If the fight played out like the betting odds, Mauricio Rua should have steamrolled Brandon Vera last night (August 4, 2012) in the main event of UFC on Fox 4 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
But that wasn't the case, not by a long shot.
Despite stepping into the cage against one of the scariest and most dangerous light heavyweights in mixed martial arts history, Vera held his ground and not only survived the opening five minutes, but dished out some serious punishment as well.
Of course, the feel-good story could only last so long as eventually, "Shogun" got the upper hand and put the former elite heavyweight prospect away via strikes, but that didn't take place until the championship rounds.
So how did Vera gain the respect of all his doubters despite a losing effort? And what happens net for both men?
Follow me after the jump for our Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera UFC on Fox 4 post-fight review and analysis
Rua surprised many fans and viewers alike by quickly closing the distance and looking to take Vera down. He was successful in his efforts and had the Alliance MMA fighter on his back within the first minute, although he couldn't do much with it. After attempting to isolate an arm from side control, Vera escaped and got back to his feet.
Once both men were in striking range, Rua started throwing big blows and if you were the typical fan, you probably thought the bout was going to end quickly at this point, but Vera stood his ground.
Despite Rua swarming him with strikes, Vera dug deep and fired back with a nice right hand and an elbow to back the Brazilian off.
By the midway point of the second round, Rua was absolutely exhausted. He looked sluggish and slow, just like his UFC debut against Forrest Griffin and Vera started to fire back. It started with a combination, throwing a punch to the head, then dropping down with a right hook to the body and finishing it off with a nasty leg kick.
Vera would find a home for this combination throughout the second and third rounds, actually staggering "Shogun" with the leg kick on a pair of occasions. Rua would fight back by pressing Vera into the fence and either looking for takedowns or swarming him with strikes along the fence.
Vera was hurt on multiple occasions, but every time it looked like the fight was going to get stopped, he braced himself, stood back up and threw strikes to back the Brazilian off.
After a very strong start in the third round, Vera was again put on his back where Rua rested a bit before finally attacking with punches and elbows. "The Truth" could not get back to his feet.
By the fourth round, both men were spent. Rua, despite being exhausted, landed a nice strike which stunned Vera. This was the opening he'd been waiting for. With Vera wobbly, the former champion turned it on, stepping forward with big shots. He scored with a straight punch that knocked Vera's mouthpiece loose and when the Alliance MMA fighter tried to adjust it, Rua blasted him with a right hand and finally dropped him along the fence.
Vera was spent and could not fight back or defend himself on the ground, which forced the referee to intervene and put a stop to the surprisingly entertaining battle.
For Brandon Vera, this was a fight that everyone was counting him out in. He was facing someone ranked significantly higher and many thought he didn't deserve the opportunity. While he didn't win, he definitely gained the respect of a lot of fans around the world who witnessed his performance. There were several moments where the "old" Brandon Vera may have given up, but he performed a gut check and willed himself back into the fight. When he finally went down in the fourth round, it was because he had given everything he had left.
Despite being 1-3 with one no contest in his last five fights, this was a performance that guaranteed Vera will get another shot in the UFC. I wouldn't be surprised to see him fight Ryan Bader next. Other options include Anthony Perosh, Chad Griggs or Vladimir Matyushenko.
For Mauricio Rua, he did not perform at the level that many fans expected. It was surprising to everyone that he was working so diligently for takedowns in a fight that a lot of analysts assumed he had a severe striking advantage in terms of chin strength, power and aggression. While the finish was nice, he gave Brandon Vera way too many openings because he completely gassed out and was exhausted by the second round. That was very surprising considering it was only a few years ago that he looked amazing for five full rounds against Lyoto Machida for the title (in this same arena). Rua needs to improve his conditioning and stop getting in these huge wars with opponents if he wants to be able to remember the names of his children by the time he's 40 years old.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Who were you more impressed with last night? Shogun Rua for getting that fourth round finish, or Brandon Vera for actually giving him a really tough fight? After what you saw out of him, can Shogun ever return to form?