(Mike Swick and DaMarques Johnson combine their efforts to create not only the greatest punchface of 2012, but perhaps the greatest punchface of all time.)
Aside from the disappointing and sudden end that came during the Phil Davis/Wagner Prado fight (which is tentatively being rescheduled for UFC on FX 5), last Saturday’s UFC on FOX event delivered in spades, featuring a main card that not only provided four highlight reel finishes for the night’s big winners, but a quartet of great fights that mainstream audiences had yet to witness on a FOX card. It more than likely came as a surprise to most of us that the card was as successful as it truly was, so with that in mind, we decided to dust off our beloved Armchair Matchmaker and pre-determine the fates of the aforementioned winners and losers from last weekend’s action. Enjoy, and let us know of any other possible matchups you’d like to see in the comments section.
Mauricio Rua: Despite smashing Brandon Vera’s title aspirations in rather brutal fashion, there is no denying that Shogun had some rather dicey moments leading up to the fourth round finish (that guillotine, for instance). After controlling Vera on the ground for the majority of the first, Shogun looked like he was fighting underwater by the end of the second. But as was the case in his previous loss to Dan Henderson, Shogun proved that what he lacks in cardio he more than makes up for in heart.
Still, it will take at least another “impressive” finish over an upper-echelon opponent before we are convinced that Shogun deserves another title shot. His total unwillingness to fight Glover Teixeira causes some pause for concern, and since it appears that Rashad Evans might be headed for 185 in the near future, we are left with only one suitable fit: Alexander Gustafsson. Last weekend basically cleared out the list of potential contenders at 205, and although we’d rather see Shogun and Lyoto Machida complete their trilogy for the right to take on the Bones/Hendo winner, we can’t hate on Dana White for following through on his promise. So if Rua/Gustafsson is all we’re left with, we’d be more than willing to watch these two throw down for a #1 contender spot. Let’s just hope Shogun packs his oxygen tank this time.
Brandon Vera: Although we don’t need to reiterate that “The Truth” completely blew our expectations out of the water, we’re going to anyway. Anyone who predicted that Vera would put up as great a fight as he did against a beast like Shogun was either Negrodamus or a shut-in UFC fan who hadn’t seen Vera fight since UFC 65. If the Brandon Vera that showed up Saturday night continues to show up in the future, we are going to be in for some fantastic fights to put it simply. We’re sure he’d love a chance for revenge against noted “juice monkey” Thiago Silva, who was originally scheduled to face Rua at UFC 149, but Silva’s neverending back problems don’t give us much hope that he’ll be ready for action anytime soon. Given Vera’s stellar performance last weekend, we’d like to see him take a tough, but winnable matchup that will boost his confidence should he emerge victorious. Just 1-2 in his last three, Antonio Rogerio Nogueria seems like a perfect litmus test for Vera. Lil Nog packs a hell of a punch and a slick submission game to boot, yet hasn’t really convinced many fans that he is championship material in his past few octagon appearances. Sound familiar?
Ryan Bader: If Lyoto Machida is Johnny Cage (or more likely Liu Kang, but just set ethnicity aside for a moment), Ryan Bader is without a doubt the lumbering, stumbling four armed freak that Cage testicle-punched off the mountain top. Bader looked completely lost when forced to deal with Machida’s elusive style, and aside from abandoning his wrestling base, apparently became frustrated to the point that he decided bull rushing into Machida’s fist with his eyes closed would be the most dignified way out. A flawless victory for Machida it truly was. The loss puts Bader in a unique, if not scary position. On one hand, he can handily defeat 85 to 90 percent of the division’s challengers, but on the other, he has been absolutely schooled by the division’s elite…and Tito. It’s not quite gatekeeper status, but if Bader wants to launch himself back up the ranks, he will need a huge win to do so.
Although he doesn’t present as interesting a puzzle as Machida (then again, who does really?) James Te Huna would make for a great matchup. On the heels of a record setting performance against Joey Beltran, Te Huna’s UFC record now stands at 4-1, with three of those wins coming by some variation of a Falcon Punch. The New Zealander has shown some susceptibility to the takedown in the past, and a fight against Bader would tell us a lot about which direction both men are headed.
Joe Lauzon: After overcoming a few rocky moments against a former WEC champion, Lauzon delivered in the style he has become known for: exciting and decisive. Now the all time leader in performance bonuses, Lauzon has only seen the judge’s cards in defeat, which in and of itself should be commended. That being said, Lauzon’s standup game still has some significant holes (mainly, his defense and head movement) that need working on if he is to hang with some of the power punchers that reside at 155 lbs. If you’re looking for a fighter who would make for a great test of Lauzon’s all around game, look no further than Jim Miller. He came up short in his #1 contender bout with Nate Diaz, suffering the first submission loss of his career, and will be looking to rebound with a fury. Both men are upper-level lightweights that have fallen short in fights against the true contenders, and would make for a guaranteed FOTN were they to square off.
Jamie Varner: Although his comeback story hit a speedbump, there is no reason to knock Varner for his gutsy performance. He took the fight on short notice, fought until the very end, and even managed to drop Lauzon on a couple of occasions. Varner is a gamer, through and through, and once his hand recovers, he deserves a fight with a guy who brings the fight each and every appearance. The first name that pops into my mind is Sam Stout, who is fresh off a trilogy capturing victory over Spencer Fisher. Both men are excellent strikers who aren’t afraid to take a punch, and would make for a great addition to any card lacking fireworks.
Mike Swick: It may have taken him over two years to do so, but “Quick” put on a performance for the ages against Damarques Johnson, overcoming an early storm to emphatically show “Darkness” the irony of his nickname in the second round. At the risk of sounding cliche (not to mention ignoring a certain ban on the phrase), Swick looked like his old self last weekend, and we couldn’t be more happy for the guy. But given the time he has spent away from the octagon, we’d like to have him face another mid-level fighter before he is thrown to the contenders of the division. James Head is fresh off an upset victory over Brian Ebersole at UFC 149, and would definitely jump at the opportunity to knock off another big name like Swick. If that’s not quite the marquee matchup you’re looking for, a fight against Stephen Thompson, who just came up short against Matt Brown in a hell of a fight at UFC 145, would make for an interesting pairing.
Nam Phan: Here’s what we know about Nam Phan:
1. Dude throws some nasty body punches.
2. Dude makes for exciting fights in every appearance.
3. Dude cannot beat another dude convincingly inside of three rounds.
Do the judges have it out for this guy? We couldn’t be the only one’s who felt the Leonard Garcia decision creep into the back of our minds when it was announced that Phan’s victory over Cole Miller was a split decision. Although it’s a given that one out of three MMA judges is either mentally handicapped in some fashion or plain blind nowadays, Phan needs to start going for broke if he doesn’t want to find himself on the wrong end of a decision in the near future. We’d suggest that he square off against Manny Gamburyan, who also emerged victorious at the same event, to try and get a good finish under his belt. Manny is a tough, hard hitting former title challenger who just recently broke a three fight skid, so we’d like to see these two throw caution to the wind and let the fists fly.
Give us your thoughts on our matchups, as well as the ones you’d like to see for the rest of the night’s competitors, in the comments section.