Brandon “The Truth” Vera has nowhere to go but up after being dominated in his last fight, against Tim Sylvia at UFC 77.
The Sylvia fight was the most disappointing fight of Vera’s career, and his only loss in professional MMA competition.
Vera—listed at 6’3”, 225 pounds—was overwhelmed by the size, height, and reach of the 6’8”, 260-pound Sylvia. Sylvia earned a unanimous decision from the judges after the three rounds, and Vera went home with a broken hand he sustained during the first round of the fight.
Since that fight, there have been a few noteworthy items in the heavyweight ranks.
UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture, at this point, is as close to getting into a UFC octagon as Kimbo Slice. He is still locked in a contract dispute with UFC management and he will likely never fight in the UFC again. Tim Sylvia has also left the UFC for the newly formed Affliction MMA.
On the other hand, current (interim) UFC Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir have been tabbed as the coaches for The Ultimate Fighter 8, which begins on September 17, 2008. When the season concludes, Nogueira will put his title on the line against Mir.
So how could Vera earn a title shot not long after his devastating loss to Sylvia? Certain events need to transpire.
The first step is for Vera to take care of his own business, which means defeating Fabricio Werdum at UFC 85 on June 7.
Werdum is 1-1 since joining the UFC. He lost to Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision at UFC 70, and he was impressively victorious over Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 80 in his last fight.
Werdum is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard first and foremost. He is a BJJ black belt, and he also sports a brown belt in judo.
His striking, although improving, is the weakest part of his game. Once he tires his striking technique tends to go south and he gets sloppy. I feel this will prove costly for Werdum.
Vera is no slouch on the ground. He’s now a brown belt in BJJ under Lloyd Irwin. His submission victory at UFC 60 via guillotine choke over Assuerio Silva is a great example of his ground skills in action.
He also has an extensive wrestling background, having wrestled for the Air Force Academy before becoming a full time MMA fighter.
I believe Werdum will have trouble taking Vera down due to the latter's takedown defense, and that will result in this fight taking place standing up the majority of the time. This most certainly favors Vera.
Vera is a devastating striker. He is a world-class muay thai kickboxer. He hones his skills in this martial art with one of the best trainers in the world—kickboxing legend Rob Kaman.
I like Vera to get the best of Werdum, and to win via unanimous decision.
Heath Herring vs. Brock Lesnar at UFC 87 on August 9, 2008 will be important to the heavyweight division as well. However, no matter who wins this fight, neither fighter will be granted an automatic title shot against the Nogueira/Mir winner.
A Lesnar win would make him just 1–1 in the UFC, and still not ready for a title shot. Vera would automatically earn a shot at the Nogueira/Mir winner.
A Herring win would give him consecutive victories over Cheick Kongo and Brock Lesnar. However, if Vera defeats Werdum, there needs to be a playoff to decide the No. 1 contender. This could take place in November 2008.
I would favor Vera against Herring for the very same reasons listed above. A victory would then make Vera the No. 1 contender.
The next event will be Nogueira putting his title on the line against Mir after the conclusion of TUF 8. This fight will likely take place in December 2008.
I have no reason to believe that Mir will be able to defeat Nogueira. They have essentially the same fighting style, but Nogueira is more skilled and more experienced. Nogueira has beaten almost all the top heavyweights in the world—and Mir will soon be added to the list.
Vera vs. Nogueira for the UFC Heavyweight Championship would be an intriguing match up. This would likely take place in early 2009.
Nogueira is one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. He is at his best when he can stay on his feet long enough for a takedown or pull guard on purpose, both of which are used to get his opponents to the ground so he can use his world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skill to get a submission.
But in the process, Nogueira usually eats some strikes before he can get the fight on the ground, where he has the best chance to end it.
This style will not be conducive against Vera.
Nogueira will not be able to perform his Homer Simpson-esque routine prior to getting Vera on the ground. Vera is too aggressive and too good of a striker with his hands and feet.
In addition, his matches typically do not last for long. Just ask Frank Mir and Justin Eilers. What Vera lacks in size he makes up for with quickness and agility.
He’s always putting pressure on his opponents. Nogueira would eat multiple knees and kicks in this fight, and would not get the fight to the ground fast enough to have a chance. Size would not be an issue in this fight—unlike with Sylvia.
A victory over Nogueira would give Vera the UFC Heavyweight Championship belt, and it would be the crown jewel of his MMA career.
Most importantly, it would be the culmination of a long journey—from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.