After a flashy featherweight opener the UFC 164 PPV looked to shift gears a little with heavyweights Ben Rothwell and Brandon Vera. Rothwell and Vera found themselves in a similar position, both having spent years in the UFC (in Vera's case the bulk of his career) and both in bad need of a win if they hoped to continue their career at the highest level. Rothwell may have been on a slightly longer leash having traded wins and losses over his career, but most likely only slightly longer. For Vera this was a fight he needed badly.
Vera came out looking very much like the Vera of old, which is to say the Vera of recent history. At this point he's been through the rejuvenation process so many times that there is no real "classic" Brandon Vera. He circled tentatively throwing kicks and leaving himself open for sharp counter shots. He hit a nice series of body kicks in the first round that put a little pep in Rothwell's efforts to chase him down, but ultimately looked to be doing everything he could to stay at legs reach from the bigger stronger fighter.
In the second Rothwell continued chasing. As the more footslow fighter he had trouble keeping pace, but was able to land the occasional hard shot before trying to stall Vera in the clinch and wear on him. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective.
In the third round Rothwell must have sensed that the crowd was growing restless and that he could dominate Vera more thoroughly. He started bobbing around in a strange sort of jerky movement that I'm not sure wasn't slightly mocking. Vera seemed to find some resolve to try and trade with Rothwell too, and that was his undoing as he ate a series of hard uppercuts and hooks. The result: Ben Rothwell def. Brandon Vera via TKO (punches) at 1:54 of Round 3.
What was the high point?
The finish. This wasn't a terrible fight, but it wasn't terribly pretty either. The strong finish put a nice exclamation point on an otherwise lackluster affair.
What was the low point?
TRT. I hate to say this because it was a good win for Rothwell, but hearing him talk about his great new workout routine and diet and how it had revolutionized his game made me a little sick. This was the first time he fought under a TRT exemption, and if there was any revolution in his performance it probably came from that.
Where do they go from here?
For Rothwell this keeps him right in the middle of the heavyweight division. He's not near the top, he's not near the bottom, he's a classic mid-tier gatekeeper. As such I'd suggest he take on another middling fighter in Todd Duffee when he returns from injury.
For Vera, I can only hope this is the end of his UFC run. I feel bad for him because I feel like he was the victim of outsized hype from the UFC more than any fault of his own, but he's just not a very good fighter. It's no fun watching him get beat up over and over again so hopefully he can make the decision to hang up the gloves after an 11 year 20 fight career.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Watch it later. It's a TKO so there's some entertainment value there, but it's also 10+ minutes of mediocre heavyweight action to get there.
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- UFC 164 results recap: Magnus Cedenblad vs. Jared Hamman
- Daily MMA 9/1: UFC 164 post-fight press conference, fighter interviews, Dana White's media scrum
- UFC 164 results: Fights to make for the main carders
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