It has become one of the more maligned main events in Ultimate Fighting Championship history: onetime light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua meets Brandon Vera at UFC on Fox 4 this Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Shogun” carries a much stronger big-fight pedigree. Still, the 30-year-old Brazilian has not won back-to-back bouts in more than three years. He last appeared at UFC 139 in November, when his five-round classic with former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson ended in a unanimous decision defeat at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. A devastating finisher, Rua has delivered 17 of his 20 professional victories by knockout or technical knockout. Wins over Alistair Overeem (twice), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Forrest Griffin anchor his stellar resume. “Shogun” won the 2005 Pride middleweight grand prix, defeating Jackson, Nogueira, Overeem and Arona within a four-month span.
Rua respects what Vera has to offer.
“He is a striker like me and uses muay Thai a lot, too,” he said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “It will be a very exciting fight, and I think the fans will enjoy it a lot.”
Now 34, Vera once had designs on winning titles in the UFC’s light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. The Alliance MMA representative has not competed since UFC 137 in October, when he captured a unanimous decision over Elliot Marshall at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Vera was at his peak in late 2006, as the then-undefeated heavyweight throttled Frank Mir in just 69 seconds. However, consecutive losses to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum slowed his rise and forced a permanent move to 205 pounds. Mixed results followed, and he has never recaptured the momentum he once had.
Vera welcomes the challenges that come with fighting Rua.
“I’m super excited to be fighting one of my heroes,” he said. “I have always wanted to fight him.”
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC on Fox 4 “Shogun vs. Vera” main event:
Jeff Hougland: I’m picking Vera to upset “Shogun.”
Joseph Sandoval: “Shogun” wins in the third round by TKO.
Ricardo Liborio: Shogun wins by decision.
Joe Duarte: “Shogun” is the only person able to say “toy boat” three times fast. Even though “Shogun” is one of my favorite fighters, I have to go with Vera on this one because he’s my homie. Plus, he’s the tallest Filipino you’ll ever meet. Vera wins by decision.
Michael Guymon: I like both fighters, but “Shogun” won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. I see him going after Vera and getting a KO early in the second.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: Personally, I was hoping to see the “Shogun”-Glover Teixeira fight, but this one isn’t bad, either. Most people probably think “Shogun” will run through Vera, but I see it being a tough fight. Vera is extremely well-rounded. He has underrated wrestling, crisp standup and very good Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I really think the fight is a tossup. If I had to bet, I would go with “Shogun” by decision, but I won’t be surprised if Vera can pull it off using some takedowns and scoring points.
Benji Radach: I’m gonna have to go with “Shogun” on that one. The Rua brothers are tough and have beaten some of the best.
Keith Berry: I’ll be sitting front row for this one, so I’m excited. Vera has awesome kickboxing skills but hasn’t looked too good lately. I’m going with “Shogun.” He has more experience in big fights and is better all around.
Zach Makovsky: I think “Shogun’s” pressure and aggression will give Vera a lot of problems, and he will not be able to get his game going. “Shogun” wins via second-round TKO.
Nam Phan: I would say “Shogun” because he has more power in his punches and kicks.
Jacob Volkmann: I like Vera. He’s a good person. Don’t know “Shogun” and haven’t seen “Shogun” fight. All I can do is root for Vera. Travis Wiuff: “Shogun” takes this by TKO stoppage in the second round.
Javier Vazquez: “Shogun” wins by decision. I’ll be rooting for Vera, though.
John Gunderson: Shogun should be able to stop Vera in under three rounds. It's been almost a year since either guy has competed in the Octagon and Vera has not looked like the Brandon Vera who beat Frank Mir in 2006. Shogun is always aggressive and has dominated some of the best fighters in the world.
Kyle Kingsbury: I got Shogun by KO in the second or third but not as easy as everyone might think. Vera will be at his best.
J.J. Ambrose: This is a good matchup between two muay Thai specialists. I think (hope) the fight will be played out on the feet, with Shogun taking the W.
Tim Kennedy: I'm going with Rua on this one. Vera has been unimpressive his last few fights. I actually think the last time he showed the brilliance that everyone said he had the potential to display was against Michael Patt in 2009. I see Rua finishing him with strikes in two rounds.
Chase Beebe: I would take Shogun. [I] think the fight will stay on the feet ... I think power will be the deciding factor and Shogun throws bombs.
Ed Herman: Think I'm gonna go with Vera on this one. He's hungry, faster and knows this is his big shot to beat a legend.
Pros Picking Shogun: 14
Pros Picking Vera: 4
No Pick: 1
You can also contact Mike Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19 or follow him on Twitter @mikesloan19.