It was supposed to be a blowout. A mismatch. A fight that shouldn’t happen.
Brandon Vera went from the third fight on a UFC on Fuel TV card to the main event at UFC on Fox taking on a legend in Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, and nobody expected him to make it very far against the former UFC and Pride champion.
For the better part of four rounds, Vera proved a lot of naysayers wrong by sticking around and toughing out some bad situations, while landing some very significant strikes of his own.
Not to be outdone, Shogun threw everything plus the kitchen sink at Vera including some haymaker right hands and even showed off his signature Muay Thai clinch. On numerous occasions, Shogun wrapped his hands behind Vera’s head, clasped his fingers and brought him down with force looking to connect with his knees.
The attack was relentless, but as the fight wore on a tired Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua started to emerge, and everybody started wondering if this was the night Vera pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.
“I was really tired from 2nd to the 3rd round, more than I expected,” Shogun said after the fight.
Vera fired back with everything he had, looking for body kicks and punches to the head, while even managing to mix in some good short elbow strikes. The crafty veteran looked wobbly as Vera attacked, but maybe he was just saving up his energy for the fourth round when he finally put his opponent away.
Shogun had a burst of energy as he swarmed on Vera in the fourth frame, and after connecting with a left hand that busted the California based fighter right in the mouth, it was the beginning of the end. The Brazilian recognized his opponent fading and followed up with a vicious left-right combination that dropped Vera to the mat.
A few more strikes from the top and referee Herb Dean saw enough and stopped the fight, as Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua stood up, raised his hand, and celebrated the victory.
Rua and Vera put on an absolute show in the main event that everyone wrote off before it ever happened, but ultimately they made all the critics and pundits eat their words. Still despite victory, Shogun Rua was his own worst critic and promised a better show the next time around.
“I’m very happy to win this fight. My first motivation is you, the fans,” said Rua. “(Vera)’s a very good fighter. I didn’t give my best today, but I’ll give my best in the future.”
The future is uncertain however as Rua learned after the fight that he would not be the one earning a title shot against the winner of the UFC 151 main event between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson. That honor went to co-main event fighter Lyoto Machida.
The next best thing for Rua might be a showdown with young prospect Alexander Gustafsson when he returns later this year, and with a win maybe then he can get another shot at UFC gold.
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