For the first time since June 7th, 2008, Brandon Vera (12-6, 1 NC MMA; 8-6, 1 NC UFC) is fighting in the heavyweight division. The once promising prospect is trying to rediscover his 2006 form as he takes on veteran Ben Rothwell (32-9 MMA, 2-3 UFC) on the main card of UFC 164 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rothwell is coming off a submission loss to Gabriel Gonzaga, while Vera has just 1 win in his last 5 fights.
On paper, Vera should have the striking advantage, but don't discount Rothwell's ability to end the fight at any moment. One should also take into account Vera's precipitous decline from when he self-proclaimed he was going to hold belts at LHW and HW. The UFC 164 main card starts at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT on PPV. Two hours of preliminary action precedes the PPV on Fox Sports 1 starting at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.
How do these two stack up?
Vera: 35 years old | 6'3" | 77" reach
Rothwell: 31 years old | 6'4" | 80" reach
What have these two done recently?
How did these two get here?
Vera fought just once in 2012, but he made it a memorable one. "The Truth" was rushed in as an emergency main event against Mauricio Rua at UFC on Fox 4, and was given very little chance to beat the former champion. While Vera didn't win any rounds, he gave Shogun all he could handle before succumbing to a 4th round TKO. His last win was a decision over Eliot Marshall, but he suffered a broken arm in the process after nearly submitting to an armbar in the final round. Vera's last heavyweight victory was against Frank Mir in 2006, and he returns to the division in a must-win situation.
Rothwell is best known for his 9-0 record in International Fight League, including wins over Krzyzstof Soszynski, Roy Nelson, and Ricco Rodriguez. "Big" Ben joined the UFC on short notice to face Cain Velasquez at UFC 104, but was stopped in the 2nd round, having already absorbed quite a bit of punishment. After winning against Gilbert Yvel and losing to Mark Hunt, Rothwell faced Brendan Schaub at UFC 145, and recorded a come-from-behind KO win against the TUF 10 runner-up. His quest for a 2nd straight UFC win was denied by Gabriel Gonzaga, who submitted him with a guillotine choke in Brazil.
Why should you care?
I can't say that I'm interested in watching Brandon Vera much longer, but heavyweight is a thin division and it's probably not too late for Vera to at least be a gatekeeper in the division. There's also a sense of desperation for both him and Rothwell, as the loser could be released from the UFC.