It wasn’t the most-hyped event that the UFC has put on in recent months, but UFC on Fox 4 proved once again that just because there isn’t a title fight on a card doesn’t mean that it won’t deliver with some incredible fights.
The co-main events featured two light heavyweight bouts, one between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader, and the other between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera.
Shogun vs. Vera was originally scheduled to be a No. 1 contenders’ fight, with the winner becoming the next challenger in line for a shot at the UFC light heavyweight championship. But when the Internet cried out against this decision due to Vera’s relative lack of success in the cage recently, UFC President Dana White made the decision to give all four light heavyweights on the main card a shot at becoming the No. 1 contender.
The fighter with the best performance would be given the title fight, which meant that every man had a ton to gain by putting it all on the line...and they did just that.
This unique format allowed for some epic moments that we won’t soon forget. Let’s look back at the best of those moments from UFC on Fox 4.
Though the fight itself won’t be one that we remember for any particular reason, the result of Manny Gamburyan getting another win is something that may very well have saved his job.
The former The Ultimate Fighter 5 runner-up had not won a fight since his April 2010 knockout of Mike Brown back in the WEC. Since then, he had lost three straight contests, all against high-level opponents, but all losses nonetheless.
Gamburyan was able to right the ship on Saturday night with a decision victory over Michihiro Omigawa, a former top-10 featherweight himself, who has now lost six of his seven career UFC fights.
He may not have the intimidating look that some other heavyweights do, but Philip De Fries showed that he is a very dangerous fighter during Saturday night’s prelims when he submitted Oli Thompson late in the second round of their bout.
After being knocked out in just 43 seconds in his previous fight against Stipe Miocic, De Fries showed improved standup skills, out-striking Thompson on the feet. Once Thompson hit the mat after a beautiful combination, De Fries took his back and got the submission with a rear-naked choke.
Widely considered the No. 1 contender in the featherweight division going into 2011, Josh Grispi’s name now could very well be on the chopping block after a third straight disappointing performance on Saturday night.
This time, it was Rani Yahya who exposed holes in Grispi’s ground game to achieve a submission with a north-south choke which really didn’t even look like it was tight enough to cause a tap.
At just 23 years old, Josh Grispi still has room for improvement and has not yet hit his physical peak, but at this point, it’s going to be tough for the UFC to justify keeping him on their active roster if he can’t get a win or at least put on a highly entertaining performance.
The preliminary card on Fuel TV got quite a treat as former top five light heavyweight Phil Davis was set to battle the undefeated Wagner Prado, who was making his UFC debut. The two fighters had a combined record of 17-1 in the bout, and it was a big fight for both men.
Unfortunately, things turned ugly early. Davis accidentally caught Prado with a finger to the eye in the first round, causing temporary blindness for Prado, who immediately backed away, prompting the referee to pause the fight.
A cage-side doctor examined the eye, which even had its lower lid cut open from the poke, as Prado stood next to the cage in pain. The doctor asked Prado a question, and the Brazilian attempted to respond, but apparently misunderstood what the doctor had asked, and the fight was immediately called a No Contest.
A frustrated and highly emotional Prado screamed out as fans booed the decision. Phil Davis offered an apology, but the fight could not continue.
It has been a long road back to the cage for former The Ultimate Fighter 1 castmate Mike Swick. Nearly 30 months had passed since the last time “Quick” had been in the cage due to various injuries and a misdiagnosis of a stomach disease which simply did not allow him to train how he wanted to.
When he finally returned, the UFC knew that a fight against a veteran like DeMarques Johnson would test if his skills had deteriorated with the long layoff.
Needless to say, Swick passed the test with flying colors.
Though he lost the first round of the bout after being taken down and pummeled with some nice ground-and-pound, Swick reminded everyone of his nickname with a lightning-quick knockout in the second. After tripping Johnson to the mat, Swick followed up with a huge right hand to the jaw, instantly KO’ing Johnson and getting him his first UFC victory since June 2009.
Joe Lauzon isn't the most well-known competitor among casual fans, but for those who follow the sport closely, we know that there might not be another fighter in the sport who delivers amazing performances more consistently.
Lauzon did it again on Saturday night when he and Jamie Varner battled to a "Fight of the Night" bonus on Fox.
Varner looked good as his career resurgence continued, even nearly knocking out Lauzon multiple times in the first round. But it was "J-Lau" who survived the early onslaught to earn himself the win with a beautiful triangle choke. The submission also earned him a "Submission of the Night" bonus.
Lauzon has now earned a "Knockout of the Night," "Submission of the Night" or "Fight of the Night" bonus in nine of his 13 fights for the promotion.
With Saturday night's two bonuses, submission of the night and fight of the night, Lauzon added an extra $100,000 to his fight earnings.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has been the recipient of much controversy regarding his style throughout his MMA career.
A karate expert, Machida brings an extremely unique style to the sport of mixed martial arts that is almost impossible to recreate in the gym. It's frustrating for some to watch because while Machida can be extremely effective, he is also very careful and has even been accused of running away during his fights.
We saw more of that on Saturday night, as Machida evaded the striking of Ryan Bader, opting to pick his spots and land damage when he could be sure that he wasn't in any danger.
"The Dragon" eventually caught Bader off-guard and lit him up with a powerful punch that ended the fight in an instant.
Brandon Vera was once considered perhaps the best prospect in the entire sport of MMA. A small heavyweight, Vera's speed was a huge problem for the larger fighters in the division, which helped earn him some impressive wins, even including a knockout victory over Frank Mir.
But recent years have not been as kind to Vera. Now fighting as a light heavyweight, Vera had won just one fight in the past three years coming into his UFC on Fox 4 fight with Mauricio Rua.
Some fans began to question his heart and his desire to remain a top fighter in the sport.
That wasn't the case on Saturday night. Not by a long shot.
Brandon Vera showed the kind of heart that gained him so many fans in the past when he brought the fight to Shogun for four rounds before finally getting knocked out.
Even though he lost and Shogun took another step closer to the title, Brandon Vera showed that he still has "it," and that is something that we certainly questioned going into the bout.
Dana White said that the fighter who got the most impressive win at UFC on Fox 4 would become the next challenger for the UFC light heavyweight championship.
After Lyoto Machida knocked out Ryan Bader and Shogun Rua knocked out Brandon Vera, we weren't exactly sure who would be chosen as the "most impressive" winner.
We didn't have to wait long to find out, though, as Dana joined Joe Rogan during the broadcast before it went off-air to let everyone know that Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida had earned himself the next shot at the UFC light heavyweight championship.
The debate will now be about whether Machida deserves the fight more than Shogun given that Shogun knocked Machida out the last time they fought, and Machida fought Jones more recently than Shogun did.
But the decision has been made, and Machida showed that a punishing, one-punch knockout is still the best way into the good graces of the UFC higher-ups.