When the Ultimate Fighting Championship heads to Fox for the fourth time, the next title contender in the light heavyweight division will be determined. One of four men - Brandon Vera, Mauricio Rua, Ryan Bader or Lyoto Machida - will be crowned the new No. 1 contender, all depending on who wins most convincingly. What are the current odds for the two fights involving these challengers and other fights on the card?
Mauricio Rua -360 vs. Brandon Vera +300
The main event will pit a man who has gone 2-3 in his last five fights (Rua) and a man who has gone 1-2-1NC in his past four fights (Vera). Earlier this week, UFC President Dana White stated that the winner of this fight would compete for the title against the winner of Jon Jones and Dan Henderson, but the negative reaction from the fans changed that. I don't know where I stand on this fight. Rua is one of the greatest fighters of the past 10 years, but hasn't been the most impressive fighter inside the Octagon. For Vera, the talent has always been there, but he has been unable to turn the talent into continuous success.
I can see Rua ending this fight quickly, or Vera grinding out a decision, so either way, I stay away.
Lyoto Machida -345 vs. Ryan Bader +285
To say I'm shocked that the odds are this stacked in favor of Machida would be an understatement. Machida is a former UFC light heavyweight champion, but Bader is one of the fastest rising stars in the company. After losing to Jones (no doubt) and getting upset by Tito Ortiz (huge surprise), Bader has bounced back and looks like he could be ready to jump into a title shot with a solid win here.
I think Bader wins, so if I am a betting man, I would put my money on him.
Phil Davis -650 vs. Wagner Prado +475
Davis is the biggest favorite on the card, but hasn't fought inside the Octagon since Rashad Evans dominated him for 25 minutes. His opponent is an undefeated Brazilian fighter that will be making his UFC debut. At this stage in his career, we don't know enough about him to determine if he has the talent to knock off Davis and his excellent wrestling. The one thing we do know is Prado has great power in his hands and legs and could catch Davis.
This would be my "what the heck, why not?" pick for Prado. I wouldn't advise anyone to follow, but as such a heavy favorite, it could be hard to make any serious money on Davis.
Jamie Varner -110 vs. Joe Lauzon -110
From the most lopsided fight, to the closest. Varner returned to the UFC in May and pulled off a huge upset win against Edson Barboza. His first round TKO kept him in the UFC and has propelled him up the rankings of the stacked lightweight division. Looking to knock him off will be Lauzon, a man who was primed to fight for the title before Anthony Pettis knocked him out in February.
If there is a fighter that needs this the most, it has to be Lauzon. He is a year older than the former WEC champion and has suffered through several agonizing defeats throughout his career, but has never lost back-to-back fights.
For a look at the best fights for some of the most popular fighters in the UFC and 2011 division recaps, go here.
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Hobson Lopes has been a fan of mixed martial arts since the days of Tank Abbott and can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.