MMA DieHards returns Counterpunch, as we tackle UFC on Fox 4, which takes place Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
UFC on Fox 4 features a light heavyweight showdown between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Brandon Vera, as well as another 205-pound bout between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader . Both matches have title implications.
MMADieHards.com put together a team of our finest writers to bring you Counterpunch for the event. The group independently makes its selections for each fight. Minority picks will be defended by one of the panelists making that selection.
Joining us this week will be Robert G. Reynolds, Joe Rizzo, Bob Badders, Mark Hensch and MMA DieHards newest addition to our writing staff, Nick Hammar.
Lyoto Machida is not covered below, as they were unanimously selected.
Below we list the match, the fighter being defended and the author of the defence.
Ulysses Gomez vs. John Moraga
Defending Moraga: Robert G. Reynolds
Already victorious two times this year, John Moraga is going to make quick work of his fellow newcomer, Ulysses Gomez.
Currently on a four-fight win streak, Moraga will be bringing a 10-1 record into the Octagon, with his single loss being delivered by ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Season 14 winner, John Dodson. Moraga will definitely have his work cut out for him against Gomez, with both fighters having more similarities than not.
In their most recent outings, both combatants having captured a golden strap with their previous organizations and having similar records, the frequency of fighting may be the defining factor in their UFC debuts’. This is going to be Moraga’s third fight this year, while Gomez hasn’t fought since last year.
Gomez won’t be easy to finish, so expect a unanimous decision victory by Moraga.
Michihiro Omigawa vs. Manny Gamburyan
Defending Omigawa: Joe Rizzo
These fighters mirror one another, with their respective judo backgrounds and experience dropping from the 155-pound division down to featherweight for rejuvenation.
The master of the decision, Omigawa has gone the distance in all six of his UFC fights over a pair of stints in the promotion. Omigawa is 9-5-1 as a featherweight, making his overall record of 13-11-1 somewhat deceptive. Although Omigawa is 1-3 in his most recent UFC run, he was so badly robbed in a decision defeat to Darren Elkins at UFC 131 that UFC president Dana White awarded him his win bonus. Gamburyan is a former featherweight title contender whose defeat in the title match kicked off a three-fight losing streak. After getting knocked out by Jose Aldo, Gamburyan lost decisions to Tyson Griffin and Diego Nunes. Omigawa is in the class of those last two, and will grind out a decision.
John Grispi vs. Rani Yahya
Defending Grispi: Bob Badders
Young, talented, and previously on one heck of a run, Josh Grispi all of the sudden hasn’t won since 2010. Injuries to both him and his opponents limited him to just two fights in 2011, losses to Dustin Poirier and George Roop that snapped his 10-fight winning streak. For a fighter that was once scheduled to face Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship, his now faces the prospect of dropping three in a row. But I don’t see that happening. Yes, his opponent, Rani Yahya, is an ADCC champion and has some notable wins over top featherweights, but he is also on the skids with a 1-3 mark in his last four fights. The obvious key here is for Grispi to stay off the mat with the grappling ace Yahya, who has 14 of his 16 wins by submission. Grispi has finished 13 of his 14 wins, including six by knockout or TKO. That’s where he’ll have to find his success, which I believe he will to thrust himself back into the discussion of featherweight contenders.
Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
Defending Prado: Robert G. Reynolds
To be honest with all of you, I’ve never been a huge fan of Phil Davis and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Having said that, Wagner Prado is an addition to the light heavyweight division, which is worth paying attention to.
Developing his professional MMA career in Brazil, Prado is undefeated, winning seven of his eight bouts via (T)KO. Davis has a great wrestling background, but in my eyes, it hasn’t been all that impressive over his last couple of fights. With Davis coming into this bout after losing for the first time, to Rashad Evans, I don’t think that he is going to be focused on the task at hand come Saturday.
Look for Prado to catch Davis day dreaming and snap him back into the fight with a head kick. I’m expecting Knockout of the Night honors for our Brazilian newcomer.
Nam Phan vs. Cole Miller
Defending Phan: Nick Hammar
There is no doubt in my mind that Phan is a talented fighter, who loves to deliver a beating and is great at giving them too. Miller has the obvious better record. So what? Phan desperately needs to get his hand raised in this match. The only thing keeping him in the UFC is that most of his fights are spectacular. I’m betting we see a different Phan out there who is more methodical and sticks to a strategy that will earn him the “W”. I see this fight going the distance and Phan nudging out the victory from the judges.
Jamie Varner vs. Joe Lauzon
Defending Varner: Bob Badders
With all respect to Joe Lauzon, how can you not root for Jamie Varner in this fight? That being said, this is more than a feel-good pick in selecting Varner. A former WEC champion, Varner hit rock bottom with a loss to Dakota Cochrane last September at Titan Fighting Championships 20, and it was uncertain if we’d see Varner again after that. But he responded with quick first-round destructions of Nate Jolly and Drew Fickett to earn a return to the UFC. Now, those wins alone wouldn’t be enough for me to pick him against Lauzon, who is 5-4 in his last nine fights but is a stern test for anyone in the lightweight division. But after Varner stunningly pummeled Edson Barboza to hand him his first loss you have to account for momentum. Varner certainly has plenty of it. His career has been revitalized just as quickly as hit appeared to swirl down the drain. And let’s not forget Varner his still just 27. There’s a lot left in this veteran’s game, and perhaps we’re just seeing the beginning of Jamie Varner 2.0.
Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson
Defending Johnson: Mark Hensch
There’s no denying Mike Swick is a sick fighter. Throughout his MMA career, “Quick” has blitzkrieged to victory in bout after bout. Sound at striking and slick with submissions, he’s the kind of foe most opponents dread.
So why does Johnson get the nod here? The answer is simple – Swick hasn’t fought in two years. Sidelined with a major throat disease and recurring injuries, Swick has sat on the sidelines since February 2010. Let’s not forget that when he was fighting, he was on a two fight losing streak too.
Returning from that would emotionally overwhelm most fighters even without illness, ring rust and aging also playing a factor. Even without those obstacles, Johnston’s a game opponent. He’s former military, fights relentlessly and makes people who beat him pay for it first. If this was Swick vs. Johnson in 2010, it’d be a “Quick” pick. But it’s not, and Johnson will edge out the returning Swick Saturday night.
Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera
Defending Vera: Robert G. Reynolds
I don’t know how this guy has stuck around over the last five years with the UFC, posting a 4-5 record. But I must admit; Brandon Vera has had some tough competition.
Having been with the UFC since 2005, Vera has fought the likes of Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum, Randy Couture, and current light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. I’m not saying that Rua hasn’t fought big names – let’s not kid ourselves – but he has lost three of his last five fights.
Vera has grown up with the UFC and I think that he is ready to take his turn at the driver’s seat. Apparently, the winner of this fight is in line for a title shot and Rua has been there done that; and I don’t think he is as hungry anymore. With the junk cut out of Vera’s diet, he is hungry to fill that void.
Vera is going to be back to his old form Saturday, so hide yo kids and hide yo wife, if you don’t want them see a blood bath. Watch Vera win by doctor’s stoppage between the second and third round. While I’m at it, take note, this is going to be Fight of the Night.