Friday, August 3, 2012

UFC on Fox 4: This is the Best 205 Can Offer?

Let’s face it. UFC 149 was a total flop.  Not only did I have my worst predictions of all-time, the fights in general were awful. After a phenomenal preliminary card, Matt Riddle and to a certain extent Renan Barão were the only fighters to show up.

The only thing stranger than the Kongo-Jordan fight and Hector Lomabrd’s debut was news that broke earlier this week.  At the press conference for UFC on Fox 4 Dana White announced the winner of the Brandan Vera-Shogun Rua fight would receive a title shot. (My initial reaction).

After hours of social media outrage good ole DW changed his mind and decided that if the winner co-main event between Ryan Bader and Lyota Machida wins in more impressive fashion than Rua or Vera than that person would receive the title shot. (Revised reaction).

There are many issues with this decision in my opinion.  First off, Vera is 1-2-1 in his last four fights and was originally scheduled to face James Te-Huna.  How does he go from a Fuel card against a mid level fighter to a main event #1 contender fight against a guy who has lost 2 of his last 3? Dana you make my head do this.

I’d much rather see Phil Davis, who is on the under card, or Alexander Gustafson get a shot than any of the four mentioned above. At the very least give Jon Jones a rematch against this guy.

Now on to the picks…

Last Card: 1-4
Year: 52-33

Mike “Quick” Swick vs. DeMarques “Darkness” Johnson

The main card kicks off with the return of Mike Swick (14-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC)  to the Octagon.  He has not fought in two and a half years and is riding a two fight win streak.  They are his first two losses in the division after winning his first four at 170.  A season 1 TUF alum Swick burst on the scene with 5 wins (4 finishes) and projected to be a champion one day.  Unfortunately, injuries have derailed his career.  Ring rust will be an issue and who knows if his hand phenomenal hand speed has slowed down.

Joe Silva did not do Swick any favors by matching him up with Johnson (16-10 MMA, 4-4 UFC) in his first fight back.  The TUF Season 9 runner-up is known for his brawling style.  He is very aggressive and will push Swick as soon as the bell wings. While, Darkness has put on many entertaining fights his style has proved to be his downfall as he has been caught on multiple occasions.

This fight is a huge opportunity for both fighters.  Being able to kick off the main card on Fox gives the winner of the fight a ton of momentum in the crowded welterweight division.

Swick Round 2 Submission (Guillotine)

Last fall, no one would believe these guys would be facing off against each other.  Joe Lauzon (21-7 MMA, 8-4 UFC) just submitted Melvin Guillard in less than a minute and was heading to a potential title eliminator fight against Anthony Pettis. Varner (20-6-1- MMA, 2-1 UFC), was not even in the UFC. In fact, he lost to Dakota Cochrane, a guy who could not get into the TUF house, on a regional show.

Since that loss, Varner has seen a resurgence in his career.  The former WEC put together two wins in the XFC promotion before stepping in against Edson Barboza at UFC 146.  No one wanted to face Barboza at that time but Varner rose to the occasion finishing the Brazilian in the first round. This is technically his second stint in the UFC but he is a far superior than his first time. Three of his six losses are by submission so he will need to be on the top of his game against the dangers Lauzon.

J-Lau is a difficult fighter to judge in the lightweight division. Since his debut against Jens Pulver in 2006, Lauzon has proven he can hang with anyone in the division.  He does everything fairly level, but is elite when he comes to his submission game.  His guard has caught a number of fighters in his career.  The one issue for J-Lau is his cardio.  He starts so fast and at such a great pace that if he does not get a finish early he is trouble in the later rounds.

The longer this fight stays on thee feet, the better it is for Varner.  His goal needs to be to weather the storm and push this fight to the later rounds.  After his performance against Barboza he will not be taking anyone by surprise.

Varner Decision (29-28)

This sort of, kind of, possible number one contender fight between two fighters who in their last four fights are a combined 3-5 is a hard one to predict.  Bader (14-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) is coming off a dominating decision win over Rampage Jackson that sounds a lot more impressive than it really is. (Sorry buddy)

The first match up against Jones was too much at the time for Bader. However, I think he learned a lot more in his next fight, a loss to Tito Ortiz than he did against Jones. His key in this one is no shocker, his wrestling. Machida (17-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) is a great counter puncher and the best way to avoid this is to stand and trade with him as little as possible.

The dragon was most recently seen unconscious on the mat with Jon Jones walking away like a true BAMF.  While many people will remember the ending sequence, they forget how great Machida looked leading up the submission.  He challenged Jones more so than anyone and actually tagged Jones a couple times.  Machida has been criticized by being too passive at times, but if he fights like he did against Jones this weekend, it will be a shot night for Bader.

Machida KO Round 2 & earns #1 contender spot

The main event is one of the most uneven fights to headline a card in years. Rua (20-6 MMA, 4-4 UFC) is a former light heavyweight champion who only losses in the past 9 years are to current or former UFC champions as well. Vera (12-5 MMA, 8-5 UFC), on the other hand, is coming off his first win since August 2009.

Shogun’s last fight was considered by many to be the fight of the year.  He proved that going 5 rounds will not be an issue for him and I doubt Vera will be bale to push him as much as Henderson did in that bout. Despite being a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu has only one submission win in his entire career.  When healthy, Shogun has the hands to knock out anyone and never puts on a boring fight.

No one is more shocked to see in Brandon Vera in this position than me.  I remember the days when people were talking about Vera being a champion in two different weight classes. (I’m not lying, look it up). Call me crazy, but I don’t think a win over Eliot Marshall deserves a number one contender fight.  Also, while many people point out Vera is 1-2-1 in his last four fights, the two losses are to Jon Jones and Randy Couture, certainly no shame in that.

Vera is pumped about this fight.  We have seen many times where a fighter comes out of nowhere and takes advantage of a huge opportunity. I do not think this fight is one of those times.  I expect Shogun to take this early and without working too hard. 

Rua KO Round 1 & earns #1 contender spot
I know what you're thinking, how can their be TWO number one contenders?!?!  The way I see it, none of these four men deserve a chance at Jon Jones, if he beats Henderson, with a single win at UFC on Fox 4. I expect the winners of these two fights to go up against each other for an interim title/number one contender fight while Jones takes a fight at heavyweight.  It won't be against a top guy, my best guess would be a Ben Rothwell/Cheick Kongo type.  That way Jones gets an intriguing fight and the 205ers have a chance to build some momentum before getting stomped by Jones again.

Could these two beat Jon Jones in a handicap match?
Credit: MMAmania

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