Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs Brandon “The Truth” Vera
Rua: Pro record of 20-6 (UFC record of 4-4), 17 of his wins via form of KO/1 via Submission, former PrideFC 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix champion, 1x UFC Light Heavyweight champion (2x title challenger), 1x Muay Thai champion, 1x Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion, BJJ black belt, 2x Fight of the Night & 2x KO of the Night honors, 8-5 record against former/current champions
Style: Primarily stand-up fighter, Muay Thai specialist, utilizes leg kicks effectively, accurate combinations, utilizes BJJ background to threaten opponents on ground and get fight back to standing
Vera: Pro record of 12-5(1) (UFC record of 8-5(1)), 7 of his wins via form of KO/1 via Submission, former WEC Heavyweight champion, fought at both Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, BJJ brown belt, 1-2 against former/current champions
Style: Primarily stand-up fighter, Muay Thai specialist, utilizes kicks and knees effectively, punishing leg kicks, ground game emphasizes more wrestling than BJJ, looks to pick at opponents with lengthy strikes of engage in clinch to utilize knees
Striking: Almost in consensus among analysts and fans, Rua will be the favorite in the stand-up. With a reputation of being and accurate and powerful striker being most effective at mid-range, Rua is seen as one of the most dangerous strikers in the Light Heavyweight division. Though once believed to be a potential breakout star in the sport in the early stages of his career with agile and devastating strikes, Vera has failed to live up to the hype that originally surrounded him. Essentially, deciding who will take the advantage in this area of the fight may depend on who comes in both in the right mindset and in shape. Rua in the past few years has visibly appeared either sluggish or not in fighting shape at times, though that could be attributed to his repeated injuries that have hindered his training in the past. Vera has at times struggled more mentally in recent bouts coming in over confident or not able to endure a troubling position. Even if both competitors would come in perfect shape both mentally and physically, the advantage in striking goes the way of Rua.
Clinch: With both competitors being skilled and dangerous Muay Thai specialists, ending up in a clinch appears to be inevitable for either of them. Power when striking in the clinch may go the way of Rua, but being able to get strikes of more quickly may go to Vera. When grappling in the clinch however, Vera may able to utilize his Greco-Roman game to isolate Rua against the cage and control when an opening occurs for either of them to get off their strikes. I will see the advantage as even in this area.
Grappling: While Rua is a legitimate threat with his BJJ background, the advantage when grappling may go to Vera. With a background in wrestling and in BJJ, Vera may neutralize the submission game of Rua if the bout were to go to the mat. Training with teammate Phil Davis over the last couple years who is a 4x NCAA1 All-American collegiate wrestler, you can expect to see an improved grappling skill set out of Vera. Should he engage Rua on the ground, the strategy may be to control and neutralize him. I will see the advantage when grappling go the way of Vera.
An added factor in this bout is who can go the distance. This being scheduled as a five round non-title main event, both competitors will have to be prepared for the likelihood that the bout could go the full 25 minutes. Rua has competing in two five round bouts in the UFC; once fighting Lyoto Machida for the first time and the second against Dan Henderson. Against Machida he looked in great shape and appeared to be the fresher fighter, but against Henderson he began to gas out although that could have been more related to the grueling fight they both were enduring. Vera has yet to compete past the third round, but has looked in good shape when going the full distance in a three round bout. Should the bout progress past the third round, cardiovascular endurance could become the deciding factor on who leaves the victor.
Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs Ryan “Darth” Bader
Machida: Pro record of 17-3 (UFC record of 9-3), 6 of his wins by way of KO/2 by Submission, 1x UFC Light Heavyweight champion (2x title challenger), BJJ black belt, 3rd degree Shotokan black belt, 1x Fight of the Night & 3x KO of the Night honors
Style: Primarily stand-up fighter, Karate specialist, effective counter striker, ability to get in range to deliver strikes and get out of his opponent’s range in an instant, a Judo & Sumo game utilized for takedowns
Bader: Pro record of 14-2 (UFC record of 7-2), 7 of his wins by way of KO/2 by Submission, TUF8 winner, 2x NCAA1 All-American collegiate wrestler, 3x Pac 10 Conference champion
Style: Began primarily as wrestler with heavy hitting power, has begun to develop more technique in his striking, utilizes striking to close distance and transition into takedown attempts
Striking: With analysts almost in consensus, Machida will be a clear favorite in the stand-up. One of the most elusive fighters in the division with the ability get in and out of his opponents’ striking range in an instant, Machida is one of the most dangerous and difficult competitors to engage with. With an accurate and surprising counter striking game, Machida can sometimes pace himself as his opponents are the ones exerting themselves often lunging to reach out when striking. While Bader visibly has solid one punch knockout power, his technique is still lacking in some degree. Prior to his current win streak Bader relied on his one punch power rushing with heavy strikes. After suffering two straight losses he changed his style adding more technique to his stand-up game. Now relying less on his power alone, Bader is getting used to putting together combinations and. Even with the improved technique in his striking game, Bader will still have to track down Machida at times. With a style that still creates a confusing puzzle for his opponents to solve, I will see the advantage going the way of Machida.
Clinch: Control in the clinch could be an even field, especially with not many analysts expecting the clinch game to be implemented much at all. If Machida’s elusive style serves him well, then he should be able to avoid being tangled up in the clinch at all. With a background training in Sumo it is no surprise that Machida would have strong base of control in the clinch. With a credentialed background in wrestling to show for his own capabilities as a grappler, Bader has the ability to control opponents in the clinch against the cage. I will see the clinch game as even between the two competitors.
Grappling: The grappling advantage will depend on whether Bader can implement his game plan of utilizing his original base. With strength and credentials to show for his caliber as a wrestler and having utilized his base effectively to earn the victory in much of his previous bouts, Bader could be considered the superior grappler in this match up. Though Machida has trained in BJJ since his early teens, Bader showed he can effectively neutralize an elite BJJ practitioner’s game when he defeated former PrideFC star and Machida’s teammate Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. With his submission game being underutilized compared to his striking game, Machida may appear at a disadvantage in the grappling aspect of this match up. With his grappling game being put more on display compared to his opponent, I will give the advantage when grappling to Bader.
Written by @MMAFanHQ