Vera was not able to cash in his golden ticket. (UFC on Fox: Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera Poster by Anton Tabuena)
Tonight's UFC on Fox show was a tremendous show from an entertainment perspective. You can argue all you want about the validity of a main event that featured a guy with one win in closing in on four years, or that the running theme throughout the night of the "most impressive" light heavyweight winner would get a title shot, despite all having been dispatched in violent fashion by Jon Jones in the past and those would be valid complaints. But the most important thing in my mind is "was the show entertaining?" And I don't see any way to answer that question with anything other than "absolutely."
- Without going overboard to praise a fighter that clearly lost every round of the fight before getting knocked out, Brandon Vera sure did give it his all tonight. Mauricio Rua was the better fighter in the cage tonight, controlling the fight through takedowns and clinch work against the cage as much as through his striking. But Vera kept coming, throwing combinations when he had the opportunity, going for a guillotine choke, trying for his own takedowns and generally looking to make something happen. You could make a case for Vera to be cut pretty easy, and I certainly wouldn't complain if he was, but if that happens, he leaves the UFC with a performance he shouldn't be ashamed of.
- One of my few bits of negativity tonight: why does Rua seem to gas so badly all the time now? He looks near death after a single round almost every time out since coming to the UFC. I'll watch the guy fight any day of the week, but for a guy with his reputation for neverending cardio, he sure does gas a lot.
- Lyoto Machida will now get the title shot at Jon Jones after embarrassing Ryan Bader. Bader fought like a lumbering oaf with no discernible strategy. He ran forward with careless flurries of punches at a guy who eats such action alive and paid the price. The knockout came as Bader rushed forward WITH HIS EYES CLOSED, while Machida deftly picked off the Bader right hand with his left forearm and put him to sleep with a slick right hand counter. It was Machida at his best, but it was also Machida against a guy who played perfectly into his game. That doesn't happen with Jones.
- I'm an unashamed Jamie Varner fan. There's something about his abrasive personality that I find genuinely fun. He and Joe Lauzon put on a show and, while Lauzon got the impressive win, a Varner fan like me can be happy that he fought like hell in a short notice fight against a tough opponent. Lauzon certainly held up his end of the deal also, going at it on the feet before slickly locking up the triangle choke that finished it. This is an absolute Fight of the Year contender to this point in the calendar.
- How cool is the Mike Swick story? From almost losing his career to medical problems to coming back on Fox and winning a back and forth battle. It was hard not to appreciate just how much getting the win meant to Swick as he teared up during the announcement of the official result. Swick has all the same limitations he always had, he's not going to be a title contender, but he can be a lot of fun to watch in the right fights.
- Tonight was also a great reminder that sloppy brawls can be plenty entertaining within reason, and I find you a joyless nut if you disagree.
More after the jump...
- Tonight was probably the most annoyed I've ever been with the Rogan and Goldberg commentary team. They were all over the place, from mispronouncing Nam Phan as "Nam Pham" over and over to the point where the people I watched with believed that was actually his name, to insisting that Lauzon had "controlled" the center of the Octagon when Varner's strategy was clearly to work from circling on the outside, to Rogan's continued insistence on screaming that every submission attempt is deep or done or finished when it is clearly not (including when someone has a front headlock and he treats it as a choke). It was a horrible night for the announce crew.
- "It's FIGHT time!" What was that, Buffer?!?!
- Nam Phan and Cole Miller were another link in the fun fight chain for the night. Miller's inability to use his range with consistency is a small part of a larger problem with tall fighters in the sport, but he had some pretty good moments still. Phan deserved the win though. His MMA boxing is really slick, if he had power to make people respect it more, he could be a force. Instead he's all about the combos to the head and body without the power to finish.
- Wagner Prado's reaction to the fight with Phil Davis being stopped bordered on heartbreaking. He screamed in anger and sadness as his dream came to a disappointing halt after Phil Davis' careless hand usage led to a fight ending eye-poke. There's nothing to complain about with the stoppage though, Prado told the ref he was seeing double, the ref's job is 100% to stop the fight at that point.
- Rani Yahya is way better than I gave him credit for and Josh Grispi is way worse. Grispi has fight IQ issues. Why you would open yourself up to a takedown throwing kicks and knees against a guy you can beat up all day with nothing but punches on the feet is beyond me. But once Yahya caught the knee and took him down, his brilliance on the ground was clear.
- Oli Thompson stinks at fighting. Phil De Fries beat him but I don't really know what that means. This was the only truly "bad" fight of the night.
- Michihiro Omigawa is 1-6 in the UFC. I will not argue if he is let go, he's had more than enough chances.
- How about John Moraga? The guy gets overlooked and BLASTED Ulysses Gomez. The finishing combo was pure brilliance.