This may be the best free fight card that the UFC has put together in their cable and network history. I would pay $55 for this card any day of the week. I expect many fireworks with the crop of talent that is gracing the octagon with their collective presence on Saturday. Arguably, the UFC's most prized possession is on the mind of the four men fighting for that championship (re)match with Jon Jones. They've actually ALL lost to him in convincing fashion, horribly convincing fashion. Dan Henderson has the pleasure, next month, at dethroning the so far the riddle and incumbent champion. But, this weekend...without paying a cent, we get to watch the Light Heavyweight Division unravel with two winners, two losers, and one happy future #1 contender. To add to the excitement, there was speculation earlier in the week that the winner of Shogun Rua and Brandon Vera would receive their rematch against the winner of Jones or Henderson. I think what Dana White meant to say was, "If Shogun wins, he'll get a shot at Jones." But now, we know that whoever impresses the UFC Matchmakers the most this Saturday, will be the new #1 contender. Ryan Bader wears a corny TapouT slogan on his sponsored chest proclaiming that...#MyFightMatters...well "Darth" Bader, it does matter. It matters to your opponent as well, also a former Light Heavyweight Champion, Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. Let's take a shot every time Mike Goldberg calls him "elusive". Deal? Are ya drunk yet? Swig one Bud Light Platinum, you won't need a 5th of Jack.
Let's look at the matchups...
MAIN EVENT - Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (-400) vs. Brandon "The Truth" Vera (+300)
A very interesting turn of events led to this matchup. Shogun was called out by a little known fighter, and pretty much UFC rookie, Glover Teixera. Teixera came to the UFC from flying under the radar for many years, toiling through the American MMA underground beating a who's who of UFC veterans and Brazilian countrymen on his home soil. He defeated Kyle Kingsbury pretty soundly at UFC 146. He wanted to jump right into an important fight. He asked for Shogun. Dana asked Shogun, Shogun said..."Nooope!" I'll assume in Portuguese. Shogun really gains nothing from fighting and beating a relative newcomer, but Teixera has heavy hands, he(Shogun) has a ton to lose. I don't disagree with Shogun's position (Pride mark in me). In turn, Teixera got his big fight at UFC 153, as he faces Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Shogun doesn't get KO'd by a nobody (to the UFC Mainstream Audience) and everyone is happy.
I believe that Shogun is going to be too much to handle for Vera. If Vera can change levels and keep his striking crisp, he's got a shot. Not much of one, but anything can happen. His wrestling is underrated and if he can get the fight down he may get a chance to hurt Shogun and damage him long-term in this fight. But I can see Shogun winning this fight in several different ways, I think that the fight will get stopped in the second or third round. The smart money is on Shogun, Vegas has him -400. Overwhelming favorite in this contest.
CO-MAIN EVENT - Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (-370) vs. Ryan "Darth" Bader (+280)
This is a big boy fight for Bader. Historically, that hasn't always been a good thing for him. He was on the fast track to the UFC LHW Title picture when he faced a little known newcomer named Jon "Bones" Jones. Needless to say, "Darth" Bader lost in this movie as well. He was decimated before being guillotined at the hands of the current UFC LHW Champion. This was an ongoing trend as Tito Ortiz dropped him with a huge punch and followed up that with the same exact choke. Bader came back with huge, career saving wins against Jason Brilz and borefest against the aforementioned "Rampage" Jackson. Which Ryan Bader are we going to get? If I'm right, it will be the one on his back with the referee pulling Lyoto Machida off of his unconscious body. I've got Machida by KO in the first.
Bader doesn't quite have the skillset or the speed to deal with Machida. He's got HUGE punching power, but it's one thing to be powerful and another to be quick enough to connect to the "ELUSIVE" Machida's chin. No easy task. Shogun Rua is the only man with that honor. Can Bader take Machida down? Possibly, but no one has been successful in that area either. "Dragon" will impress, but not as much as Shogun. Shogun gets the rematch against Jones or Hendo.
Speaking of quickness, I have the pleasure of covering Mike "Quick" Swick's return to the 8-sided cage. Mike Swick is coming off a two and a half year layoff due to several health issues. While he was away from fighting, I was lucky enough to get some one on one time in the gym with him around the new year. He wasn't ready for the heavy action yet, so he turned town a sparring session with me, but we all really know he was afraid of my right hook. HAAAAAAA!!! I just heard him yawn from San Jose. He's a great guy, taught me some very valuable unforgettable things that I am not liberty to discuss, unless you pay me. But much like this weekend's card, this article is free.
Mike "Quick" Swick (-250) vs. Damarques Johnson (+190)
Both guys haven't had the best luck in their most recent UFC fights, but I have to swing the way of Swick (Oh, you didn't know?). Skillsets are very important in deciding a fight. Who does more things better...sometimes you throw all of that out the window. Who does one thing really well? Swick does all the same things Johnson does, just better. The American Kickboxing Academy has done a great job getting Swick ready for his previous UFC run. I think that his trainers Bob Cook and Javier Mendez will prevail here as well. I think Swick will be a bit rusty through the first few moments but his timing will come back. Once he's got that under control, he'll control this fight. I think Johnson plans to put the pressure on Swick immediately, and try to keep him uncomfortable. The AKA standout I'm sure is more aware of this than anyone. I think Swick will either outlast Johnson and grind out a decision, or one swift connection to the jaw of Johnson and it will be lights out for The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Runner-up.
Jamie Varner (-115) vs. Joe "J-Lau" Lauzon (-115)
I have never been a fan of Jamie Varner. That doesn't necessarily win him fights though, not sure he cares what I think either. Plus he has a girl's name, so...whatever. Lauzon has had an interesting career inside the octagon. Not sure which one show's up here as well. For my money, Jamie Varner is on a hot streak. Defeating the likes of ESPY nominated Edson Barboza and a nice 2-1 stretch on the independent circuit, the former WEC Lightweight Champion has looked really good lately in his back to back UFC wins. But he has a girl's name, so I'll pick Lauzon by submission. Wait a second, Lauzon's nickname is almost J-Lo...that's also a girl's name. Ok, I say they both lose by double-flying-scissor-omo-gogo-crackhead-control-knee-fist.
FREE on FUEL TV UNDERCARD
Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
Oh how the mighty have fallen, you lose one fight to Rashad Evans and you're relegated to the lower level faster than an EPL team! Phil Davis bores me to tears despite beating some really talented fighters. Wagner Prado makes his UFC debut after being known for restoring his car on Pimp My Brazilian ride...thought I was going somewhere else with that, didn't ya? I'm gonna choose this as my upset pick. I think Prado adds to the Brazilian winners of the night and KO's Davis in the first round.
Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Slight underdog Nam Phan is my pick here. I really like this guy. I think his future is bright. I dig his technical style and I think it will work well for him here. Phan by decision. Not a huge upset.
Manny Gamburyan vs. Michihiro Omigawa
I like this fight, should be fun. Omigawa I hold dear to my heart because he's a one-time Pride fighter and a Dream veteran. Gamburyan is 2-5 in the UFC and Omigawa is 1-5. Neither guy has had much luck, but I'm pulling for Omigawa, which means if he's a Pride guy, he won't win if he isn't supposed to (See Takanori Gomi, Wanderlei Silva, Mikro Cro-Cop).
There are three more fights on this card but #YourFightsDontMatterYet. To the Oli Thompson's, Josh Grispi's and Ulysses Gomez's of the world, do what others like Diego Sanchez, Clay Guida and Urijah Faber have done before you...win fights on free cable. You'll be a legend before you know it!
Also, UFC is debuting the Ref Cam. I found an awesome highlight video of some of the more spectacular moments caught in our wonderful sport while the referee wore this ridiculously huge device. Please take the time to check out the video, it's MMA like you've never seen it before!
More stuff I wanted to hit on, but I'll save it for my next article. It's a comparison piece between Chris Weidman and Mike Trout. Mike Trout is definitely going to win the American League Rookie of the Year and possibly the MVP award. Except he isn't asking for a World Series Fight against Anderson Silva. Chris Weidman is. Chill out rook, your day will come.
Also, a new show on NuVo TV is premiering on August 15th called Fight Factory. It follows around the controversial American Kickboxing Academy gym coaches and fighters, and really delves into the MMA day-to-day. This is what really happens, nothing like The Ultimate Fighter. Check your local listings for that. I highly recommend it. Really cool concept that's long overdue.
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