Entering biggest fight of his life, Vera must take advantage of golden opportunity
Will the fighter that started his career with eight-consecutive wins with seven finishes and a knockout victory over Frank Mir return?
That's the golden question heading into his main event matchup with Rua, which takes place live on Fox at the Staples Center in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) with a potential title shot on the line.
Vera (12-5 MMA, 8-5 UFC) has spent the majority of his career in the UFC as he made an impressive debut in 2005 when he knocked out Fabiano Scherner at heavyweight.
He'd continue his career in the sport's largest division and score first-round victories over Justin Eilers (Knockout) and PRIDE veteran Assuerio Silva (Submission) before facing the aforementioned Mir at UFC 65.
Leading up to Mir, Vera had become the organization's bright prospect, his confidence was on high, and he appeared to be on track towards staking his claim at the top of division.
Vera made the most of his opportunity against Mir in making quick work of the former champion with a vicious striking attack that put the 29 year old in title contention.
However, that's when things started to fall apart for the once dominant striker.
An 11-month layoff from action saw Vera return against Tim Sylvia and suffer his first career loss in a lackluster fight, he was then stopped by strikes against Fabricio Werdum, which prompted his decision to drop down to light-heavyweight.
Four years removed from those losses, Vera has gone 4-3-1 with the most notable win coming against Krzystof Soszynski at UFC 102, and, while we've seen glimpses of his devastating striking, "The Truth" has yet to truly make a triumphant return.
With that being said, I've had the opportunity to speak with Vera’s coaches over the past few years and there's something different about him in the weeks prior to the "UFC on Fox 4" headliner.
Whether or not that means success for Vera remains undetermined until he steps in the Octagon and puts his skills to the test against the exciting Rua.
But he's had a look and attitude about him during fight week that says Rua will be facing a much different fighter than the one we saw lose to Jon Jones and get his arm broken against Eliot Marshall during his win this past October.
There are moments in life that change every athlete for better or worse and perhaps the injury sustained in the Marshall fight finally re-lit the fire inside Vera.
Working to Vera's advantage is the fact that he's training under the tutelage of Alliance MMA Head Coach Eric Del Fierro and Master Lloyd Irvin. Honing their skills alongside him in the San Diego based camp is bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson, and a host of others.
Needless to say, there's plenty of world class talent surrounding him in preparation for Rua.
If the feeling I have holds true, the world's set to see the best Brandon Vera that's ever stepped inside the world famous Octagon.
In order to defeat Rua, Vera has to utilize leg kicks, which is something we haven't seen many opponents due to Rua during his tenure in the UFC. The Brazilian's aggressive style leaves him vulnerable at times and Vera must pull the trigger when those opportunities present themselves.
Vera must stay in Rua's face and wear him down by punishing his legs and body. Additionally, he possesses the advantage in the wrestling department which should allow him to dictate where the fight takes place and, let's face it, Rua doesn't always show up on in prime cardiovascular shape.
Rua's managed to only win two of his past five fights and the epic five-round battle he lost to Dan Henderson nearly 10-months ago in his most recent appearance is the type that shortens careers.
While Vera has without a doubt seen his share of ups and downs throughout his career, he hasn't engaged in nearly the amount of slugfests that his opposition has when they face one another inside the Staples Center.
Regardless of my beliefs, Vera has to show up and be the fighter I'm telling you that I believe he'll be on Saturday night, live on Fox. The talent is present with him and it's up to "The Truth" to rise to the occasion in what is the most important fight of his life.