. Of course that would require Vera to…not be Vera. In order for Vera to win, he needs to be aggressive and challenge Rua. He needs to pressure him and really test those knees. Instead Vera will likely stand in one spot, throw some kicks, and wait around for Rua to explode on him with his wild but powerful punches. And when Rua does that, Vera will retreat and look lost. If Rua really wants to make things easy on himself, he clinches and gets a takedown on Vera. On the ground, we’re still waiting for Vera’s “underrated ground game that’s just as good as his striking (which isn’t all that great” to show while we know Rua is a killer on top. He passes with ease and once he achieves mount, he rains down punches like no one else. As long as Rua’s body isn’t completely broken down and his chin hasn’t been reduced to butter, he should beat Vera. And if he doesn’t, it doesn’t mean “BRANDON VERA IS BACK!” but it could mean “Shogun Rua Is Done.”
Prediction: Rua, TKO, Round 1
Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader: I’d care a lot more about this fight if Bader didn’t lose to Tito Ortiz just over a year ago, but because of that, I struggle to get excited for this one. I don’t put too much stock in Bader’s performance against Quinton Jackson because Jackson was on the Donuts Diet while you know Machida will no doubt show up and ready to fight because he’s a professional. Bader has a heavy right hand and good wrestling, but his right hand is very slow (Ortiz was swatting it away) and Machida’s takedown defense is outstanding unless he’s facing Jon Jones. If Bader clips Machida with his right hand, he could definitely put him down but Machida gets in and out so quick that I’m not sure Bader has the reaction time to counter. It’s also possible that Bader grinds Machida against the cage, but I’m sure Machida learned his lesson from the Jackson fight and won’t be content with playing a clinch game ever again if he can help it. I think Machida makes Bader look really bad in this fight. He confuses him with his footwork and timing, leaps in with his straight left, and picks apart Bader at will. Again, Bader always has his right hand as a great equalizer, but if he doesn’t connect with it then he’s in for a rough night.
Prediction: Machida, TKO, Round 2
Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner: I can’t figure out either of these two fighters. Lauzon is usually great in the first round and if he doesn’t win in spectacular fashion, he gasses and loses. Varner went through a rough stretch at the end of the WEC, retired on twitter after a loss to Dakota Cochran, but recently came back to finish a highly-touted Edson Barboza. It seems like ever since Varner started training with Ben Henderson, where they come to grappler and not fight, he’s turned his game around. Lauzon usually looks dominating against mediocre competition, save for Melvin Guillard running into his fist. I think Varner is able to keep the fight on the feet and light up Lauzon standing, although if Lauzon gets the fight to the ground, he’s a lot like Frank Mir in that once he grabs a submission, he’s not letting go until the ref pulls him off. I fear that if this fight gets out of the first round, both guys are just going to pass out because they’re both at their best when they’re fighting at a high pace during the first five minutes. The first round could be like a spectacular car crash but if both guys survive the crash, rounds two and three could be like watching traffic after said car crash.
Prediction: Varner, TKO, Round 1
Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson: Swick might not be as good as he’ll be hyped up to be on commentary this weekend, but he’s still better than Johnson. Unfortunately for him, he’s been out of action for two and a half years with more injuries than a Chicago Cubs pitcher. Because of that, I have a tough time picking against him in this fight. If Johnson plays it smart in the first round and doesn’t get caught, I think he can take over the fight in the later rounds with his superior conditioning and take a decision.
Prediction: Johnson, Decision