It was only about a week ago that fans were looking at UFC on FOX 4 with a bit of disappointment as a seemingly unimportant main event between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera was set to headline the network television fight card.
We later learned that the winner of the Rua-Vera fight would be the No. 1 contender for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
While that added some interest to the fight card, many fans were very frustrated with Vera—who had only won one of his previous four fights—being a potential challenger for Jon Jones. Those against the decision flooded Twitter, imploring UFC President Dana White to reconsider.
On Tuesday afternoon, the fans’ wishes were granted as White announced that the most impressive winner of the two fights between Brandon Vera and Shogun Rua, and between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader, would be the one who gets the next UFC title fight.
With all four fighters now in play for a shot at Jon Jones, the conversation can now begin—who is the most likely fighter to leave UFC on Fox 4 as the No. 1 contender for Jon Jones’ UFC title?
To answer that question, here is a power ranking of each of the four contenders and their likelihood to be Jon Jones’ next opponent.
UFC Record: 8-5-1
Last five fights: 2-2-1
Most recent fight: Defeated Eliot Marshall by unanimous decision at UFC 137
Odds of becoming No. 1 Contender: 10-to-1
The consensus is that Brandon Vera is the least likely of the four light heavyweights competing in on the UFC on Fox 4 card on Saturday night to earn himself a shot at the title.
While Vera is a highly skilled fighter, he has lacked either the dedication or the consistency to put together a string of wins in recent years. It’s hard to believe that it’s going to happen against a former Light Heavyweight champion in Mauricio Rua.
However, if Vera does come out with a win on Fox, there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll be in spectacular fashion. If that happens, maybe he’s not such an unlikely challenger after all.
UFC Record: 5-2-0
Last five fights: 3-2
Most recent fight: Defeated Quinton Jackson by unanimous decision at UFC 144
Odds of becoming No. 1 Contender: 6-to-1
Ryan Bader had his shot at UFC gold taken from him when he became the first of Jon Jones’ four victims in 2011. At that time, Bader was undefeated as a pro at 12-0 and many believed that he was a future champion.
He’ll get his chance to redeem himself if he can get the biggest win of his career on Saturday night against Lyoto Machida. A victory over Machida would mark the second straight former UFC champion that Bader will have defeated.
The question that many are asking, at this point, is if Bader has the technical skills that would be needed to out-strike Machida and get a highlight reel knockout worthy of a title fight.
UFC Record: 9-3
Last five fights: 2-3
Most recent fight: Lost via technical submission to Jon Jones at UFC 140
Odds of becoming No. 1 Contender: 4-to-1
With just one win in his past four fights, it might seem like Lyoto Machida’s best days are behind him. However, when you consider the points that all three of those losses came against former champions, it’s hard to really discredit “The Dragon” too much.
As we’ve seen in the past with his brutal knockouts of Rashad Evans, Thiago Silva and Randy Couture, Machida is capable of finishing any fight at any time. Ryan Bader has never been knocked out in his career, but there’s a first time for everything.
UFC Record: 4-4-0
Last five fights: 2-3
Most recent fight: Lost unanimous decision to Dan Henderson at UFC 139
Odds of becoming No. 1 Contender: 3-to-1
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua might be the most frustratingly inconsistent fighter on the UFC roster today.
It seems like we see a different fighter every time he steps into the cage. Sometimes we even see a different fighter from one round to the next within the same fight.
Shogun has alternated wins with losses ever since his UFC 97 victory over Chuck Liddell in 2009. He hasn’t strung together back-to-back wins nor back-to-back losses since that point. If that streak continues, Shogun is due for a win on Saturday night against Brandon Vera.
Rua is currently listed as a -400 favorite on SportsBook.com and given the lack of knockout power that Brandon Vera has shown in recent years, it’s hard to believe that “Shogun” isn’t going to get back in the win column in the main event on Fox.