Photo: Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
For whatever reason, I enjoy when the sports world goes a little nutty. That's why I found it a bit exciting when Dana White said that he would be granting the winner of Brandon Vera vs. Mauricio Rua at UFC on Fox a title shot against the winner of Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson. I was fascinated by the idea that there was a chance, even if remote, that Brandon Vera, owner of a single win since November 2009 (with that one win hardly being dominant), could earn a title shot.
Of course, the predictable fan backlash against that very idea led to the dampening of some of the fun as Dana White then put the winner of Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader in the proverbial mix. There were now four former Jones victims vying for a shot at the title with the "most impressive" winner receiving the golden ticket.
But the chance still exists that Vera could win, possibly through a grinding war, maybe through a cut stoppage after an elbow, maybe a flash KO, while Bader vs. Machida could be a dull affair that sees Bader impotently chasing Machida who calmly picks him apart for a three round decision.
I, for one, will be rooting for exactly that outcome. First, to test Dana and the UFC to see if they're willing to follow through with a promise made almost certainly to add an extra layer of attraction to a non-marquee fight. But also because I'm curious to see how the promotion would sell such a fight if they did follow through on it.
Vera vs. Shogun was never supposed to main event any show, let alone a network TV card. After Brian Stann vs. Hector Lombard fell through (a shoddy main event in its own right) fights were changed around to put this bout together and circumstances lined up for Vera to be put into title talk.
The whole thing reminds me of the story of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's bout for September 15. Golden Boy Promotions was ready to put Canelo on PPV as a headliner for the first time, they wanted to match him up with James Kirkland but Kirkland was dealing with a shoulder injury and pulled out. Golden Boy moved on to perennial contender Paul WIlliams only to see Williams tragically paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. After Kirkland got the call again and backed out again, Golden Boy tried to set up Victor Ortiz for the shot at Alvarez, saying that the winner of Ortiz against Josesito Lopez (himself a replacement opponent after Andre Berto was forced from the bout due to a failed drug test) would fight Canelo.
Despite being a heavy favorite, Ortiz was unable to deal with the pressure of Lopez throughout the fight, eventually being forced to quit due to a broken jaw in a fiercely competitive fight. Now, despite being a major attraction, Lopez's status as a mostly unknown that no one was talking about as a major contender has forced the fight off of pay-per-view and onto Showtime.
Sometimes a series of events leaves a door cracked just enough that a fighter is able to kick it open. For all my love of Shogun throughout his career, I'll be rooting for Vera to kick that door open and cause a little bit of chaos.