After a terrible event in Calgary two weeks ago, UFC on Fox 4 really needed to deliver. And it totally did. It was probably be the best card of 2012 so far and other than an eyepoke and one bad round of British heavyweight MMA, the entire card was full of win. We got finishes from flyweights, heavyweights, and everything in between. I know the Fox ratings aren't going to be that good, but this card will turn out to be extremely valuable for the organization in the long run. A lot of casual fans saw a lot of top-notch action, and that's a very good thing overall. Okay, let's get onto the winners and losers.
Lyoto Machida: His bout with Bader was like an infomercial for the vaunted Machida style. He absolutely dusted Bader to the point that it looked like Ryan didn't even deserve to share the same cage with him. He just couldn't figure Machida out at all, and looked like an uncoordinated caveman out there. Rampage Jackson had one of the best lines ever about training for Machida - "I put cats, chickens in the cage, and tried to catch those little bastards." Bader looked like he was chasing chickens tonight, and failing miserably. The knockout was an absolute thing of beauty. The way he swatted away Ryan's attack and landed the perfect counter was totally awesome. I was also very impressed with his improved English. He absolutely earned a title shot tonight. And the image that accompanies this post is amazing.
Brandon Vera: Yes, he lost the fight with Shogun. Hell, he didn't even win a round on my card. But he shut up a lot of detractors tonight, including myself. Vera showed a lot of heart by taking the best Shogun had last night and coming back for more. Forget records for a second - Brandon Vera is a UFC-caliber light heavyweight. He still presents a lot of problems for a lot of guys in the division if he fights up to his potential, and he made a fan out of me tonight with his performance in the cage and at the post-fight press conference. I don't know where he goes from here, but I will pay to watch him fight again.
Joe Lauzon and Jamie Varner: $100,000 in bonuses certainly can't hurt for Lauzon. J-Lau (terrible nickname) will never be challenging for the UFC lightweight title, but he's an undeniably entertaining fighter. It's unfortunate for Varner that he broke his hand in the second round, but they both threw caution to the wind and battled all over the cage for the entire fight. That was definitely one of my favorite fights of 2012. I loved how Lauzon set up and executed his sweeps on a pretty damn good wrestler, and how he was a couple of steps ahead of Varner in setting up that submission. The Worm has very little to be ashamed of though - he came in as a late replacement and put up a hell of a fight. Both men definitely raised their stock with their performances last night. If there was one loser in all this though, it was Joe Rogan. Dude, just shut up about Varner's supposed cardio issues. Varner didn't gas in 48 seconds like you said he did, and it totally took away from the fight when you kept harping on it.
Mike Swick: Swick's a feelgood story. It took a round for him to feel truly comfortable out there, but once he did he showed why he's a much better fighter than DaMarques Johnson. That KO was brutal. Some are jumping on him for the two followup shots when DJ was already out, but I don't blame him for that. It's just something that happens in a fight, especially when it's such an emotional situation. Swick has always been one of my favorites, and he's been the most loyal guy the UFC could ask for - when AKA freaked out about the video game rights thing and Jon Fitch was briefly cut, Swick blew off his team and said he didn't care, he was staying with the UFC no matter what. It might not have been very smart, but it proved what kind of guy Swick is. Props to him for getting back in there and winning, and I hope it continues.
John Moraga: John who? That's what most fans were saying when he stepped into the cage against Ulysses Gomez to open the show. At least Gomez had a bit of a name from his TPF and Bellator fights. Moraga was a complete unknown, but the ASU wrestler looked awesome and brutally finished Gomez early. In a new division, wins like that will launch you up the list of challengers immediately. Moraga sure looked like a contender tonight, and I'd love to see him get the chance to fight Ian McCall, his original opponent.
Losers after the jump.
Mauricio Rua: It kills me to put Shogun here. He's one of my all-time favorite fighters, and he (debatably) won every round of his fight and picked up a pretty nice finish. But that was not the Shogun of old. A 100% Shogun would have finished that in the first round, and he sure as hell wouldn't be looking for takedowns 10 seconds into a fight. I truly believe that Shogun was either hurt or his knees are totally gone - that's the only explanation I can come up with for the early takedowns and general timidity. But even when his tank is empty, he gets by on pure heart. The real Mauricio Rua could have easily earned a title shot tonight. This version of Shogun was eclipsed by Machida, a guy he knocked out not too long ago. Is this the real Shogun now? At 30, is this the best were gonna see out of him, and is he on the downside of his career? I sincerely hope not. But all the evidence is proving otherwise.
Ryan Bader: Clowned. That's the best word I can come up with describe what happened to Bader tonight. He looked absolutely lost and never got anything going at all. Bader has always reminded me of a poor man's Dan Henderson, but he doesn't have the fight smarts that Hendo has. I think he's probably still a top 10 guy at 205, but it's pretty clear that there's a large gap between him and the most talented guys in the division. A huge gap. Like, Grand Canyon-sized gap.
Phil Davis and Wagner Prado: Prado's reaction to the fight being called off is something I'm not going to forget anytime soon. I rarely have any sympathy for fighters, but I felt really bad for Prado tonight. Putting in all that work to finally get to the big stage, and that's how your fight ends? Brutal. Dana White says they'll rematch at UFC on FX 5 in October, which is cool. I still think Davis schools Prado, but at least he'll get a real chance to fight again.
Josh Grispi: Gigantic height and reach advantage? Check. Huge advantage on the feet? Check. Terrible decision-making in the cage? Check. Rani Yahya wasn't a threat on the feet at all. My dog has better standup, and he's too lazy to even stand up on his hind legs for more than 15 seconds. Why in the world would you throw weak kicks at a guy who can only win the fight by taking you down and submitting you? You think the whole light heavyweight title situation last night was a golden ticket? That leg kick was Yahya's golden ticket, and he cashed it in. Grispi fought stupid and paid for it. Again. Absolutely brutal.