At UFC on FOX 4, Mauricio Rua, Brandon Vera, Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader are slated to decide who gets first refusal at the 205-pound crown. For the quartet in question, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, and as a consequence, the double-header will serve as the most vicious title eliminator bout in UFC history.
Dana White reneged on his earlier pledge of handing a title shot to the winner of the headline act contested between Rua and Vera.
However, after much furor from the Twitter massive and some in-house deliberations, White elected that the most impressive victor amongst the aforementioned would receive a championship tilt at the winner of the Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson fight, which is scheduled for UFC 151.
Mr. White can sugar-coat it all he wants, but the fact remains, both main and co-main events are, without a doubt, title-eliminator bouts.
That being said, the stage is now set, and it’s all to play for.
Once touted as the future of the 205-pounders, the former NCAA Division l standout suffered the same fate as Machida.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Bader called out a washed up Tito Ortiz as a stepping stone back up the light heavyweight ranks.
Big mistake—huge! He lost in ignominious fashion.
However, redemptive measures were in dire need, and the heavy-hitter gradually hauled himself to his present position with victories over Jason Brilz and Rampage Jackson.
Of the three other combatants, Bader is the only one on a two-fight win streak.
Bader has dusted himself down and is one fight away from a title shot that most people at the time would’ve thought was a foregone conclusion.
The time is now.
Expect Bader to strike while the iron is hot—he’ll come out swinging from the rafters intent on inflicting maximum damage to ensure that hard to grasp title tilt doesn’t elude him.
Bader’s thoughts heading into UFC on FOX 4 (via opposing views.com):
I am getting there. Defeating a guy like 'Rampage' puts you right in the mix (for a title shot). I am just focused on this fight; everything else will take care of itself.
In his second defense of the light heavyweight title, the much heralded Machida era was brutally ended courtesy of Rua, and everything went downhill from there on in.
Machida lost a split decision to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and then went on to register a knockout over the now-retired couture.
However, he would come unstuck for the third time in his career as well as in his last four outings when Jones locked in a vicious standing guillotine choke to send him off to the land of nod.
Akin to Rua, Machida the karate kid locks horns with Bader shorn of a recent win.
Another defeat and it’s probably a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
He can’t afford that, and as a consequence, something’s gotta give as fortune and eminence beckons once more.
Expect the most ruthless and clinical Machida yet.
Machida’s thoughts heading into UFC on FOX 4 (via MMAmania.com):
I think it would be a great opportunity for the both of us. Obviously I would love to face ‘Shogun' again, and I think he probably feels the same way. It's one victory to each of us right now, and I think it would be a great ideas and definitely put us in a good position for title contentio.
Not necessarily awe-inspiring, but it’ll do for now.
Remember WWE’s Jack Swagger? Well, at the height of Vera’s supposed powers, Jack didn’t have diddly squat on him.
I mean, this is the guy who boasted he’d hold the 205-pound and heavyweight titles simultaneously. If that ain’t swank, I don’t know what is.
Nevertheless, Vera was proclaimed (mostly from his own vocal orifice) as the one to set the UFC on fire. Did he? Did he heck.
Has there ever been a fighter that promised so much yet failed to deliver in abundance?
Vera heads into his matchup with fellow Muay Thai exponent having scored one win in four contests—he lost to an aging Randy Couture, got pummeled by Jones, got rag-dolled by Thiago Silva and miraculously defeated no-mark Eliot Marshall to book his spot alongside the title contenders.
Now an opportunity presents itself in the guise of UFC glory, something he’s never before had a whiff of. Expect him to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Rua, and then some.
This is the last chance saloon for Vera, and he, more than anyone, knows what’s at stake.
Vera’s thoughts heading into UFC on FOX 4 (via Yahoo! Sports):
Beating Shogun, and beating him the way I want, corrects all the mistakes I've made and wipes away all the bad performances. Beating Frank Mir is probably my best performance, but people don't realize that was nothing compared to what I do all the time in the gym. I'm going to show off what 'The Truth' really is on Fox.
The former PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix champion must know in his heart of hearts that he, in actuality, isn’t deserved of a title shot just yet.
In the first defense of his light heavyweight belt, Rua was systematically routed by Jones. Even so, he was able to bounce back with a first-round demolition job on Forrest Griffin.
Next was an epic encounter for the ages with Hendo. Although he wore his heart on his sleeve that night, he would end up the vanquished, leaving him 1-2 in last three outings but, more importantly, without a win heading into UFC on FOX 4.
With his present record, redemption on his mind and the title at stake, expect the Muay Thai and ground-and-pound expert of old to make an appearance, even more hungry and determined than in his last fight.
Rua’s thoughts heading into UFC on FOX 4 (via Yahoo! Sports):
I want the winner of Jones vs. Henderson. The fight I had with Henderson was a great fight, the fight of the year, and it was a very close fight. I am OK with that. It was a great fight. But the loss to Jones, I can't live with. I could have done so much better and I want to fight him again. First, though, I have to beat Brandon Vera and winning isn't good enough. I have to be very impressive, but that it what I have trained to do.
That's the fight I want. I want my title back. I think he is much easier to study Jon Jones now... last time the guy was a brand new style in the UFC. Now we've seen him fight other guys and have more information what he's going to do in the Octagon. I am working towards beating him in a rematch.
I was very excited to hear that from Dana. From what I understand I have to be impressive and that is very motivating for me to put on a huge victory and beat Brandon Vera. It will be a great Muay Thai war!
Although the title-eliminator match between Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin was one of the most bloody and brutal fights in the history of the Zuffa-based promotion, it’s safe to say that UFC on FOX 4 will surpass it.
Expect blood, sweat and tears. Add in guts, gory and glory to the equation, because nothing short of laying it all on the line will suffice for the combatant who gets that shot at 12 pounds of UFC gold.
UFC on Fox: Shogun vs. Vera is scheduled to take place on August 4, 2012 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.