Examining the Final Four at 205
By James Walker
The light heavyweight picture was cleared up this week by UFC president Dana White with a little help from the fans.
First, White declared the winner of the Mauricio “Shogun” Rua–Brandon Vera main event Saturday in Los Angeles would be next in line for a title shot. The decision wasn’t well received by mixed martial arts fans. White later recanted and said the co-main event winner between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader also is in the mix.
HeavyMMA takes a look at the UFC’s “Final Four” challengers at light heavyweight:
Analysis: Vera is the dark horse in this race. He is 1-2 in his past three fights and hasn’t done much to deserve to be in the title picture. Vera hasn’t won two fights in a row since 2009 and was destroyed by Jones in less than a round in their first meeting. Many fans were upset with White’s original announcement because of his lack of qualifications. Vera, 34, has never fully lived up to his potential. He says Saturday we will be the best version of Brandon Vera, who is a big underdog against “Shogun.” Unless Vera absolutely destroys Rua, which would be surprising, it would be a difficult push for Vera to get a championship fight.
Odds for title shot: 12-to-1
Analysis: Bader is an intriguing option, because he’s been through huge the ups and downs in such a short time. We don’t fully know where Bader stands in the light heavyweight division. But we are about to find out against a legitimate title contender in Machida. Bader began his UFC career on a tear but was derailed by Jones last year in a No. 1 contender’s bout. Jones went onto superstardom and Bader hit the first rough patch of his career, losing his second straight fight in an upset against Tito Ortiz. Bader has rebound with a big win over Quinton Jackson. If Bader is fully back, he must first prove he solve the Machida puzzle.
Analysis: Machida against either Jones or Henderson for the light heavyweight title would be an interesting fight. Machida’s counter-punching style is unique, and he has the potential to puzzle any fighter in the division. Machida is the only fighter who has made Jones look beatable, even if just for one round. Machida was winning the standup battle early. But Jones smartened up, used his wrestling to close the distance and eventually choked out Machida in the second round. Many MMA fans would be curious to see what Machida could do against Jones a second time, particularly in a longer fight. A Henderson-Machida matchup also could provide fireworks.
Analysis: The odds are in favor of a Jones-Rua rematch, because both fighters are sizable favorites to win their bouts. White said the most impressive win in the main event or co-main event Saturday gets a title shot. It’s very difficult to predict MMA fight, but Rua has a better chance to plow through Vera than any other scenario. Rua lost to both Jones and Henderson. But Rua is a tremendous fighter who is very dangerous in rematches. He dominated both Machida and Forrest Griffin to avenge prior UFC losses. Henderson-Rua II for the light heavyweight championship could be epic, based on their classic fight last year. Rua doesn’t match up nearly as well against Jones (who does?). But both fighters are big names and huge draws for the UFC.
Which future light heavyweight title fight would you like to see?