Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on network television this Saturday night (Aug. 4, 2012) with UFC on FOX 4: "Shogun vs. Vera," which emanates LIVE from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Leading the charge will be former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio Rua, who could find himself in prime position to face the winner of Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson, who clash next month at UFC 151, assuming he can put Brandon Vera away in style.
"The Truth" would love nothing more than to upset "Shogun" and take that spot for himself.
It's possible neither main card man delivers, which opens the door for co-main eventers Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida, who can also earn a crack at the winner of "Bones vs. Hendo" if they win big in "The City of Angels."
Four men enter, one contender leaves.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 5:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on FUEL TV.
After the jump, your old pal Nostradumbass will break down the four main card fights and tell you who lives (and who dies) in L.A.
Check it out.
Nostradumbass predicts: If you're one of those guys (or gals) that thinks there is no way Mauricio Rua can lose this fight, then you're either detached from reality or just haven't been paying attention. It's time to forget about the "PRIDE Shogun," because that fighter no longer exists.
He hasn't for a long time.
Rua's had so many surgeries he's become the Jocelyn Wildenstein of cage fighting, and if he were competing against anyone other than Brandon Vera, I'd probably pick against him, because his knees are nailed together with balsa wood and he's coming off an Ali-Frazier last November.
I still think he wins.
My problem with Vera? He has four victories over the last six years and none of those previous opponents are still employed by the UFC. In fact, he'd be on the unemployment line himself, had Thiago Silva not been caught spiking his Brazilian lemonade.
He also turns 35 in just over two months.
"The Truth" is, Vera can strike. And you know what? He can wrestle, too. But what he can't do is perform under fire, as evidenced by an early technical knockout loss to Fabricio Werdum and then again in his aforementioned unanimous decision defeat to Silva.
When the going gets tough, the tough get turtling.
At just 30 years old, Shogun is already in the twilight of his career. Beatings like the one he took against "Hendo" and Jon Jones prior to that, are the kind that will shorten your career, and he's never been too adept at staying healthy as it is.
He's won himself a favorable match-up here against the floundering Filipino, and he needs an early finish to outrun the cardio demons that have plagued him throughout his UFC career.
Keep your fingers crossed.
Final prediction: Rua def. Vera via technical knockout
Nostradumbass predicts: It's been a rough couple of years for Lyoto Machida. Not only did he get pasted by Shogun Rua to cough up the division strap, he was mugged by Rampage Jackson and dropped like a sack of Brazilian potatoes by Jon Jones.
Without making Randy Couture's dentures expendable at UFC 129, he could be on the ZUFFA chopping block, which is unthinkable if you consider his recent reign of terror, culminating in a devastating knockout of former 205-pound champion Rashad Evans at UFC 98.
Is he still "The Dragon?"
Based on his last outing against "Bones," I believe he is. And let's not overstate Ryan Bader's abilities heading into this weekend's match-up. "Darth" was, and still is, a powerful wrestler with a big right hand. That kind of offense can carry you to victory over flat-footed strikers, but Machida has that chicken-chasing defense that will drive most men insane.
And put most fans to sleep.
If Bader allows Machida to turn this into a point-fighting affair, he's doomed. The former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champ doesn't have the technical prowess the pee-drinking puncher has, and his footwork is so clunky I sometimes wonder if he's been training in ski boots.
But can he find a way to win?
Doubtful. By the end of the opening frame, he'll be so frustrated with his inability to land a decent punch or secure a quick takedown, he'll spend the duration of the fight running around in circles like Little Babaji. He won't turn into butter, but that doesn't mean he isn't getting greased.
Final prediction: Machida def. Bader via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Could it be? Mike Swick inside the Octagon? With just over 24 hours to go, it might be finally time to accept it as reality. But let's not break out the party hats just yet. Time heals all wounds, but what it doesn't do, is erase your MMA record.
This deck is stacked.
When we last saw him, Swick was the victim of back-to back defeats to Dan Hardy, when he was outstruck at UFC 105, and Paulo Thiago, when he was choked unconscious at UFC 109. They seemed like excusable losses at the time, until you realize the former went 1-4 following that win while the latter went 1-3.
In addition to his run of bad luck inside the cage, it's been even worse outside of it. A myriad of injuries, ailments and setbacks have kept Swick sidelined for over two years. Considering how much this sport has evolved since then (Mark Coleman and Frank Trigg were still UFC employees), you can't help but wonder what kind of fighter we'll get on Saturday night.
That's the bad news.
The good news, is we already know what kind of fighter we're getting in DaMarques Johnson, and without sounding disrespectful, it's not a very good one. I will give him credit for his blaze-of-glory style of fighting, because in eight trips to the Octagon, he's yet to appear before the judges.
That's got to count for something.
My biggest knock on Johnson is that all four of his wins have come over opponents who are no longer employed by the UFC (sound familiar?), so that should give you an idea of the caliber of fighter he's been defeating. In contrast, he's been getting smoked by guys like Matt Riddle and Amir Sadollah.
Even with the layoff and shaky past, I'm sticking with Swick.
I think he's got too much momentum and has the better skill set. If he can manage to keep himself from blowing his load in the first 90 seconds, just from the sheer joy of fighting again on the main stage, there's no reason he can't secure a second round stoppage.
Final prediction: Swick def. Johnson via TKO.
Nostradumbass predicts: I won't pretend I was one of the four people who gave Jamie Varner a chance to beat Edson Barboza, because I wasn't. I fully expected "C-4" to detonate at the hands of the Brazilian striker. Instead, he exploded for the performance of a lifetime and it was another feel-good moment in MMA.
Now it's over.
Varner has all the tools, but somehow manages to forget how to use them when he has to. The Barboza victory was the perfect situation for him because he was a massive underdog and had no pressure to win, whatsoever. Now, the former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Lightweight Champion is back in a position where he's forced to perform.
I'm not sure he will.
The one thing I don't want to do is use his performance at UFC 146 to erase the bouts that came before it. This is still the same Varner that lost to Dakota Cochrane less than a year ago and his exit from the WEC was on horrific terms, ending in a 0-3-1 run with two submission losses.
But a win is not impossible.
Like Varner, Joe Lauzon was the toast of the town after clocking and rocking Melvin Guillard at UFC 136, before finishing him off at UFC 136 with a rear naked choke. "J-Lau" is no world beater, with high-profile losses to Anthony Pettis and George Sotiropoulos, but his striking is underrated and his submissions are good enough to hang with (almost) anyone in the division.
And with "The Worm" getting hooked in 50-percent of his losses, I think that's how he ends it.
It wouldn't surprise me to see a stalemate on the feet, followed by some aggressive wrestling by Varner in the second stanza. It also wouldn't surprise me to see him overstay his welcome in Lauzon's guard and end up tapping to a triangle choke or sneaky backdoor armbar.
Final prediction: Lauzon def. Varner via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FOX 4 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Shogun vs. Vera."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.