Sunday, August 5, 2012

UFC on Fox 4: One for the ages

With the UFC receiving some deserved criticism a/o late for unimpressive cards and lackluster fights, UFC on Fox 4 was under some heavy pressure to deliver. Not only because of that, but also because it is still tying to become a proven commodity to the national TV audience. What we got Saturday night was one for the ages as every fight televised on the main card was exciting throughout and ended in a finish.

UFC President Dana White, still seething from the effects of UFC 149 two weeks ago, had to be all smiles Saturday night as all his fighters, even the losers, stepped up in an exciting fashion. His biggest problem had to be deciding who and where to bestow post fight bonuses as each fight was exciting and three of the four finishes were knockouts.

Surprisingly the main event won neither, but it wasn't because it lacked anything in intensity. The four fighters in the top two fights on the card, all light-heavyweights (205 lbs.), were told by White himself that the most impressive of the four would earn the next shot at division champion Jon Jones; this, even though Jones has previously defeated all four. So, with pressure to deliver, especially in the main event, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (21-6, 18 KO's 1 sub) and Brandon 'The Truth' Vera (12-6, 7 KO's 1 sub) pulled no punches (no pun intended) in a back and forth battle.

In the end it was Rua who pulled out a victory via a fourth round TKO after the referee stepped in to protect a fallen Vera. However, up to that point it was a war of attrition and each combatant had their moments. Vera especially proved something not only to the fans, but to him as he met every challenge Rua lay in front of him multiple times throughout and showed that he truly came to win, though ultimately losing in the end. This could have easily been 'Fight of the night', but it wasn't.

Rua and Vera's performances could have also been spurred on by the action and result of the co-main event where Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida (18-3, 7 KO's 2 subs) and Ryan 'Darth' Bader (14-3, 6 KO's 3 subs) also went at it pretty good. This time though, the final result only needed less than two rounds as Bader literally walked into a Machida right hand that put him down and eventually out. This after a competitive first round, that saw Bader stalking the counter attack style of the Karate based Machida, but never being able to penetrate that elusive and lethal defense.

While Machida did not win the 'Knockout of the night' bonus, it appears his effort earned him something much bigger. In the post fight press conference Dana White all but promised Machida the next shot at Jones and a shot at redemption. Jones defeated Machida eight months ago, after literally choking him to sleep; however, this was after Machida had won a round against the champ, which no one has been able to do. White's reasoning for choosing Machida versus Rua was simple, "Shogun has not been terrorizing me for another shot at Jon Jones and Lyoto Machida has."

So where exactly did those post fight bonuses go? Well, the lightweight (155 lbs.) contender tilt between Joe 'J-Lau' Lauzon (22-7, 4 KO's 18 subs) and a rejuvenated Jamie 'C-4' Varner (20-7, 7 KO's 11 subs) garnered two of them. These two went at each other so hard and fast till the finish, which came in the middle of the third and final round with Lauzon catching Varner in a triangle choke, that it resulted in both earning an additional $50,000 for 'Fight of the night'; Lauzon was twice blessed as he also took home another $50K for 'Submission of the night' as well.

As for the 'Knockout of the night', welcome back Mike 'Quick' Swick (15-4, 8 KO's 3 subs). Swick, who had not fought in 2.5 years due to both injury and illness, made his return in a triumphant and exciting fashion with a "quick" second round knockout of Demarques 'Darkness' Johnson (15-11, 6 KO's 7 subs). This though was after Johnson had Swick in survival mode in the first round as Johnson was all over him both striking and potentially submitting him.

Swick survived the onslaught and with cuts under both eyes, caught a Johnson kick and in the same motion smashed him with a vicious right hand. An emotional Swick in his post fight interview said to the fans, "Hey do you remember me?" The fans respectfully responded with a rousing ovation. Certain MMA cards stand out in history for their results, UFC 38 and Pride 33 are a couple that immediately come to mind. UFC on Fox 4 was also one of those; one for the ages.

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