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Sunday, March 21, 2010

UFC on VERSUS weigh-in: Jon Jones almost brawls with Brandon Vera -UFC on Versus: Vera vs. Jones weigh-in -- intense matchups take the stage

The UFC makes its debut on the Versus network Sunday with the kind of fight card that would normally leave a Ulysses S. Grant-sized dent in our wallets.

Hitting our optic nerves live from the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., the card is headlined by a light heavyweight bout starring Jon Jones and Brandon Vera that could be the launching pad for the next big thing at 205 pounds. Joining that quality chunk of violence is a heavyweight dust-up pitting rising star Junior dos Santos against the mega-hairy and mega-talented Gabriel Gonzaga.

All that and plenty more, so get down with another round of grown man prognostication served up with a side of pop-culture digression.

Brandon Vera vs. Jon Jones

The Breakdown: The light heavyweight division’s ongoing generational mutation continues with New York-born wunderkind Jon Jones taking on the 32-year-old perpetual prospect Brandon Vera for a shot to join the new guard of the 205-pound class. Both men enter this fight in the unique position of coming off impressive losses, if such things exist.

Jones practically bench-pressed Matt Hamill all over the Octagon at “The Ultimate Finale 10” before being disqualified thanks to a preposterous rule against downward elbow strikes. Vera, on the other hand, managed to lose a decision to Randy Couture at UFC 105 despite turning Couture’s insides to mush. While Jones’ loss is a write-off, Vera lost his fight with Couture due to backwoods-caliber judging and also due to his own passivity in a sport that demands the aggression of a Polar Bear with chainsaws for paws.

In his first fight since joining the Tri-Star Gym, Jones outclassed Hamill. Aggression alone won’t beat Vera, but Jones has the wrestling to ground anything on two legs. And while Jones’ striking lacks the technical sheen apparent in Vera’s game, his timing and reach make it incredibly difficult to figure him out.

Dave Mandel/

Brandon Vera (above left).
Fans might have expectations of Vera whipping off femur-smashing leg kicks and Jones’ hitting triple spinning back elbow combinations. The fact is, however, that this fight comes down to Jones’ wrestling and Vera’s ability, or lack thereof, to stay upright. It’s troubling how Vera simply allowed himself to get tied up in the clinch and seemed to have no escape plan against Couture. The same lack of strategy doomed him in bouts with Tim Sylvia and Keith Jardine, where his passivity and lack of in-fight adaptation only made matters worse.

Spend three rounds in the clinch with Jones and you’re going to land on your butt sooner or later. Considering the grown-man ground-and-pound Jones showed in his last bout, Vera’s solid grappling background and takedown defense just aren’t going to cut it. Whenever Vera has had to either defend quality takedowns or work off his back, his work-rate hits the floor faster than the NASDAQ. That is something he simply can’t afford against Jones.UFC 111: St-Pierre v. Hardy

The Bottom Line: Vera could certainly punish Jones’ legs given the opportunity, but Jones isn’t going to stand in front of him and turn this fight into a muay Thai seminar. It takes a certain taste for adversity to thrive inside the cage, and Vera doesn’t have it when it comes to stuffing takedowns and working the guard. The outcome will be another impressive “W” via unanimous decision for Jones.

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