(Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)
On March 21, Brandon Vera will face Jon “Bones” Jones in a fight that is considered a crossroads that will determine the direction of his career in the UFC. A win against the highly touted Jones could thrust him back into the 205 lb. title picture. A loss could relegate him to gatekeeper status as a name that will look extremely good on any up and coming fighter’s resume. As we approach UFC On Versus 1: Vera Vs Jones, Fightmagazine.com outlines the highs and lows of “The Truth”’s rocky career.
UFC 57: 2/4/06
Win Vs Justin Eilers TKO (1:25)
In his second UFC fight, Vera stepped into the Octagon against the late Justin Eilers. It was Vera’s chance to prove whether or not his name should be brought up as a future contender. “The Truth” knew that a spectacular finish would put the heavyweight division on notice. And a spectacular finish is exactly what the 11,000 in attendance at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas witnessed.
Sure, Eilers was just coming off knockout losses to Paul Buentello and the then-Heavyweight champion Andre Arlovski, but he still represented a stiff test for the rising Vera. Sixty seconds into the first round, Vera was ripping kicks into Eilers midsection causing the Team Militich fighter to drop his guard as he awaited another shot to the torso. Instead, Vera aimed high and introduced a high left leg to the temple of Eilers. Clearly dazed, Eilers already looked to be on his way out but a Vera knee to the dome punctuated a devastating knockout victory for Vera and left Eilers flat on his face and completely motionless at 1:25 in the first round.
UFC 65: 11/18/06
Win Vs Frank Mir TKO (1:09)
Frank Mir and Brandon Vera were the top two contenders for Tim Sylvia’s heavyweight crown. Mir was looking to reclaim the title he was stripped of after a motorcycle accident kept him out of the Octagon for 14 months. Vera was the new kid on the block who was quickly making a name for himself after impressively stopping Eilers, Fabiano Scherner and Assuerio Silva.
Before the start of Vera’s showdown with Frank Mir at UFC 65, Mike Goldberg asked “Will a small torch be passed tonight?” The answer came 69 seconds later.
Outweighed by twenty five pounds, many wondered how Vera would deal with Mir’s impressive ground game. Too bad Mir would only make it to the ground alone. Vera opened the bout immediately showcasing some much improved standup as he cracked Mir with a left hook and a chin rattling straight right hand that saw Mir’s legs begin to melt from underneath him. Vera would waste no time and trap Mir in his Thai clinch and delivered three devastating knees that lifted Mir’s feet off the canvas before depositing his entire body there. The rest would be elementary as Vera fed Mir knuckle sandwiches until Steve Mazzagati came to the rescue. There was no doubt that Vera was a force to be reckoned with after yet another impressive performance.
UFC 105: 11/14/09
Loss Vs. Couture Split Decision
There are few times when a loss actually becomes one of a fighter’s more memorable moments. But for Vera, his controversial split decision loss to Randy Couture just happens to be one of the things we like to call a “moral victory.”
Vera’s career was on the rocks after going 3-4 in his last seven bouts. Gone was the dominant fighter who seemed to have limitless potential and in was a mixed martial artist looking to redeem himself against a UFC Hall of Famer. Nobody was quite sure which Vera would step into the cage against Captain America.
Early on, it looked like Couture had the perfect game plan to shut down Vera. There were shades of Vera’s loss to Tim Sylvia as Couture bullied his opponent around the cage from the clinch. Something snapped in the mindset of Vera as he finally figured out that creating distance would be to his advantage. After being separated from the clinch midway through the second round, Vera ripped a menacing left kick to the body that hurt Couture and followed with a brutal right knee to the gut that nearly folded Couture in half. If it wasn’t for Couture’s renowned resilience, Vera’s follow up strikes may have put him away. Entering the third frame with momentum on his side, Vera appeared to get the better of the Hall of Famer as he scored a takedown and avoided any damage.
The bell sounded and Vera celebrated what looked like a sure victory. Unfortunately, the judges all found it in favor of Couture 29-28. Vera would not be the only one disappointed though as the English crowd was squarely behind “The Truth.” He may not have won on paper, but his performance proved that Vera could still bang with the best of them.
UFC 77 10/20/07
Loss Vs Tim Sylvia (Unanimous Decision)
Vera’s dreams of becoming a heavyweight champ met a rude awakening when Sylvia simply imposed his size and strength advantages upon Vera and negated and his lauded kickboxing ability. It wasn’t that Vera was lackluster, rather, Vera found out how difficult it would be when faced up against a “true” heavyweight like Sylvia.
Calling this one of Vera’s “worst” moments may not be completely fair. Vera did break his hand in the first round and had to deal with a fighter who was clearly bigger and stronger than him. But this is what Vera signed up for when entering the heavyweight division as a fighter that looked better suited for a career at 205.
From the outset, Sylvia pinned Vera along the cage and controlled most of the fighting within the clinch. While Vera had been explosive when space separated him from his opponent, Sylvia kept everything close and mugged “The Truth.” Vera did look more impressive in the second round as he put the former champ on his back but couldn’t muster up enough offense to put him away. Sylvia’s plan was to drag Vera into deep waters, and that’s exactly what he did as he completely owned the third frame. It appeared to be an aberration for Vera, but this was the moment things began to go downhill.
UFC 85: 6/7/08
Loss Vs Fabricio Werdum TKO (4:40)
Coming off the Sylvia loss, Vera was pitted against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 85. It was a fight that would have placed the winner back into title contention. Werdum had just smashed Gabriel Gonzaga while Vera was trying to get his footing back in the HW division after the loss to Sylvia.
Again, Vera was outweighed by twenty pounds and the question on everyone’s mind was whether he was better suited at 205. After a relatively uneventful first four minutes that saw both fighters trying to gain an advantage within the clinch, Werdum would take down Vera toward the later part of the round and swiftly transitioned to full mount. The BJJ Black Belt then began pelting Vera with an assortment of hammerfists and punches that didn’t appear to hurt “The Truth.” However, Vera would simply cover up for what seemed like an eternity – but was really only 13 seconds – as referee Dan Mirgliotta prematurely jumped in to call a halt to the fight at 4:40. Vera quickly popped up to protest the stoppage as Joe Rogan seconded Vera’s argument. Unfortunately, the protests fell on deaf ears as Mirgliotta’s decision stood.
Yet another fight that is hard to call one of Vera’s “worst” moments, but it definitely did Vera’s career no favors when he was stopped for the first time in his MMA career. The “Next Big Thing” was now officially “The Next Big Question Mark.”
UFC 89: 6/7/08
Loss Vs Keith Jardine (Split Decision)
After coming down to the lightweight division and beginning his 205 campaign by dispatching of Reese Andy via unanimous decision, Vera was pitted against Keith Jardine at UFC 89. Jardine was coming off of a devastating knockout loss to Wanderlei Silva while Vera was simply looking to prove that he could be competitive against the elite at light heavyweight.
Jardine came out of his corner and quickly took down Vera as to make a statement and set the tone for the bout as he was pretty dominant in the first frame. Vera appeared tentative and unwilling to engage for the rest of the bout as he dropped a split decision. Aside from a massive leg kick that nearly crippled Jardine, Vera didn’t do much to win over the judges or the crowd and was immediately showered with criticism for not taking advantage of what looked like a wounded warrior.
After the loss, it wasn’t a matter of Vera being better at 205 than at heavyweight, it was time to question if he would ever reach his potential as a fighter. Dropping three out of four fights will do that to you.