Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) last night (Aug. 4, 2012) returned to network television, staging UFC on Fox 4: "Shogun vs. Vera" from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
It wasn't a star-studded mixed martial arts (MMA) event -- at least not inside the Octagon -- but it did boast several entertaining scraps, as well as establish the next Light Heavyweight number one contender.
The instructions were clear: Win big, reap reward.
Mauricio Rua and Brandon Vera exchanged leather, as well as kicks and knees, for 3.5 rounds in an effort to not only "impress" UFC President Dana White and fight fans worldwide, but also earn the next crack at the winner of the upcoming bout between 205-pound champion Jon Jones and future Hall of Fame inductee, Dan Henderson, at UFC 151 early next month.
It was a solid scrap, with several near finishes from both fighters, whether it was from a submission or getting knocked silly. Vera -- who many believed was undeserving of his high-profile position in the marquee match of the night -- turned in perhaps his best performance since his technical knockout over Frank Mir back in 2006.
But, it just wasn't that good, even though it appeared at times that once again "Shogun" was so tired he'd require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to continue. The Brazilian, like he often does, dug deep and kept winging exhausted punches, one of which clipped Vera and nearly sent his mouthpiece into the front row. Rua noticed Vera was in trouble and turned up the heat, as much as he could, until Vera -- himself spent from more than 15 minutes of abuse -- fell to the floor.
The referee soon stepped in, giving Rua a convincing technical knockout out finish after what ringside announcer Joe Rogan dubbed another "war." It wasn't anything like Rua's epic battle against Henderson last year, not even close, because if it was it undoubtedly would have earned him an opportunity to challenge for his world title.
Looking to erase the surreal image of being choked unconscious and carelessly dropped in a lifeless blob of human flesh in his last outing courtesy of Jones at UFC 140, Machida was aware that remaining upright against the powerful former collegiate wrestling standout would be his key to success. And to remain vertical, one has to either avoid or defend the takedown.
In the case of Machida, you can't takedown what you can't even touch.
Indeed, the ninja-like abilities of Machida were on full display last night, with Bader unable to ever really connect with anything in the opening frame. "The Dragon" was just too elusive, side-stepping encounters and dodging punches, while stinging Bader with quick punches, then retreating into the shadows.
It no doubt had to be frustrating. And that frustration seemingly bubbled over when Bader just bull-rushed Machida midway through the second round, hoping to finally get a good enough grip/position to get the fight horizontal. That turned out to be a very, very bad idea as Machida met him halfway with a thunderous right hand that literally stopped Bader dead in his tracks.
That's right, he ran full speed into a face punch, which traditionally spells disaster for most mortals. Bader was no exception -- he immediately fell backward, with Machida dropping two more bombs on his lifeless chin that forced the referee to mercifully stop the match.
Bader was knocked clean out. As a result, Machida will now have the chance to reclaim the world title that he lost to "Shogun" back in 2010. And if Jones can survive Henderson, it will set up a rematch with Jones that rest assured will go much differently than the initial encounter.
At the very least, expect it to last longer than two rounds with a supremely intelligent Machida not wanting to make the same mistake twice.
Joe Lauzon has 28 professional MMA fights. And never, not once, has he ever gone the distance, win or lose. Jamie Varner nearly snapped that impressive streak last night, taking Lauzon into deep water before he finally tapped to a triangle choke midway through the final round.
It was an exciting back-and-forth fight with both men having their moments, landing punches, scoring takedowns, attempting submissions, hitting reversals and sharing transitions, oh, the transitions.
Indeed, ringside announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan were gushing over the crazy, frenetic pace, which was certainly remarkable. In fact, it would have likely been a split decision had it not ended sooner -- the fight was that tight.
However, it appeared that Varner -- who now must hold the record (two) for calling "timeout" in the middle of a cage fight (he came out of his corner without a mouthpiece) -- was just too tired to escape Lauzon's legs. He appeared to be on the verge of freeing his throat, but then he inexplicably dropped to his knees, which gave Lauzon the opportunity to cinch his grip.
That's quite the setback for "C-4," who was most likely still riding high from his sensational upset win over Edson Barboza on short notice just two months ago. For Lauzon, meanwhile, he returns back to the win column, a place in which he can hopefully remain for more than two consecutive fights.
He's baaack ...
Mike Swick returned from a super long layoff, more than two years, to kickoff the main card action against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 runner up, DaMarques Johnson, who guaranteed that someone would take an early nap.
Boy, was he right.
After a grueling first round that appeared to indicate that Swick was perhaps suffering from a major case of ring rust, "Quick" came out for the second stanza determined to score a finish.
That's because "Darkness" busted him up pretty good in the opening frame, cutting him open around both eyes and threatening with a pretty decent submission attempt. He reveled post-fight that he was having vision trouble, but he had no problem seeing a Johnson kick, catching it and landing a takedown to complete the sequence.
As Johnson landed, Swick connected with a perfectly-placed punch to the face. Johnson's eyes immediately rolled back, but that didn't stop Swick from landing another two clean shots while he was unconscious.
Definitely miss brilliant finishes like that from the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product. Hopefully, we don't have to wait another 30 months to see it happen again.
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss UFC on FOX 4: "Shogun vs. Vera" in the comments section below.
Is Machida the true number one light heavyweight contender? Did Rua's "gutsy" effort mean more in your eyes? Can Lauzon keep winning and crack into the Lightweight "mix" once and for all? Does Swick have a shot at making a run to the top of the Welterweight division? How about that main card action?!?!?!?!
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete UFC on FOX 4: "Shogun vs. Vera" blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Shogun vs. Vera" event right here.