Defining Moments: Brandon Vera

By Tristen Critchfield May 11, 2021

Brandon Vera was tabbed by many as a future champion during his early days in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It took him a little longer to climb that mountain than expected, but “The Truth” has reigned atop One Championship’s heavyweight division since 2015.

Though he has competed infrequently since claiming the crown, Vera will attempt to make his third successful title defense when he squares off against two-time NAIA national champion wrestler Arjan Singh Bhullar in the main event of One Championship “Dangal” at Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday. Vera is coming off his first promotional defeat, when a bid for light heavyweight gold against Aung La N Sang came up short at One Championship “Century Part 2” in October 2019.

Ahead of his showdown with Bhullar, here of five moments that have come to define Vera’s professional MMA career.

Flashing Potential

After picking up a pair of wins on the regional scene, Vera entered World Extreme Cagefighting’s one-night heavyweight tournament on Jan. 22, 2005 in Lemoore, California. The fighter with Filipino and Italian roots began his evening with a 51-second knockout of Andre Mussi, a heavyweight from Rio de Janeiro. “The Truth” notched an even more significant triumph in the finals, when he scored a second-round doctor stoppage of “The Ultimate Fighter 2” competitor Mike Whitehead. That ended a four-bout winning streak for Whitehead, who already boasted an early-career triumph against Ben Rothwell. Vera’s UFC debut came approximately four months later.

Announcing His Presence

The fight that really got the MMA community buzzing about Vera was a quick finish of Frank Mir at UFC 65 “Bad Intentions” at the Arco Arena in Sacramento on Nov. 18, 2006. Vera absolutely blitzed the former heavyweight champion, finishing Mir via technical knockout in just 69 seconds. It was a victory that was supposed to propel that rising star to a heavyweight title shot. Instead, a contract dispute sidelined Vera for nearly a year, and when he returned, back-to-back losses to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum prompted “The Truth” to transition to the light heayweight division.

Torch Passing

By the time Vera was booked to face Jon Jones in the main event of UFC Live 1 at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, on March 21, 2010, he was no longer viewed as the up-and-coming prospect who was finishing opponents with regularity. Vera was far removed from the eight-bout winning streak that began his career and had won just three of his last seven Octagon appearances. Instead it was Jones who was “The Next Big Thing,” and he delivered on that potential, winning via technical knockout 3:19 into the opening stanza. Jones landed a vicious elbow that shattered Vera’s cheekbone in three places, resulting in multiple plates being inserted into his face to repair the injury. Of course, there was no shame in the defeat: Jones went on to become a fighter many regard as one of the greatest in UFC history.

Something Left in the Tank

Back when the UFC and Fox were in the early stages of their broadcast partnership, each card televised on the network was a big deal — an opportunity to bring more mainstream MMA appeal to the masses. Vera got his chance to headline UFC on Fox 4 against the iconic Mauricio Rua. Thanks to a significant spotlight, a victory could have potentially propelled “The Truth” back into contention in the light heavyweight division. Though Vera didn’t win on that August 2012 night, he regained some credibility in a back-and-forth brawl with “Shogun” before falling via technical knockout 4:09 into Round 4. “I wanted to put on a performance so that no one would ever talk bad about the UFC. I wanted ‘Shogun’ to know how much I respected him by how hard I was fighting him. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I’m not done, not by a long shot,” Vera said at the post-fight press conference.

Championship Glory at Last

Once a prospect who eyed multi-division dominance, Vera didn’t capture a belt with a major organization until Dec. 11, 2015 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. There, Vera claimed the vacant One Championship heavyweight throne with a 26-second finish of Paul Cheng, the quickest stoppage of his MMA career. Vera landed a pair of leg kicks, dropped his Taiwanese foe to a knee with a short left hand and dropped his adversary with a head kick. Vera finished off Cheng with a barrage of hammerfists on the mat.
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