The two former light heavyweight champions each made their bid to get a shot at the title once again with knockouts in their respective matches at UFC on FOX 4 at Staples Center on Saturday night, but it was Machida’s second-round knockout of Ryan Bader that earned “The Dragon” the bid.
UFC president Dana White announced at the conclusion of the FOX Sports broadcast that Machida would fight either Jon Jones or Dan Henderson. (Jones and Henderson will headline UFC 151 on Sept. 1.) White announced earlier this week that the fighter with the most impressive victory from the final two UFC on FOX 4 bouts would get the title shot.
“Everything I’ve seen from Lyoto Machida looks like he wants this fight worse than Shogun does,” White said. “Shogun hasn’t showing me anything that he’s demanding to fight Jon Jones again. Machida is.”
Understandably, Machida was happy with his performance.
“I think I successfully controlled the entire fight,” Machida said. “I was just looking to counter when he made mistakes and that’s how I was able to finish him. The Dragon is back. I lost my last fight, but I feel better than ever and I’m ready to fight for the title again.”
Rua stopped Brandon Vera in the fourth round in a grueling main event. Rua certainly had all he could handle with Vera, who backed himself into — and out of — the sides of the octagon on several occasions.
But Vera couldn’t escape as Rua unleashed rights and lefts that left him stunned and forced a stoppage to the fight.
“I have respect for him, but I didn’t give it my best today,” Rua said with the assistance of an interpreter. “I will in the next (fight). I was tired in the second and third rounds. It was more than I expected.”
After a listless first round in the co-main event, the action picked up in the second as Bader lunged forward with his head exposed. The more tactical Machida didn’t miss that opening as he landed a right to Bader’s head, a blow that put Bader flat on his back and led to a stoppage at 1:32 of the second round.
In the first two fights of the main card, the stakes weren’t as high but the bouts didn’t disappoint.
Joe Lauzon weathered a couple solid punches to his head by Jamie Varner, the last of which staggered Lauzon. He showed no ill effects, however, as he rebounded in the second round and didn’t panic as he found himself on his back in the third.
Lauzon employed the triangle choke and a few seconds later Varner tapped out to halt the lightweight bout.
“I got caught a couple of times but I was never in any real danger in those transitions,” Lauzon said. “He did an awesome job defending from his back and utilizing proper hand control to keep out of the rear naked choke. The triangle wasn’t very deep at first but I knew he’d try and struggle out of it and I’d be able to capitalize and put him in a worse position.”
Welterweight Mike Swick, who hadn’t fought since February 2010 as he battled back from esophageal spasms, made a triumphant return to the octagon.
He caught a DeMarques Johnson kick and took Johnson to the mat. Swick appeared to knock Johnson out with the first punch to Johnson’s head, but he landed two more punches before the fight was stop 1:20 into the second round.
“It’s been such a long time and this just feels incredible,” Swick said after his first UFC victory since June 2009. “He came out much harder than I thought he would, but I love being in that kind of fight. . . . It’s so humbling to get such great support from the crowd out there and it was a welcome that I appreciate. I’m going to stay in shape and heal up so I can get right back in there.”