Tomorrow night a quartet of light heavyweight competitors will take to the Octagon at UFC on FOX 4 with one man emerging as the division’s next top contender. Comprised of Mauricio Rua, Brandon Vera, Lyoto Machida, and Ryan Bader, the group features talented fighters with significant success under their belts yet also a bunch who has faced the current champion – Jon Jones – and come up incredibly short in the outings.
Vera and Rua both suffered strike-based stoppages, while Machida and Bader were submitted by the 25-year old title-holder.
As such, who among the group is most likely to put up a legitimate challenge for “Bones” in a rematch? Read below and find out…
It should also be said that Jones very well could lose his belt when he meets Dan Henderson at UFC 151, but he will enter the bout as a significant favorite and is absolutely the one I’ll be picking to win come showtime.
Vera wouldn’t even be in the discussion if not for the UFC’s questionable decision to assign the #1 contender tag to Saturday night’s show. He hasn’t looked sharp in awhile, picking up a decision over Eliot Marshall in his last fight that could have easily gone the other way. He lacks the strength or size-advantage to lock Jones in a Thai Clinch and would end up on his back more often than not if deciding to throw leg kicks. Vera’s a great guy and an enjoyable fighter to watch but he’s not nearly on the same level as Jones.
Odds of Breaking “Bones” – 20:1
Bader is the same two-trick pony he’s been since showing up on TUF. He may have tremendous power and top-shelf wrestling but that’s it. His striking is singular, relying on the big overhand right rather than slick combos or the occasional kick. His win over Quinton Jackson did little to prove otherwise, as he essentially “humped” his way to victory. Jones won’t allow that to happen, plus, as he proved in their first fight, he has enough wrestling of his own to put Bader on his backside.
Odds of Breaking “Bones” – 10:1
Rua is as seasoned as they come, having fought (and beaten) a number of legitimate legends while under the PRIDE banner with similar success during his UFC run. He is a former champion with a ton of TKOs and a BJJ arsenal he rarely unleashes based on his preference to stand.
However, the number of all-out wars “Shogun” has participated in over the years has taken its toll on him. He’s dealt with injuries galore and occasionally shows up in less-than stellar shape. He was smashed from start-to-finish when he fought Jones the first time, and I feel the result would be similar in a second go based on Jones’ dominance from outside where Rua likes to strike from.
Odds of Breaking “Bones” – 5:1
Machida is the only man on the list to have actually won a round against Jones. Yes, he got caught in a Standing Guillotine and choked out cold only to be left in a heap on the canvas, but his stand-up actually looked to be giving Jones fits in the first frame. He’s well-rounded enough to keep things interesting in any phase of the fight and is unlikely to get caught in a submission again, at least so easily. I don’t think it would be pretty, but I do feel as though Machida could outpoint Jones if he showed up at 100% and had the fight of his life.
Odds of Breaking “Bones” – 3:1
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC