The UFC returns to FOX this Saturday night in Los Angeles for Shogun vs. Vera. After a few changes to the main card we have finally settled with 4 great fights for FOX. Check out our picks and preview below and make sure you leave your picks in the comments section.
Welterweight Fight: Mike Swick vs. DeMarques Johnson
Brian: I am excited to see Mike Swick back in action. This should be a good fight and I am taking Swick by Unanimous Decision.
Brendan: Swick returns to the Octagon after suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in his career (Dan Hardy and Paulo Thiago), then suffering from an esophageal ailment and injuries that spanned two years’ time. I’m sure he is looking forward to a good scrap with Johnson if for no other reason than to get out some pent up aggression. Both men like to bang and can hold their own on the ground should things get there. Don’t expect ring rust to play a big part in this one, and I’ll take Swick to score a surprising T/KO in the 2nd round.
Jordan: After a 2 ½ year lay off it is great to see Mike Swick back in the cage. Ring rust will be a factor for Swick, but the question is, can he adapt and get back to his game. DaMarques Johnson is coming off a submission loss earlier this year and is looking to get back on a roll. This will be a good way to start the main card on FOX and both of these fighters deliver. If Swick can adjust to being back in the cage I see him easily picking up the Unanimous Decision and getting back into the “mix”.
Mark: How much ring rust will we see Saturday night? That will be the deciding factor in the Fox main card opener. Johnson is a scrappy fighter equally content to stand as well as grapple, but Mike Swick was a single fight away from a title shot a few short years ago. He had extremely fast hands and mixed his BJJ in very well, so I believe he’s the better technical fighter. But how will a two year layoff and recovering from multiple injuries affect his performance? I don’t expect to see a vintage “Quick” KO, but I like Swick to find his rhythm and get back on track Saturday night. Give me Swick by Unanimous Decision.
Lightweight Fight: Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner
Brian: Jamie Varner proved to the world that he can mix it up with the best of them in his last fight with Edson Barboza. Joe Lauzon will be tough but give me Varner via 2nd Round TKO.
Brendan: This could turn into the technical version of a striker v. grappler fight, however given that J-Lau likes to throw caution to the wind and come at his opponents like a rabid spider monkey; it has the potential of quickly turning into a street brawl of sorts. Varner is coming off a career-best TKO of former hot prospect Edson Barboza, and J-Lau was just added to the “Showtime” Pettis KO highlight reel, so look for Varner to come out overconfident to box and J-Lau to quickly get this fight on the ground. J-Lau gets the 1st round submission with either a guillotine or RNC.
Jordan: One of the best feel good stories of this year has to be Jamie Varner returning to the UFC on short notice and picking up the win over Edson Barboza at UFC 146. Joe Lauzon is coming off a headkick KO loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC 144. This is another exciting fight, but I like Lauzon to come out strong and put away Varner in the first round. I have Lauzon knocking down Varner and pulling out the submission victory.
Mark: Joe Lauzon plays the role of underdog really well. And after the blitzkrieg Jamie Varner laid on Edson Barboza a few weeks back, that’s exactly how things will sit. The knock on Lauzon has always been the perception that he starts strong, but can fade. Usually that means he’s overwhelming his opponent en route to an early stoppage, but Varner’s wrestling base will give him a safety outlet if he gets in trouble. Because of that, I see Lauzon taking round 1, but Varner rallying to win the 2nd and 3rd using clinch work and top control. If he can pull out the win, he’ll definitely be sitting atop the list for “Comeback Fighter of the Year.” I like Varner here by Unanimous Decision.
Light Heavyweight Fight: Ryan Bader vs. Lyoto Machida
Brian: This one is my pick for Knock Out of the Night. Lyoto Machida is a different kind of striker then Ryan Bader has faced before and I have Machida catching him in the 2nd Round.
Brendan: Bader looked solid against an overweight Rampage, but Machida is a much different puzzle to crack. Though Machida hasn’t fought since being choked unconscious by Jones back in December, I like him to stay elusive and counter-punch his way to an Ortiz-esque TKO in the 2nd round, putting him as the early favorite to face the winner of Jones/Hendo on Sept 1….more to come
Jordan: Even though Machida is coming off a loss to UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, I expect him to be back at the top of his game. Machida is elusive and knows how to make his opponents play his game. Bader is a great wrestler and will obviously be looking to take this fight to the ground. I have Machida staying away from the takedowns and picking up the TKO victory in the 2nd.
Mark: This fight hinges on one question for me: How can Bader get his hands on Machida enough to clinch or take him down. My answer? He simply can’t. No one can. Jon Jones was able to get the clinch with Machida only after landing a huge strike that wobbled him. Ryan Bader doesn’t have the same striking versatility or the reach of the champ so I see him connecting with lots of empty air Saturday night. All the while, Machida will land counter strikes at will. I don’t know if it will be impressive enough to earn the spot as the #1 contender, but I say Machida cruises. I’ll take Machida by 2nd RD TKO.
Light Heavyweight Fight: Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera
Brian: I have to agree with my peers on this one, Rua is going to be too much for Vera, I am taking Rua by 2nd Round TKO.
Brendan: Vera has the opportunity of a lifetime; the only problem is that Shogun Rua is the guy he has to beat (convincingly) in order to make that dream a reality. I see this as an aggressive fight for both men, but ultimately I think Shogun’s experience will play a factor in his ability to gain advantageous positions and inflict more damage. Shogun takes this fight by TKO in the 4th, and earns the storybook rematch with either Jones or Hendo…either way, we the fans are the big winners.
Jordan: Not many people are giving Vera a shot in this fight and I happen to agree with them. Brandon Vera has been in the spotlight before and before he may have even deserved to be there. Vera’s only win in his last four fights is against Eliot Marshall last October. Rua is coming off a close loss to current number one contender Dan Henderson and is in a class above Vera. Rua comes in to this fight, looks impressive and makes quick work of Vera and earns his title rematch. Rua with a 1st Round TKO.
Mark: To me one of the most interesting aspects of this matchup is the fact that both of these fighters showed some of the most promising potential MMA has ever seen early in their careers. The trouble is that both have had a few more downs than ups over the last couple of years. Shogun is a gritty striker with excellent BJJ and Vera relies on his muay thai that he blends with wrestling. The biggest difference I see is heart. We know that Shogun will fight to the bitter end, and Vera in the past has looked checked out in some of his fights. While it would be a colossal upset for Vera to get the victory here, unless he does it early, Shogun will roll. Rua will land the more powerful strikes in the 1st, and seal the deal in the 2nd. Shogun by 2nd RD TKO.
Submission of the Night
Brian: Josh Grispi
Brendan: Joe Lauzon
Jordan: Joe Lauzon
Mark: Rani Yahya
Knock out of the Night
Brian: Lyoto Machida
Brendan: Lyoto Machida
Jordan: Mauricio Rua
Mark: Mauricio Rua
Fight of the Night
Brian: Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Brendan: Brandon Vera vs. Mauricio Rua
Jordan: Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Mark: Cole Miller vs. Nam Phan
Brian (89-74) – Co-host of the MMANonstop Podcast and author of the series “The Book On…” exclusively at 188.8.131.52/~bchurch, follow him at twitter.com/bchurchin
Brendan (86-77) – Examines the Top 5 fighters in each weight class and is featured exclusively on 184.108.40.206/~bchurch. Follow him at twitter.com/bchurchin48
Brendan is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple belt and boxing practitioner who has followed all things MMA since watching the first UFC event over 20 years ago. In addition to his professional career, Brendan is currently an MBA student at Montclair State University who enjoys spending time with his wife Meredith and their dog Cha'lie when he's not training.
Follow Brendan on Twitter @bchurchin48 and check out all his articles exclusively at MMANonstop.com.