UFC on FOX Shogun vs. Vera: The Aftermath
Now that was an outstanding night of fights! All four fights were outstanding, back-and-forth affairs that ended in spectacular fashion, exactly the kind of show the UFC needed after a sluggish UFC 149 and a couple of FOX events that didn’t deliver the action/ratings combo the organization craves.
The big news of the night is that Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will face the winner of next month’s UFC 151 light heavyweight title fight between champion Jon Jones and challenger Dan Henderson after dispatching Ryan Bader with a vicious right hand in the co-main event.
After toying with the former Ultimate Fighter winner in the opening round and early portion of the second, Machida pulled the trigger on a straight right as Bader went for broke with a bull rush that went bad quickly, earning the impressive finish just over a minute into the middle stanza.
It was certainly the more precise and polished finish of the two light heavyweight bouts, but personally, I thought White would announce Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would face the Jones-Henderson winner, and here’s why:
- For starters, Rua’s fight with Brandon Vera was a more exciting fight overall. I’m not sure how you measure “impressiveness,” but I was all kinds of impressed with both main event participants for the way they battled through nearly four rounds of toe-to-toe sluggery. (Yes, I just made up the word “sluggery” right now. You like?)
- Secondly, Rua is the easier sell regardless of who wins the Jones-Henderson contest next month. He closed out 2011 with a Fight of the Year battle with Henderson, and is a year-and-change removed from losing to Jones, who he faced on short notice after coming off an extended layoff.
- Additionally, Rua wasn’t just dropped to the canvas like a sack of bricks by Jones eight months ago like Machida was. Should “Bones” successfully defend his title, does anyone really think things will be that different this soon for Jones-Machida II?
My ultimate-ultimate wish would have been for White to say, “You know what? They were both impressive, so we’re going to have them coach TUF Brazil Season 2, do Shogun-Machida III after that, and have Jones fight Anderson Silva if he beats Henderson.” I dream big.
Before moving on from the final two fights of the night, how about a round of applause for Vera’s performance tonight? The guy no one thought had any chance looked pretty damn good through 3.75 rounds, showing that when he’s focused and motivated, he’s a dangerous member of the light heavyweight division.
I know he still lost and his resume over his last five fights is still gnarly (1-3 with a no contest), but the truth is that “The Truth” put up a heck of a fight against Rua, and deserves another solid opponent next time around.
I said it heading into the fight, and I’ll say it again now, Joe Lauzon is a post-fight bonus magnet. The lightweight from Bridgewater, Massachusetts paired with Jamie Varner to earn Fight of the Night honours, and took home an additional $50,000 for Submission of the Night for the slick triangle choke that earned him the win.
Lauzon-Varner was a great fight, as expected, and even though he lost, there was nothing for Varner to hang his head about after this performance. For the second consecutive bout, Varner took a fight on short notice against a tough opponent, and was in the thick of it until the end. He’ll be back, and it will be interesting to see what he can do given a full training camp next time.
As for Lauzon, he’s back in the same place he was following his win over Melvin Guillard at UFC 136 last October. He’s on the fringe of being a contender, and will get a step up in competition next time out. So far, he hasn’t had a lot of success in those situations.
Mike Swick looked rusty and tired in his first fight back in 30 months, but he still came away with the Knockout of the Night for his finish of DaMarques Johnson. Swick showed the quick hands we remembered from before his extended hiatus early, but conditioning was clearly an issue. That said, the string of moves that produced the finish was smooth as he caught a right kick, sweep Johnson to the floor, and buried a blistering right hand that put Johnson’s lights out.
Preliminary Card Quick Hitters
- Love the boxing skills Nam Phan shows in the cage; works the body exceptionally well, throws lots of combos. The TUF 12 cast member staved off a pink slip (I think) with a well-earned decision win over Cole Miller.
- The Phil Davis-Wagner Prado fight was one of those “you hate when this happens” moments. Davis accidentally poked Prado in the eye early, the Brazilian newcomer couldn’t continue, and the bout was declared a No Contest. White said at the post-fight press conference that they’ll try to book it again on the October FX card.
- Rani Yahya skill rocks it old school, trading off his one dominant skill. The Brazilian jim-jitsu ace took Josh Grispi to the ground early in the first round, quickly transitioned to side control, and moved to a north/south choke to earn the tap. While he’s never going to be a championship contender without having more weapons at his disposal, I’m a sucker for slick jiu-jitsu, and watching Yahya work on the ground is outstanding.
- The flyweight division has an impressive new addition, John Moraga. The Arizona State University wrestler dropped Ulysses Gomez with a nasty elbow along the cage, following it up with a couple heavy punches to earn a win in his UFC debut. With the division just getting up and running, we will surely see more of Moraga in the future. Remember the name.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).