Once upon a time there was a red-hot mixed martial arts (MMA) Heavyweight prospect referred to as "The Truth." Brash, bold and skilled, Brandon Vera made his way into relevance with an impressive eight-fight unbeaten streak to start his professional career, including a first round win over Frank Mir in his fourth Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) appearance.
Several combat sports fans bought into the hype, but few more than Vera himself. He predicted that he would hold concurrent titles in the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions. However, he wasted away part of his prime in a senseless contract dispute with the promotion. And upon his return he lost and then he lost again.
Shortly thereafter, Vera dropped to 205 pounds looking for a fresh start and a return to top form, but he only continued a path of inconsistency that has lasted him to this very day.
Let's be honest: Vera being in the Top 10 of any weight class anytime soon is effectively dead. At this point, he is the only believer in his own hype, and he doesn't seem to recognize the clear decline his career has taken. It wouldn't have been shocking to see him cut again from UFC after his last loss to Mauricio Rua.
And if he can't win this Saturday night (Aug. 31, 2013) at UFC 164, which takes place at BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., "The Truth" will likely seal his own fate.
Vera has a lot to prove to everybody if he is to stay in UFC -- many thought he was finished after falling to "Shogun," a shell of a once-great Light Heavyweight. Indeed, if he isn't able to take out Ben Rothwell this weekend, he is in real trouble because it would spell a definitive end to his relevance in any weight class.
Luckily for Vera, Rothwell is a very beatable Heavyweight. He isn't a bad fighter by any means, but lately he hasn't shown to be special in any way other than raw power and a ton of experience. His cardio has become atrocious and his speed is not something with which Vera should have any trouble.
Rothwell is someone who Vera should beat.
Of course, Vera isn't the fighter he once was, either. His striking game has become very predictable and has lost its luster, while his grappling is not on a level where he can deal with an opponent more powerful than him. Against a veteran with the heart and fighting spirit of Rothwell, Vera will be hard pressed to find any finish, which means he'll have to take this fight the distance.
For a fighter with the skill Vera believes he has, three rounds with Rothwell should be a fairly simple affair. But, with Vera, you can just never count on him to win a fight he should win. Three rounds with a rugged man who wants to take his head off could mean him getting caught at some point.
And it would certainly not be shocking.
What this fight between Brandon Vera vs. Ben Rothwell comes down to is putting together the game he once had to take home an impressive win. His chances in this fight should be very good, but defeat is certainly an option if he doesn't come in at the top of his game.
Vera isn't UFC 164's "Fighter to Watch" because he is going to put two divisions on notice come fight time. Vera is the "Fighter to Watch" because this is his sink or swim moment. Another loss would almost definitely end his eight-year tenure with UFC, which would be such a shame considering how promising he once looked.