UFC on Fox 4 headliners Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera have combined for two victories within the past two years. Only one year ago, Vera was temporarily released from the UFC after suffering a third straight loss that was subsequently changed to a no-contest.
This was not the matchup the UFC had hoped to promote for one of four Fox-televised main events during the calendar year. However, due to the cancellation of a bout between Hector Lombard and Brian Stann, it is the matchup they and the fans are stuck with.
For better or worse, UFC president Dana White even added title shot implications to the bout in an effort to generate more anticipation for a fight in which “Shogun” will be a massive favorite over Vera. Should either fighter win in impressive fashion on Saturday, they could find themselves in a rematch with current light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones.
Who: Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera
What: UFC on Fox 4 Main Event
Where: Staples Center in Los Angeles
When: Saturday, August 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox
Tale of the Tape
* - Unofficial
With a Win, Does Mauricio Rua Deserve a Rematch with Jon Jones or Dan Henderson?
Rua has only beaten Forrest Griffin in his two fights since losing the light heavyweight title to Jones in March, 2011. Right now, "Shogun" is still far from deserving a rematch with Jones, who completely dominated the Brazilian en route to a third-round stoppage.
Even a dominant victory over Vera, who hasn't won against a highly-ranked opponent since he faced Frank Mir in November 2006, would not change much for Rua's standing in the 205-pound division. Thus, Rua would not really be deserving of that rematch with Jones until he picks up another win over a top light heavyweight. There would be little fan interest in that matchup, as is the case with many potential fights for Jones, who is already coming close to clearing out his division.
This is assuming Jones will still be champion when Rua next steps into the Octagon, though. The champion has a tough test waiting for him in a September matchup against Henderson.
Should Henderson upset Jones, the feeling regarding a Rua title shot would take on a much different tone.
In his most recent appearance, Rua engaged in one of the most entering fights in MMA history against Henderson. The back-and-forth war ended in a controversial win for Henderson, which had many hoping for a rematch.
Should Rua and Henderson both win in the coming weeks, fans may have the chance to see the light heavyweight warriors go at it again, as that would be a title shot that would make much more sense for Rua.
What Did Brandon Vera Do to Deserve a Fight with Mauricio Rua?
Brandon Vera does not deserve this opportunity to compete against an elite light heavyweight in a Fox-televised main event, but it is a chance he has been afforded and he should do everything he can to make the most of it.
When Vera had his arm broken by opting not to tap in the closing seconds of his most recent fight against Elliot Marshall, he may have paid a price that was worth his UFC career. Now, instead of barely hanging onto his job, Vera has a chance to become a legitimate 205-pound contender.
Rua is widely accepted as a top-five light heavyweight. A win over the Brazilian may not earn Vera a title shot, but it would certainly resurrect a once-promising career.
Keys to Victory
With knockout wins against the likes of Alistair Overeem, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin, it's understandable that Rua is mostly recognized as a striker. However, his easiest route to victory against Vera may be through taking the fight to the ground.
Vera has been grounded in four of his five career losses and was also taken down in a lopsided fight against Thiago Silva that was eventually declared a no-contest. Rua may not be one of the best wrestlers in the 205-pound division. However, considering he was able to take Dan Henderson down five times in his most recent fight, Rua should be able to accomplish what the likes of Thiago Silva and Keith Jardine were able to against Vera.
This is not to say Rua can't dominate Vera on his feet, though. The Brazilian is a heavy favorite for good reason and is capable of beating Vera anywhere. Rua can increase his odds of winning, though, by taking the fight to the ground and utilizing his black belt-level jiu-jitsu to negate Vera's active guard.
Although Vera has come up short in just about every significant fight he has competed in as of late, the once-promising fighter still has a well-rounded skill set and reach that can cause problems for many light heavyweights.
While it would be a terrible option for most 205-pound fighters, Vera's best chance to mount an upset against Rua would be to engage in a battle of leg kicks. The Brazilian may have more power in his kicks, but Vera can strike from slightly greater distance and could potentially out-land Rua if he turns the matchup into a point fighting bout.
If Vera doesn't fully utilize his reach advantage, he's either going to find himself being beaten up on the ground or in Rua's dangerous clinch.
Mauricio Rua -365
Brandon Vera +275
It's hardly surprising that Rua is a significant favorite over Vera, but it could be argued that the oddsmakers are giving Vera even more credit than they should when you consider co-main event fighter Lyoto Machida is a -335 favorite against an indisputable top-10 light heavyweight in Ryan Bader.
The return won't be great, but there is some money to be made on the favorite in this fight. Rua is a more skilled fighter than Vera in all areas and has proven himself as elite against top competition fight after fight. Vera, meanwhile, has been incredibly inconsistent, having gone years without a significant victory.
Rua has only gone the distance four times in his 26-fight career. In a five-round fight, whether it be in the clinch or on the ground, the Brazilian will eventually overwhelm Vera with strikes and earn a stoppage before the judges can factor into the outcome of this fight.