Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting.
It's hard to remember individual pay per views these days. The last UFC was dismal. But rather than rise above the interest of a drunken brawl at karaoke night at Chacho's*, it couldn't even generate the pleasure of a lost and found can of red bull in the refrigerator on a night of finals.
That's why there's so much to be thankful for. UFC on FOX 4 is a stacked card. In addition, Dana White took to his vlog to all but tell the fighters vying for upward mobility that you'll be rewarded if you stand and bang. Which is unfortunate in many ways. Urjiah Faber and Renan Barao put on a good technical show, but the lack of velocity prior meant fans weren't gonna be happy unless both guys were swinging at each other with their bloody, exposed duodenums.
With Shogun on the card, that's probably not out of the realm of possibility. Below are five fights that I think are worth revisiting. Fights that I think tell us much about each match, and the respective styles in conflict. Fights that might be useful for bettors and predictors alike to reflect upon.
1. Maurico Rua vs. Mark Coleman UFC 93 January 17 2009
It's difficult to make sense of this pick. Coleman's style doesn't resemble Vera's in the least. Except in one, very important way: Vera at his worst, is static in a way not even the 40+ year old Coleman could imitate. Brandon's sin has always been his inability to explode into offense in ways we know he's capable of.
But the fight is important to revisit for another reason. Fans might mock the idea of Vera potentially winning, but Shogun's performance in this fight is evidence of Brandon's best chance, which is to hope that Rua fights like his only object of affection is Fay Wray, clumsily lobbing strikes at his opponent as if he's not sure he's fighting just the guy in the cage. Rua looked terrible against Coleman, but his performance is not an isolated case. And who knows how much is left after the brutal war with Dan Henderson.
2. Brandon Vera vs. Michael Patt UFC 95 May 7 2009
There are few fights to look at involving Vera with an opponent having the same style as Shogun. His fight with Thiago Silva draws the most obvious comparison, and it's probably the best fight look at to predict how this fight might turn out. But I like the Patt fight because it's the only fight I've ever seen in which Vera looked truly determined.
Yes, it's just Patt. But what Vera does so well, which I can't remember him doing even when he was tearing it up at HW for a brief moment, was maintain offense. The leg kicks he threw were with ill intentions, and it's the first time I'd describe Vera as ‘violent' in the cage. We're too used to hearing about how Vera's "changed", only to see him falter with another lackluster performance, but this was not one such case.Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans UFC 98 May 23 2009
There's nothing similar about Bader in the wrestling department in contrast to Evans, but Evans wasn't yet comfortable on the feet, or at least to the extent that he is now. And so I think Machida's fight is a solid scrap to look back on. Yes, it's part of digital memetic lore thanks to Evans' knocked out face, but it's also a pretty good fight.
Bader isn't the kind of guy who will simply wade in with punches, but he's not gonna sprawl arbitrarily either. I fully expect him to confront Machida on the feet. Just not with much success. Machida is often stereotyped as a counter puncher, but he initiates a lot. And I expect Bader, like Evans, to get caught during his inactivity.
4. Ryan Bader vs. Antonio Rogerior Nogueira UFC 119 September 25 2010
There is no flipside, and we're always bludgeoned to death with the claim that "there is no one like Machida!", but hey, it's true. I don't consider Lil' Nog an approximation, but Bader's decision win over Nog, despite how flaccid it was, still reveals Bader as a mostly honest prospect.
If you take away his embarrassing loss to Tito Ortiz, you're left with his loss to Jones. And let's be honest: Bader's loss sits pretty low on the violated-horribly-by-Bones-Jones scale. Bader's wrestling won't be a factor against Lyoto, but if it is, the Nog fight illustrates Ryan's potential path to victory. With competent grappling, and solid top control, a Bader win wouldn't be any crazier than Tito Ortiz securing a triangle choke on a top 10 LHW. *Ahem*
Given his performances against Cerrone and especially Anthony Pettis, Stephens is turning into something like a Jamie Varner. Meanwhile, Varner looked like a straight savage against Edson Barboza.
Stephens is still a different fighter than Varner. Both set up takedowns (again, a recent development in Jeremy's game) with hard strikes, but they're not especially adept at chaining.
One of the things that still makes Lauzon dangerous is his ability to transition, and be creative. Stephens was strong enough to defend Lauzon's takedown in their scrap. So what does Joe do? Tries a fireman's carry, of course. It's easily one of the coolest moves you'll see in any fight, and for that reason alone you should watch it.
*A terrible Mexican restaurant that often successfully entices you with tacos filled with chorizo and cheese and refried beans.
**Articles written by Jonah Lehrer now read 'Warning; Cautionary Tale'. So read at your own risk.
Team Bloody Elbow