UFC on Fox 4 will go down as one of the most unexpectedly good cards in UFC history. That's without any exaggeration. For a card that received little attention from everyone, it more than made a case for it being one of the best of the year.
From top to bottom, every fight was solid. The only disappointment was the no-decision in the Phil Davis/Wagner Prado fight, though I'm sure we'll see Mr. Wonderful back in the cage shortly.
The main card was so memorable that I'm upset I didn't have the foresight to actually DVR it at home, so I can relive it.
The biggest news out of the night was that Lyoto Machida secured a shot at the winner of Dan Henderson vs. Jon Jones.
I'd expect to see Shogun matched up with a rising Alex Gustafsson for the next contender.
DaMarques Johnson felt like he was being set up to fail when he was matched up against a returning Mike Swick. He knew he was facing a fighter who was over two and a half years removed from his last fight and needed to make a statement.
I thought in the first round he was doing just that. He looked very good working from top and even dropped Swick at one point. It looked like the feel-good story for Mike Swick would come to a swift end.
However, a lazy body kick changed the entire fight, and Swick was able to capitalize. That was a vicious knockout and a scary live moment when Johnson was being attended to by medical staff.
Johnson won't ever be a top-tiered fighter, but he's definitely a solid mid-tiered gate keeper. I'm not crucifying him because he looked good in that first round.
The return of Mike Swick may be one of the feel-good story of the year.
Two and a half years on the bench, it seemed like his career was over. Everyone felt that his health issues would force him into retirement.
He persevered through it all and made his long-awaited Octagon return at UFC on Fox 4. After a rough first round, he reverted back to vintage Mike Swick in the second. Those punches on the ground were as vicious as you'll see in the UFC.
I've never been happier to have picked the wrong fighter. Huge win and that's part of why he gets an A.
I actually picked Jamie Varner after speaking with him at the UFC on Fox 4 open workouts. He just seemed to be a really good spot mentally which is a really important intangible in combat sports.
And to be honest, he looked really good tonight. The first round was dominated by Varner as he worked combinations to the body and head. I felt that he was on his way to a decision victory before gassing out in the third.
There's absolutely no shame in losing, especially with how well he performed up to that triangle choke. Hopefully, he looks at the positives instead of just focusing on the loss.
Joe Lauzon was the favorite heading into the fight with Jamie Varner. He was also very calm during fight week.
He looked solid in the first round but still let Varner dictate the pace which created a bit of a scare when Varner landed some heavy shots to the body.
Lauzon regrouped in the second and poured on the pressure and never let Varner settle into his punches. When a boxer can't sit on punches, he's taken off his game, and that's exactly what happened.
The grappling that Lauzon displayed against a high-level wrestler was really impressive as was the triangle choke. I'd like to see more performances like that from Joe Lauzon in the future.
I feel for Ryan Bader.
He's a new father and had the best camp of his career preparing for Lyoto Machida. He's a fighter who needs to push the pace in order to be effective in the cage.
Unfortunately, a fighter like Machida presents such an awkward stylistic matchup that Bader just couldn't get into his game.
He made a mental error which I'm assuming was based on frustration. He charged in and opened himself up to that brutal right hand. The knockout will sting, but he has to realize that he was just faced with a nightmare matchup for a wrestler.
Grading a Lyoto Machida performance is extremely difficult.
Do you look at the output and how busy he was? If so, then that wasn't really all that impressive. He kept distance well but landed a ridiculously low amount of significant strikes.
Do you judge his performance by his ability to bait an opponent? Well then, yeah, he was super impressive. He frustrated Ryan Bader and forced him to take chances that he would normally never take.
There's one thing that you cannot question, and that's the highlight-reel knockout finish. He knew there was a title shot on the line and put a stamp on the night.
Brandon Vera was a huge long shot. And that doesn't even put into words how much of an underdog he really was. He was expected to be a stepping stone on the way for Shogun to secure another shot against Jon Jones.
Apparently, Brandon Vera didn't get that memo because he put on the performance of his career. I mean even the Brandon Vera of 2006 had nothing on the guy who fought tonight.
We saw a composed Brandon Vera who overcame a ton of adversity to push Shogun places that only Dan Henderson could do.
I hope this isn't the last time we see Brandon Vera. I want to see him in the cage as soon as possible.
Shogun will get an "A" because he won the fight. But if we're talking about who was more impressive tonight, it wasn't him. I say this because I, like everyone else, expected Shogun to walk through Brandon Vera.
It wasn't even supposed to be close. So when he doesn't absolutely smash Vera, you have to look at it as a poor showing. I expect that's why he felt it wasn't a good performance when speaking with Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview.
He picks up a much-needed win and cements himself as one of the best in the light heavyweight division.
I'd like to see him matched up with Alex Gustafsson as Machida was awarded the shot against the Jones/Henderson winner.