UFC on Fox: Shogun Rua and Brandon Vera in L.A.
By David A. Avila
After a near three-year absence Ultimate Fighting Championship brings its brand of mixed martial arts to the city of Los Angeles.
Fight promotions usually have a theme or name for each of their fight cards. You could call this the “I Hate Jon Jones Club.” Four of the contestants are battling for a return match with current light heavyweight world champion Jon Jones.
Former champions Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Lyoto Machida (17-3) are part of the MMA fight card along with light heavyweight contenders Brandon “The Truth” Vera and Ryan “Darth” Bader (15-2) at the Staples Center. All will be televised live on Fox television on Saturday Aug. 4.
The last time UFC staged a fight card in L.A., Rua fought Machida in October 2009. It was a tremendous light heavyweight championship battle that saw Machida emerge the winner by decision. Later, Rua would avenge that defeat and grab the title.
Now, neither holds the title but both are itching to win an opportunity to face the seemingly invincible champion Jones. But first, each has a formidable opponent to vanquish before challenging the champion.
Rua (20-6) knows the taste of Jones elbows and strikes and has openly discussed a rematch with the current champ. The Brazilian MMA star faces former heavyweight contender Brandon Vera (12-5) who now fights as a light heavyweight. Neither can afford a loss at this juncture in their careers.
Vera, 34, has never faced Rua before but both have fought and lost to Jones. It’s their one connection and only a win keeps them on the path of vindication. Vera lasted less than one round when he fought Jones in 2010. Rua not only lost the fight but the world title against Jones in March 2011.
No matter how you look at it, Jones is the center of the light heavyweight universe.
Machida, 34, was knocked out in two rounds by current champion Jones. The Brazilian karate expert engaged with Jones this past winter and made one simple mistake and paid for it with his consciousness. Concussions are a common effect when fighting Jones.
Bader, 29, is the youngest of the mythical I Hate Jon Jones Club. When he faced the current champion he was choked out with a guillotine hold in February 2011.
So why do they all want to fight Jones again?
These are prizefighters. It’s what they do. All four believe they have the ability to defeat Jones regardless of a poor history that shows otherwise. All fighters believe they can win.
Two well known lightweights clash when Joe Lauzon (20-7) fights Jamie Varner (20-6-1) in a three round bout. Lauzon and Varner are UFC veterans with a similar style that points toward an aggressive and entertaining fight.
Cole Miller (18-6) faces Nam Phan (17-11) in the Octagon in a featherweight match up. Fans are seldom disappointed when the 145-pounders perform.
Undefeated light heavyweight prospect Wagner Prado (8-0) fights Phil Davis (9-1) in a three-round affair.
Josh Grispi (14-3) hopes to prove his skills against Rani Yahya (16-7) in another featherweight battle set for three rounds.
Glendale’s Manny Gamburyan (13-8) finally fights at home and faces Michihiro Omigawa (13-11-1) in a featherweight slugfest. Gamburyan formerly fought as a lightweight but is moving down a weight division for this fight.
For those unaware the Temecula-based MMA legend Dan Henderson (29-8) is scheduled to fight UFC light heavyweight champion Jones (16-1) on Sept. 1, at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. Don’t bet against him.
Henderson, 41, is currently on a four-fight win streak that includes mind boggling wins over Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Rafael Cavalcante and Renato Sobral. That’s an MMA murderer’s row. Henderson’s vaunted right hand bomb has a lot to do with those wins.
That’s why the Temecula warrior gets first crack at Jones.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Mercita Gesta (25-0-1) vs. Ty Barnett (20-2-1).
Sat. Fox, 5 p.m., Mauricio Rua (20-6) vs. Brandon Vera (12-5)
Sat. Fox, 8 p.m., Deontay Wilder (23-0) vs. Kertson Manswell (22-5).
Sat. Telefutura, 10 p.m., Diego Magdaleno (22-0) vs. Antonio Davis (29-7).