A review of UFC on FOX 4, which turned out to be the best event of the year thus far.
Mauricio Rua def. Brandon Vera: THE TRUTH IS BACK! Even though he lost and looked pretty bad in the process, let’s just ignore that because he managed to make it to the fourth round and hit Rua. This fight said a lot more about Rua than it did Vera. It looked like Rua was going to make it easy on himself by taking down Vera, passing to mount, and pounding him out but Vera managed to survive the first round, which had to be at least a morale victory, even though he was taken down by a guy with no wrestling background while he has “world class greco-roman wrestling” according to Randy Couture. After the opening five minutes, Rua did what he always does following a first round where he doesn’t pace himself, and that’s completely gas out. For the rest of the fight the two men got into wild exchanges with Vera landing some nice elbows as Rua overcommitted on his punches while Rua landed powerful punches. They also traded some sloppy takedowns and sloppy ground and pound, but those are the kind of skills you’d expect from two elite fighters who are showcasing all the skills that encompass MMA. In the end, Rua finished Vera in the fourth round and saved us all from having to put up with Vera actually having a big win on his record. This was pretty dreadful performance by Rua though, and everyone except Rogan seemed to get that. He’s obviously not the same fighter that he once was thanks to multiple knee surgeries, but I still don’t get how his cardio can be so poor when he really took no damage in the first round. To Rua’s credit, he’s great at fighting when tired, but if he fights someone who doesn’t get equally as tired, he’s likely screwed. Since he won’t be fighting for the title in his next bout because he hasn’t left Dana enough voicemails asking to fight Jon Jones (and who can blame him?) it’d be nice to see Rua take on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a rematch of their PRIDE classic. As for Vera, even though Rogan would love to see him fight for any title in any division because he’s the greatest fighter of all time, he’s still the same ol guy he’s always been. I will give him credit for showing a lot of heart in this fight, something he’s previously lacked throughout his career, but he only looked mildly impressive because Rua looked so damn bad. I still maintain that Vera is a pretty talented guy, but he’s a mid-level light heavyweight at best and until he actually beats someone of note, that’s not going to change.
Lyoto Machida def. Ryan Bader: Well this one went about as expected. Machida does what he always does, and that’s stay on the outside and pick his spots while his opponent looks confused. And boy did Bader ever look confused. Bader didn’t do anything in the first round, so his bright idea in the second round was to charge forward with no set up against the best counter striker in the division. It was about as success as when he tried pulling guard against Jon Jones. Bader ended up knocked out cold thanks to the hands of Machida. Even though this was a terrible match-up for Bader, the fact that he had months to prepare and still couldn’t do anything says a lot about where his game is at. He’s a one puncher fighter with good wrestling against guys who are willing to stand in front of him. He’ll beat a lot of guys in the division with those skills, but he’ll also look stupid in a lot of fights, especially if his chin is as bad as it appears to be. Machida might be the second best fighter in the division, but getting a title shot after just losing to the champion is pretty absurd. Now if Dan Henderson dethrones Jones, then Henderson vs. Machida is a very intriguing fight, but if Jones retains his title in a month, then I don’t know how the UFC sells Jones vs. Machida 2 a year after Jones destroyed Machida.
Joe Lauzon def. Jamie Varner: This fight was awesome. Words won’t do it justice. These two came out swinging and didn’t stop until Lauzon eventually got the stoppage in the third. The fight was mostly contested on the feet and both men landed their fair share of hard punches, with Varner doing really well going to the body. Lauzon got the better of the grappling exchanges, taking the back of Varner a couple of times, but Varner did well to survive each time. The fight appeared to be even through two rounds, and while Varner was getting tired, it’s not like Lauzon is known for his outstanding cardio. Varner tried to play a safe third round by going for takedowns, but it ended up backfiring on him as Lauzon swept him and then locked up a triangle choke to force the tap out. I can’t say enough great things about this fight. It had everything you wanted from a UFC on FOX bout. It was non-stop back and forth action that ended with a very slick finish. Both guys are still enigmatic and in the lightweight division it’s tough to gain any ground unless you put together a string of victories, but I don’t even care about the future of these two, because I just want to hold on to this outstanding fight for a little while long. My hats off to both Lauzon and Varner for going out there on FOX and turning in the best fight of the year thus far.
Mike Swick def. DaMarques Johnson: Well there was obvious cage rust on Swick for the first round, as he was way too content on brawling and got manhandled on the ground by Johnson. He may have hurt Johnson in the first, but he was hurt himself and likely dropped the round. If there was one silver lining, it was that he learned how to defend the d’arce choke in all his time off. In the second round Swick blasted Johnson by catching a kick, taking him down, and landing three clean blows that put Johnson out cold. Johnson isn’t a great fighter or anything, but this was huge for Swick. After two and half years of injuries that kept him out of action, he returned to give the fans a hell of a fight and knockout. I’m still not all that high on Swick, especially now that he’s 33 going on 60, but no one can take this moment from him. He kept battling back from all the injuries, got his chance to shine on the biggest stage possible, and didn’t disappoint. I hope they bring Swick back slowly because if they rush him in there against a guy like Siyar Bahadurzada or Thiago Alves, he’s likely to get his block knocked off. But if he faces a guy like Amir Sadollah or Matt Riddle, he can have a fun and winnable fight.