On June 6, I hopped online to check the same handful of sites I check daily to get my MMA news. I forget which one I looked at first, but I’ll never forget the lead story. The headline screamed (I’m paraphrasing) “Shogun Rua fights Brandon Vera in UFC on FOX 4 headliner.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then I checked all the other usual suspects. Bloody Elbow. Sherdog. MMA Fighting. Twitter. MMA Junkie. Apparently, this thing was on.
There must have been some mistake. I mean, Brandon Vera? Really?
The decision to put Shogun in a main event is a sound one; win or lose, Shogun has proven to be one of the 205 pound division’s most reliable performers. Time and time again, he puts it on the line with windmills, kicks, knees, and a truly excellent chin. As an MMA fan, who wouldn’t be stoked to see Shogun in ANY main event, especially one that would be on national television?
In a big picture sense, I understand why Shogun declined a fight with Glover Teixeira. Glover is a good fighter that hasn’t really caught the eye of the masses quite yet; Shogun’s name would take a hit if he were to lose to a relative unknown under the national TV spotlight. By the way, I don’t believe this. I’m just stating what the thought process must have been for Shogun and his pals. For the record, I A) would have loved to see the Rua-Teixeira fight happen and B) think Shogun would have beaten him up, especially late in the fight.
Shogun wanted to fight a “name”. I know he’s professed a desire to retire from MMA recently, but where was the call to Stephan Bonnar here? He’s won three straight, people know who he is, and he fits the “underdog that puts up a good fight even though he has little chance of winning” bill perfectly. Or how about a rematch with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira? His knee is probably still injured, but still. I would have at least liked to see his name mentioned for this spot before THAT guy’s.
Speaking of names I’d like to see fight Shogun on Saturday, here are some more: Igor Pokrajac (on a nice run); Cyrille Diabate (gave Shogun a stand up beating before he got a foot crammed down his throat way back in ’06); Ryan Jimmo (difficult style to deal with, and hey, we know he’s fresh); even Vladimir Matyushenko (you’re telling me you couldn’t see Brandon Vera blow a fight against Vladdy?)
My point is, Brandon Vera should never even be considered for a main event slot unless all of the guys I just mentioned are in the ICU because of some rare tropical disease.
But, here we are. A few days ago, Dana White upped the ante in the most baffling way possible; he said that the winner of this fight would get the next shot at Jon Jones.
Look, I realize that Brandon Vera, through all of his trials and tribulations, still has a pretty respectable UFC record. But you had to watch those fights to truly understand what a colossal disappointment Vera has been. The only reason he still has a job with Zuffa, you’ll recall, is because Thiago Silva submitted a fake urine sample for his post-fight drug test, thus making his dominant win over Vera “illegitimate”. What did Vera do with his second chance gift? He barely beat Eliot Marshall in a fight that I scored a draw.
I can’t stress this enough: Vera hasn’t had an impressive Octagon performance since he punked Frank Mir. Granted, he should have gotten the nod over Randy Couture, but he’s someone who always seems to find a way to avoid pulling the trigger. And yet, even though Dana backtracked on his comment, we were supposed to believe that a win over Shogun would earn him the right to get smashed by Jonny Bones again? Can you think of a lamer potential UFC title challenger this side of Justin Eilers?
Another point has to be made here. My goal is not to mindlessly and irrationally trash Brandon Vera. I’m not hating; these are facts. The guy is talented, but unless he finally makes good on an opportunity that he probably doesn’t deserve, he’s always just going to be the guy who goes in there and gets hurt.
Who gets his hand raised tomorrow? Mauricio Rua does. The only thing that always gives me pause with Rua is the overall state of his knees. If his movement is even remotely fluid, it’ll be gravy against Vera. He can be a bit loopy with his punches, but his aggression could definitely send Vera into a shell. This fight will be competitive on the feet, right up until the moment that Vera gets cracked. Then, it’s downhill sleddin’ for him. On the floor, the only advantage I see for Brandon is possibly putting his wrestling to good use, as Shogun isn’t the greatest at defending takedowns. However, Shogun has a better all around ground game, and the clinch game, while somewhat close, goes to Mauricio as well. Rua by TKO.
I’m pretty excited for the prelims.