Sports, in general, can be a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, and some athletes are better suited at handling those swings in success better than others. Fans can also go through the same turmoil alongside their favorite teams and players. I know... because I was the unfortunate recipient of a father who loved the Chicago Cubs. Now, I'm forever doomed in inevitable disappointment.
While some readers might scoff at the thought of a sports fan becoming emotionally attached to their favorite sports athlete, those connections are what make sports and more specifically, individual sports stories, much more intriguing. Some of the most watched sporting events in the history of television were fueled by views deep inside the brains of the individuals involved.
Mixed martial arts has plenty of stories that run parallel to that thinking, and the light heavyweight showdown between the once-feared rising star Brandon Vera (11-5, 7-5 UFC) and Brazilian power puncher Thiago Silva (14-2, 5-2 UFC) has some of the those overtones. While the emotional parallel with fans might not be as great in comparison to other moments in mixed martial arts history, it is, in fact, still an ongoing affair. Vera's rise to fame from 2005 to 2007 was an exciting time as he provided exceptional finishes against tough competition, lending some credence to the notion that one day he may become champion. Unfortunately, a dispute between his manager, the UFC, and Vera himself rattled his world and sidelined him for most of 2007, and in the aftermath -- Vera wasn't the same fighter.
Much has been asked of Vera in the last couple of years. He's been expected to deliver the same precision striking and submission game that vaulted him into the spotlight, and he hasn't been able to deliver. Saturday night, his career will meet an ultimatum, a far cry from what anyone ever expected to happen.
Vera doesn't have an easy task, and that may be why many fans are expecting the worst at UFC 125. Thiago Silva has proven knockout power, devastating Muay Thai abilities, and the support of one of the best fight camps in the world. Can Vera overcome the youth, power, and tenacity of Silva?
As I've stated in past previews, I need to see something in Brandon Vera that inspires confidence for the future. We haven't seen that from him in his previous two performances. The Jon Jones fight might not fall into that category as many believe he will be the future champion, but the hesitance he displayed at moments in the Couture fight in combination with his inability to stop Couture's wrestling game along the fence soured a lot of fans. Vera will need to prove he still belongs in the UFC. With that said, I'll bank on Thiago Silva ending Vera's UFC career on Saturday night.