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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
While the continued string of injuries has wreaked havoc on the UFC's schedule this summer, it hasn't been bad for everyone involved. To the contrary, at least one fighter has gotten a massive boost from a fight falling apart, as Brandon Vera has found himself in a Fox main event with an injury to Brian Stann.
Vera was initially scheduled for a fight against James Te Huna at UFC on Fuel 4 in July, and now he'll be facing former Champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in one of the most widely available platforms for the UFC. For a fighter who has had his fair share of struggles in recent years, this is a massive opportunity.
"This is a golden ticket," Vera said on Monday in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. "I need this, this could almost become the defining moment of my career, through all the good, the bad and the ugly. If I do this the way I'm supposed to, the way I can, the world will start following. I'm not ready to let my story come to an end. I'm not ready to retire, I'm not ready to hang up the gloves."
The 34-year-old Vera was a highly regarded fighter at one time, moving to an 8-0 mark in his career with a 2006 smashing of former Heavyweight Champ Frank Mir. However, in the five and a half years since that fight, Vera's gone just 4-5 with one no contest in ten fights. He's a far cry from the potential title challenger he was in 2006, but this fight represents a chance to get back into the top end of a division.
Not only that, it's a chance for Vera to fight someone he's had on his mind for a long time. Rua, the former Pride and UFC Champion, is one of the more highly regarded strikers in the division, and Vera's excited about the possibilities in this matchup.
"I've been wanting to fight 'Shogun' since he's been kicking people in the face in PRIDE," Vera said. "His standup is amazing. He's from Chute Boxe, he's from the old school. If 'Shogun' wants to stand there and bang with me, I'll love him even more."
"On the feet, we're going to find out if my standup is better than 'Shogun's'. ... 'Shogun's' got great standup. His transitions aren't as clean as his standups, his ground isn't a clean as his standups on top or bottom. His ground and pound is awesome, but if you had to pick a weaker part of his game, it would be everything but his standup."
Vera knows that most fans don't believe in him into the fight. He understands he'll be considered a major underdog against the former Champion. However, he's not letting that get under his skin, and he's fine going out to prove his doubters wrong.
"Go ahead, bet your house on the other guy," he said. "You don't have to believe me. Just watch on August 4. After my performance against Eliot Marshall they're supposed to be counting me out. I'm supposed to show up and get my ass whupped. That's what's supposed to happen. But it's not going down like that on August 4. Everyone is expecting me not to beat him. I don't mind being the underdog, that's when I'm at my best."
Penick's Analysis: This is a massive fight for Vera, really the biggest he's had since getting destroyed by Jon Jones in 2010, and perhaps even bigger because of the outlet. Rua is one of the biggest names Vera's ever faced, and if he can pull off the upset it will catapult him into more opportunities after being out of the organization just last year. Thiago Silva's misfortunes have helped him a second time here. Silva's suspension for giving a false urine sample from their bout allowed Vera to keep his job, and now Silva's injury left Rua needing an opponent. Vera's got to take advantage of this opportunity now, which is something he hasn't really done in the last several years.
[Brandon Vera art by Cory Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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