` 'Coming Up Next': FO predicts the weekend's big fights - Fighters Only Magazine

'Coming Up Next': FO predicts the weekend's big fights


There are two big light-heavyweight matches at UFC on FOX 4 this weekend but there’s nothing light about these predictions from our heavyweight correspondents Aundre Jacobs and John Joe O’Regan (neither are strangers to the biscuit tin).

Let’s take a look at the main card:

Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua vs Brandon Vera

John Joe O’Regan

Fighters Only  Website Editor

Brandon Vera is 1-2-1NC in his last four outings yet he’s going to get a title shot if he beats Shogun in a more impressive fashion than the winner of Machida/Bader gets their job done. Sounds crazy, right? But that’s the offer that has been made: the four fighters at the top of tomorrow’s card have been told that whoever has the most impressive win gets the shot against the winner of Jones/Henderson.

Fans were outraged by the prospect of Vera getting a shot. They weren’t thrilled about Shogun getting one either, given that he is coming off a loss to Henderson and is 1-1 in his last two. A win over Vera makes that 2-1 but really, is a win over Vera the kind of thing that earns you a title shot in the UFC? Apparently now it is.

Shogun is the huge favourite in this fight but I actually fancy Vera to take the upset - if his confidence is right. For all his talk, I’m not sure Vera truly believes in himself in the way he did when he first entered the UFC. But I think he is a faster and cleverer fighter than Shogun and if he is on his A-game, he can cause some real problems for the Brazilian.

Shogun is also coming off that ‘Fight of the Year’ against Henderson and I have to wonder how much effect that five-round war had on him. Those are the kind of bouts that put years on a fighter and I think it must have left some lasting legacy. He took more head-damage in that fight than his previous three or four outings combined.

One thing that makes me favour Vera for the upset is his brain; Vera knows how to fight smart and in measured fashion. I think he can get Shogun to walk onto things and also has a wide technical repertoire with which to counter the onslaught. He is by far the better technician of the two, it just depends how he copes with the surging aggression from Shogun.

Shogun is often described as a ‘Muay Thai fighter’ but he really isn’t. He has a thrilling, forward-pressure style with the trademark Chute Boxe aggression but its an approach that would send the camp trainers of any gym in Thailand absolutely crazy. Muay Thai is a game of patience, countering and a tricks. Shogun’s is a game of bludgeoning and brawling.

He does have some nice technique, some of which has to be credited to a natural athleticism. But his punching is up there with Wanderlei’s in terms of technicality. He throws a lot and he throws hard but he isn’t into baiting, setting up or working angles. Shogun prefers the direct approach which, with four-ounce gloves on, can be really effective. Its worked well for most of his career.

But that approach also relies a lot on having a strong chin. Shogun has that all day - his jaw is granite - but has it been weakened by the Henderson fight? Every professional fighter has that tipping point where one day their jaw is solid and the next its just gone. I don’t expect Shogun to be falling over from taps but I think we might see Vera’s shots having more effect than we might have expected them to.

Overall, I think if Shogun can’t make Vera wilt under the pressure then we are going to see an upset win for Vera, who might even be having a go at some takedowns and top game along the way. But Vera’s confidence has to hold together for the duration of the bout and that’s a big question mark for me.


Aundre Jacobs

Assistant Editor, Fighters Only magazine

When I see Brandon Vera, I can't help but think of what he was supposed to be. To an MMA newbie, Vera was just another light heavyweight who was painfully destroyed by Jon Jones. However for those of us who have been watching for awhile, Brandon Vera represented the new breed of fighter. He had fantastic striking, was a well respected wrestler and held a BJJ brown belt under Lloyd Irvin.

The most important thing was that Vera meshed everything together well. He was able to transition from one discipline to another, managing to take out fighters like former UFC heavyweight champion, Frank Mir. However, that was the past and this is the future, and the same Brandon Vera that knocked Frank Mir silly isn't the one who is going to step into the octagon on Saturday night against Shogun Rua.

Much like Vera, the Shogun that we see in the UFC is far off from the one we originally witnessed in PRIDE. That being said, he's still better in every single area that Vera is. Wherever this goes and as long as he's in shape I expect Rua to finish the fight within five rounds.

Ryan Bader vs Lyoto Machida

Aundre Jacobs

Assistant Editor, Fighters Only magazine

You can't help but feel a bit sorry for Ryan Bader. To me it feels like he missed the boat a little. If Bader was the fighter he is now, but in the days where fighters were a little less well-rounded and didn't have the technical ability to move from discipline to discipline effortlessly, then I think Bader would've been a champion. Sadly for him that's not the case, as he's facing off against someone, who in my opinion, is a level above him, Lyoto Machida.

With Bader you know what you're going to get. In fact, you can almost hear Joe Rogan saying it during the walkouts on Saturday. “Ryan Bader has power in both hands, explosive takedowns, but his cardio has been called into question. That's something he'll have been working on with his new head coach at his gym Power MMA in Arizona.”

Throw in a few superlatives, a mention of his team-mates and a throwaway comment about his wrestling credentials and you've essentially got Bader's entire gameplan laid out in front of you. He's going to hit you and if he doesn't, then he's going to try and take you down.

That won't work against Machida as he'll do what he does best – be unpredictable. You know he's going to jump in and out of range and pick Bader apart, but it's also likely that you'll see him do something spectacular, and it's the spectacular that will finish Bader off during this fight.

John Joe O’Regan

Fighters Only  Website Editor

The key thing here is the distance and the available space. Bader needs to put Machida on his back and get to work or he needs to get him on the fence and neutralise him, trying to get him down all the while. For Bader to win this fight he is going to have to play a pretty boring game and make for an ugly fight that is heavy on the grind and low on spectacle.

Conversely, Machida wants to stay in open space where he can move in and out freely with that darting style which has flummoxed so many opponents including, for at least the first round, the champion Jon Jones. He had a hard time figuring out how to cope with Machida’s tactics and so the Brazilian became the only fighter to give him any real problems in the UFC cage to date.

Machida is often referred to as ‘elusive’ but that’s just the defensive aspect of his game, where he backpedals and circles off as attackers try to close him down. On the attack his karate background actually makes him reminiscent of the best amateur boxers, hovering right on the edge of range and then darting forwards at lightning speed to land some shots, escaping before the opponent can counter.

On the occasions Machida does get closed down, he has to be approached with extreme caution. As the likes of Tito Ortiz have learned, closing the distance invites the heavy counter-knee and it can be a devastating shot. This is particularly the case for level-changing opponents like Bader, who will be looking to shoot for the legs and put Machida down.

Personally I think Machida is just too fast and too clever for Bader and I expect him to either cruise to a points win or bait him into one of those huge knees then capitalise on the hurt to put Bader away. It might even end up looking a little bit like Sonnen vs. Silva II.

Joe Lauzon vs Jamie Varner

Aundre Jacobs

Assistant Editor, Fighters Only magazine

Was it a fluke? Did Jamie Varner get his groove back? How Jamie Varner defeated Edson Barboza was the question that many fans and critics have been wondering for awhile. From what I can gather, it was neither of those ideas.

If I had to take a guess, Barboza wasn't prepared for Varner. He was originally scheduled to face a much rangier, more awkward striker in Evan Dunham, whilst Varner is a stockier build. He and his team clearly didn't adapt well to the change as Barboza had no answer for anything Varner was able to pull off.

Even though Varner is coming on short notice again, you can guarantee that someone as meticulous and tactical as Joe Lauzon won't make the same mistakes that Barboza did. If it stays standing, then I think Varner just edges it due to having more power. However, if it goes to the ground I fully expect Lauzon to grab something and torque it until Varner taps. I'm going to have to go with Lauzon in this bout as I still think Varner gets inside of his own head sometimes, which will hinder his ability significantly.

Mike Swick vs DaMarques Johnson

Aundre Jacobs

Assistant Editor, Fighters Only magazine

A 'loser leaves town' match on a UFC card is always thrilling. Two men courageously battle it out to see who gets the pink slip a few days after the fight. It should be exciting, but I don't think it will be. Mike Swick hasn't competed in the Octagon for nearly two years and according to him, he's been “holding himself back” a little in training to make sure that he doesn't re-injure himself.

If that's the case then I don't expect him to go out there all guns blazing. I think we'll see a ground out unanimous decision victory for Swick which would be sad, but understandable. The reason I haven't mentioned Johnson much in this prediction is because there's really nothing Johnson can do to nullify his opponent.

He doesn't have the wrestling or striking to stop him, but what he can do is pull guard as he's incredibly active off of his back. Whether or not he is actually able to make such a risky maneuver work is doubtful in my opinion. I'm going to go with Swick for the unanimous decision win.