Here we go guys, final event of the season, and it looks to be a good one. UFC on Fox 4 takes place this Saturday, August 4th in Los Angeles, California. The Fuel prelims start at approximately 5:00 pm est, followed by the main card on Fox at 8:00 pm est. Rua, Vera, Machida and Bader are all on deck this Saturday, with the most impressive fighter earning the next shot at the light heavyweight title. This event also marks the first time the “Ref Cam” will be implemented into a UFC event. On to the fights!
Mauricio Rua (20-6) vs. Brandon Vera (12-5 with 1 NC)
Shogun Rua is a black belt in BJJ, but he’s mostly known for his devastating Muay Thai striking abilities. He was a former Pride and UFC champion, with years of experience against the best fighters in the world. Vera has a Greco-Roman wrestling background, to which he added a powerful Muay Thai game, and he also sports a brown belt in BJJ. Vera was a great prospect when he first came on the scene as a heavyweight, and although he started losing more fights than he won, he only lost to former champions. After making the move down to 205, Vera continued to struggle, including a brutal knockout loss to Jon Jones, who broke his orbital bone with a few well placed elbows. I’ll say one thing about this fight, don’t expect it to go to the ground. Both of these guys believe in their striking, and will be looking to take the other guy’s head off, in hopes of landing that coveted title shot. Shogun is the superior striker, but Vera will be the larger man in the cage, with both the strength and reach advantage. I think Vera will be looking to work in the clinch if he starts getting in trouble, but he might find it a bit difficult because Shogun is very skilled from the clinch as well. I don’t see this one going the distance, Shogun has a 90% finish rate in his fights, and he will likely turn it up a notch with the added incentive of a possible title shot. As much as Vera want’s this, as hard as he’s trained, I think Shogun is just the superior fighter, and he will KO Vera inside of 10 minutes.
Winner: Mauricio Rua
Lyoto Machida (17-3) vs. Ryan Bader (14-2)
Machida is a Karate style striker, he has a black belt in BJJ, and he also has underrated wrestling skills. It may seem boring sometimes, but Machida truly is a technician, using mostly linear strikes and incredibly effective footwork. He went undefeated after 16 fights, capturing UFC gold in the process, before dropping a few fights to former champions. He notably scored the knockout of the year when he front kicked Randy Couture in the face, and retiring him in the process. Bader has a wrestling base as a two-time All American, and he’s been working on his boxing skills ever since. He packs big power in his right hand, and he’s even more dangerous from the top position. I don’t give Bader much chance of winning this fight, he may be powerful, but he’s much too slow and heavy footed to challenge a guy like Machida. His best chance would be to take Machida down early, but I doubt he will be able to accomplish that, as Machida has very good takedown defense. I was thinking that Machida would try and make a statement in this fight, but you know what? This is only a 3 round fight, and Bader has an excess of knockout power, so I see Machida playing it safe to secure the decision win.
Winner: Lyoto Machida
Joe Lauzon (21-7) vs. Jamie Varner (20-6-1 with 1 NC)
Lauzon is a well rounded fighter, but he does his best work on the mat, with 17 submission wins under his belt. He has a 100% finish rate on his wins, and he’s won an “of the night” award in 6 of his past 8 fights. While Lauzon is a very aggressive, and well rounded fighter, he struggles against specialists. Varner is a former WEC champion who got a reputation for being a boring lay and pray guy who fakes injuries. I think it’s safe to say that Varner has turned that around lately, with 3 consecutive first round finishes, including a win over Drew Fickett, and most recently taking out Edson Barboza in his UFC debut. If you had asked me about this fight a year ago, it would be an easy call, Lauzon all the way – but Varner seems to have reinvented himself, tightening up all aspects of his game. I think I have to give the striking advantage to Varner here, for his hand speed and knockout power. On the ground, Lauzon will have the advantage in submissions and sweeps, but the question is, can he get Varner down? I say no. Varner is much more athletic than Lauzon, and he has great takedown defense as well. I see Varner using sprawl and brawl tactics to find Lauzon’s chin somewhere past the midpoint of the fight.
Winner: Jamie Varner
Mike Swick (14-4) vs. DaMarques Johnson (16-10)
Swick was an original cast member of TUF, and he found success at 185, until he was manhandled by Yushin Okami and decided to that welterweight may be a better fit for him. Again Swick looked great, until he broke into the top 10 of the division and dropped two straight. Since then, Swick has suffered from a stomach disease that kept him out of commission for over 2 years now. He’s got some tight submissions, but he’s primarily a striker with great hand speed and knockout power. Johnson is also a former TUF contestant, but his career has been up and down, and he hasn’t faced very tough competition yet. These guys are actually very similar, in that they use boxing as their primary weapon, and the have a similar frame, with a slight reach advantage for Swick. All things being equal, I would say Swick has the better skills, and greater experience, so I would give him the fight easily. This long of a layoff is troubling though, so I’m tentatively going with Swick by decision.
Winner: Mike Swick
Reminder: This is the last event of the season, so finish up your picks, and get ready to start fresh for the next event. Good luck guys.