Shogun was as brutal and entertaining as Machida, but not as impressive in Dana White’s eyes. Props: @raiseyourhorns
After watching the UFC’s first two lackluster efforts on Fox, as well as the organization’s entertaining third effort fail to draw decent ratings, it was no secret that the UFC needed to deliver with last night’s UFC on Fox 4. With “the most impressive fighter” earning the next title shot at light-heavyweight, fighters returning to the spotlight after time in the indie leagues and fighters returning from extended layoffs – not to mention the usual
mix of fighters attempting to make a name for themselves and guys literally fighting for their jobs- it was obvious that the UFC was hoping for something special from everybody involved. Factor in the fact that the UFC was already struggling with ratings before the abysmal UFC 149 just two weeks ago, and it would seem like a night full of stoppages was in order to keep the fans interested in future fights on Fox.
Simply put, this card delivered all that was expected of it and then some. Last night’s fights were exactly what I was hoping to get when the UFC first announced that they had inked a deal with Fox. It was exactly what I want to show the first time viewer who asks what this “MMA stuff” is that I write about. After a rough start with these free cards on Fox, the UFC now stands at an even 2-2.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the main event bout between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon “The Truth” Vera lived up to its expectations because, let’s face it, there weren’t any. Before the fight, no one could make sense of the potential title implications behind a seemingly blatant squash fight, pitting an aging legend of our sport against a fighter who had been coasting on the brink of irrelevance. Whether we were given a quick, brutal knockout or five rounds of stalling and wheezing, few of us would have been surprised either way.
Rather, it’s fair to say that Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera ended up being one of the best fights that the UFC has put on Fox, and easily the most entertaining main event on the network. For four rounds, Shogun outpointed a focused, game Vera on his way to a fourth round TKO. While Vera certainly had his moments – don’t act like your jaw didn’t drop when he locked in that guillotine in the first round – in the end Shogun’s aggressive striking and takedowns were just too much for The Truth.
This isn’t to say the fight was perfect by any means. For one, Shogun continued to struggle with his cardio, much like he did against Dan Henderson. Perhaps his conditioning woes are what convinced Dana White not to reward him with a title shot with his performance. Likewise, while Vera deserves credit for the gutsy performance he put in last night, being a punching bag for the deep end of the division will only get you so far. I’m not saying that I want Vera off of the main cards, and I’m certainly not saying that he deserves to be fired for the performance that he put in, but I am saying that I don’t want to pay to watch a Brandon Vera fight any time soon.
As for the co-main event between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader, there really isn’t much left to say: It delivered everything that I assumed it would. Machida knew that a knockout would give him a title shot, and he earned it with a well timed counter right hook. He may not be the most qualified challenger in recent memory, but as long as Jon Jones gets past Dan Henderson, he makes for easily the most interesting rematch (I say rematch because, like everyone else, I’d rather see Jones fight Gustafsson or Teixeira).
Submission of the Night honors went to Joe Lauzon for his triangle choke over Jamie Varner. With Varner returning to a Zuffa main card for the first time since 2010 and Lauzon coming off of a quick, vicious knockout loss to Anthony Pettis, both men made the most of their time in the spotlight with a highly entertaining three round battle. While Varner had Lauzon in trouble early on with his superior striking, J-Lau hung on to turn the fight into a nonstop, back-and-forth brawl. Lauzon begin to pull away with the contest once Jamie Varner broke his hand in the second round, and eventually earned the submission in the third. It would have been interesting to see how this one would have ended had Varner not broken his hand, but at least he has the $50k Fight of the Night bonus to show for his performance.
Knockout of the Night honors went to “Quick” Mike Swick, who made the most of his return to the cage by putting away DeMarques Johnson in the second round. Being 0-2 in your last two fights is enough pressure for a fighter in the UFC, yet alone coming off of a layoff spanning over two years. While Swick looked shaky at times – as expected from a fighter who has been out of action for so long – he rocked Johnson throughout the fight with hard rights before taking him down after catching a kick and landing a huge right hand. It’s hard to see this victory pushing Swick too far up the ladder, but it was an excellent, well deserved victory for Quick.
Mauricio Rua def. Brandon Vera via TKO, 4:09 of Round Four
Lyoto Machida def. Ryan Bader via KO, 1:32 of Round Two
Joe Lauzon def. Jamie Varner via submission (triangle choke), 2:44 of Round Three
Mike Swick def. DaMarques Johnson via KO, 1:20 of Round Two
Nam Phan def. Cole Miller via split decision
Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado declared a no contest (doctor’s stoppage due to unintentional
Rani Yahya def. Josh Grispi via submission (North-south choke), 3:15 of Round One
Phil De Fries def. Oli Thompson via submission (rear naked choke), 4:16 of Round Two
Manny Gamburyan def. Michihiro Omigawa via unanimous decision
John Moraga def. Ulysses Gomez via KO, 3:46 of Round One