UFC On Fox: Shogun Rua Vs Brandon Vera Recap
Its no secret that the UFC’s deal with FOX hasn’t been as rewarding as we’ve all hoped. Riddled by injuries and lackluster card, but the MMA Gods came through and gave us fight fans one of the best events this year. The card’s main events brought enough drama and implications to keep us at the edge of our seat. Last week UFC President Dana White stated in a press conference that the winner between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera would be next in line to face current Light Heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones. Due to public outcry, Dana later recanted that stat ement and opened the field up to both Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader, who were scheduled to fight in the co main event. Therein lies the drama, whoever had the best performance, would challenge Bones for his light heavyweight crown. (That is if he makes it past his next challenger Dan Henderson) Interestingly enough, the champ sports wins over both Rua and Machida, sending them home early with TKO(Rua) and submission(Machida) losses.
First up on our card was a Welterweight bout between Mike Swick and DaMarques Johnson. The guys came out slinging, and Johnson was rocked a few times by stinging punches by Swick, but he didn’t back down and kept pushing the action. After some textbook grappling on display from both fighters,which included some great guardplay by Swick. After pretty good display of well rounded MMA, the shit hit the fan for DaMarques Johnson. After about a minute into the second round, Johnson lazily threw a body kick, Swick, timing it perfectly, pulled his leg leaving Johnson defenseless falling to his back. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Swick fell through(literally) with a beautiful superman punch that knocked Johnson cold.
The next bout of the evening featured two Lightweights in Jamie Varner and Joe Lauzon. At the beginning stages of the round, Varner moved in and out beautifully against the longer Lauzon, who seemed to have a hard time judging his distance. Varner took advantage of the spacing issues and landed some nice looking body shots on Lauzon. After the bell, Varner didn’t quite have the mojo that he did in the first round. Throwing off balance strikes and not landing anything affective, led us viewers to think that maybe he was a bit gassed. Lauzon was still having a hard time maintaining distance and was dropped by Varner. In what was a bit of foreshadowing for later in the fight, Lauzon was able to pull Varner into his guard to stop the ground and pound by Jamie. In a tough round to score, I ended up favoring Jamie Varner. The third round featured very high level grappling from the two lightweights. Lauzon was actually the victim of a beautiful double leg takedown, but it didn’t matter. Using a gorgeous double underhook transition, he managed to get one leg free of the arm to lock in a fantastic triangle choke to submit Varner.
This ladies and gentlemen, is where the drama gets popping off. Our co main event features to UFC veterans. Former Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida Vs The Ultimate fighter winner Ryan Bader. The first thing you notice when you see the two standing in the center of the octagon, is how much bigger Bader is than Machida, who actually weighed in at 201 lbs, four under the 205 limit. Bader didn’t seem to notice that he was the larger fighter, and decided to forego his strength,which is his wrestling. For the life of me, I cant understand why a former two time All American decided to charge in against a man who is known for his counter striking. Bader paid dearly for his oversights. In the first round it was evident that Machida knew what Bader was doing before he even did it. Lyoto continually caught Bader coming in with knees to the body and short, quick strikes, that stopped the former Arizona State standout in his tracks. Bader still didn’t recognize that he needed to use his wrestling, was peppered by lightening fast body and leg kicks from The Dragon. In a round that saw Machida getting his drunken master on, I scored it for the Brazilian. Coming out in the second round, Machida pressed the action a little bit, while still displaying beautiful counter striking and Floyd Mayweather-like timing. At about a minute into the round, for whatever reason, Ryan Bader decides to charge in with both hands down, Machida then shuffled his feet and threw a very short superman punch and Bader’s consciousness got thrown in the bushes.
That brings us to our main event for the evening. A previously very unheralded one, at that. Under the bright lights of the Staples Center stood Mauricio “Shogun” Rua Vs Brandon Vera. At first glance, many fight fans downplayed this fight. Many people,myself included figured Shogun would walk right through Mr. Vera. Some people on the other hand, claimed that Shogun was approaching Larry Holmes status, and that he was shot. Welp, I’ll go into the fight and let you decide for yourselves. In the opening round, Shogun, known for his devastating Muay Thai attack, came out wrestling, and pretty easily took Vera down. Shocking huh?
Shogun actually looked to press the action on the ground,something that he hasn’t been known for, but actually has very good jiu jitsu. I thought Vera played a little too patient while on his back, whereas Shogun actively looked to pass Vera’s lazy half guard multiple times. During their pseudo BJJ match, Vera catches Rua in a very deep guillotine choke, but manages to get out somehow. I was actually nervous that he might tap, but I remembered that Shogun had been in similar waters back in pride when he fought Allistair Overeem,when The Demolition Man locked in the same choke. In the second round, it seemed that both fighters wanted to stand and trade punches. Vera showed a ton of heart, eating some heavy shots from Shogun, who is just relentless with his pressure, throwing ones and twos with fury. After about the midway point in the round Shogun let off the gas a little bit, and allowed Vera to gather himself on more than one occasion,which is VERY uncharacteristic of Shogun. Both fighters at this point were visibly gassed, at one point in time Shogun managed to take Vera down, but did nothing besides lay his head on Vera’s chest while he lay in his guard. Moving into the fourth, I had Shogun up 29-28, his lack of effort in the third made me lean towards Vera. Both guys are just standing trading punches, when at around the 4 minute mark, Shogun just throws a beautiful hook that had Vera trying to fix his mouthpiece. If the second round was foreshadowing to this one, Shogun threw all of that out of the window. This time, he tasted blood in the water and floored Vera, and then pounced with some vicious ground and pound before the referee actually stopped the slaughter. As I mentioned in the opening, Dana White decided that whomever had the best performance of the night would get the winner of Jon Jones Vs Dan Henderson.
With two finishes from the main events, how does one distinguish which was better? Dana concluded that Lyoto Machida had the better performance that night and he will meet the winner of Bones Vs Hendo. Do I agree with the round robin that is the UFCs Light Heavyweight division, not so much, but the pickings are slim at 205lbs.
Fighters were awarded $50,000 bonuses:
Fight of the Night: Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner
Knockout of the Night: Mike Swick
Submission of the Night: Joe Lauzon