Gather around, friends, because it's time for another detailed look at the UFC on FOX 4 card. In this post, the microscope is used on the main card, which features four light-heavyweights hoping for another chance to get smashed by UFC champ Jon Jones, a pair of often-scrappy lightweights, and the return of a welterweight veteran of "The Ultimate Fighter" whose digestive issues are so restrictive, he can pretty much eat only air or else his esophagus explodes. Are you excited for Saturday night's absolutely free UFC event? I know I am! I can afford free!
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Brandon Vera — The facts of this main event bout are thus: Shogun is an elite Muay Thai specialist, was a PRIDE FC champion before transitioning to the UFC, was the UFC champ before meeting Jones in combat, and in his last bout nearly nine months ago, he had an epic battle with Dan Henderson. The Brazilian is a legend in the sport. Vera, on the other hand, has had mixed success in the Octagon, and though a capable striker and grappler himself, he's only won once in about three years, and that was against a TUF castoff. On paper, one of these guys doesn't stand a chance once that cage door shuts and the referee says "go". But bouts aren't fought on paper, they're fought in real life, and the "X" factor in this whole pairing is the mileage Shogun's got on his body. A lifetime of wars takes a toll, and because of injuries, he's been disassembled and put back together many, many times. It's possible that Vera could land that one kick or punch that causes Shogun to collapse in a disjointed heap of limbs and torso. Do the odds favor the 30-year-old Brazilian? Of course they do, but mileage is mileage, and Vera could shock us all. I'm predicting Shogun to win via TKO, but you never know.
- Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader — Despite earning three losses in his last four fights, Brazilian karate man-turned-killer mixed martial artist Machida is still one of the best in the 205-pound weight class. His striking is dangerous and precise, his timing is uncanny, and his footwork usually makes him way too elusive for opponents to grab and hold. He was even the champ for a brief spell, the result of forcing Rashad Evans to do the stanky leg back at UFC 98. Bader — who won the eighth season of TUF and is good at winging big, stunning punches — beat an ill-prepared Quinton Jackson in his last time at bat, but also got out-struck and submitted by an aged Tito Ortiz. Machida is a huge step up in competition, and I don't see the former Arizona State University wrestler as being ready. Watch for the Brazilian to point-karate Bader to death, and eventually find an opening for a knockout.
- Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner — Sometimes New Englander Lauzon shines and sometimes he doesn't. But what you can't deny is that he brings it, 'cause he most certainly does. In six of his last seven bouts, he's either won Submission of the Night honors, or been a part of the Fight of the Night — a fact that you can attribute to his explosive grappling and his willingness to bang. Varner was, at one time, the WEC's lightweight champ, and though a string of losses had him banished to the minor leagues, the upset he staged at UFC 146, against the heavily-favored striking demigod Edson Barboza, has got people wondering if the old Varner is back. I say it's too soon to tell, but Lauzon will be a good litmus test. If it goes to decision, it should favor Varner; if it ends sometime before the judges are called into play, it's because Lauzon rocked the former champ with a punch and pounced on him with a sub.
- Mick Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson — Esophageal spasms with acid reflux. That's what Swick has, and it impacted the TUF 1 veteran in such a way that he went from a promising middleweight to a solid welterweight to a dude who looked like a shadow of his former self. Now, after a two-and-a-half year hiatus, Swick is back. Is he better? Is he still capable of knocking opponents out? Man, I have no clue. What is clear is that his opponent — Johnson, who was the runner-up for TUF 9 and who's won half the UFC bouts he's been in — is susceptible to what the Swick of yore was good at (i.e., punching and submissions). In terms of a prediction, if a completely healthy Swick shows up, he's going to murder Johnson. Otherwise, Johnson will take the decision.