For Vera, the road through UFC has been an up and down ride with the bad still clinging close.
When Vera first entered UFC, there was plenty of potential as well as plenty of expectation. That expectation was justified to a degree with Vera's TKO of Frank Mir in late-2006. That win put Vera's career record to 8-0. But it was at this point that Vera's career began to experience turbulence.
The unfortunate consequence of the Mir win was that it turned out to be the peak of Vera's MMA career as of right now; Vera has gone 4-5 with a no contest since.
The Mir win gave UFC the license to promote Vera as a rising star. The plan came back to bite everyone as Vera followed the Mir fight with back-to-back losses to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum. Those losses derailed Vera's previous momentum and ended up pushing Vera toward moving down in weight.
A little more than a month after Vera's loss to Werdum, he dropped down to light heavyweight and has been there ever since. Vera's wins at light heavyweight thus far have been against far lesser known fighters than those that defeated him. And that is precisely the problem with Brandon Vera's MMA career post-2007: a marquee win hasn't come his way.
At light heavyweight, Vera has certainly has had his chances. In October 2008, Vera lost a split decision to Keith Jardine and would have to wait more than a year before he got another big fight. That fight, like the Jardine fight, took place in England, but the opponent was a far bigger name. Against Randy Couture, Vera again came away with a close decision defeat. Initially there was a feeling of controversy behind the decision, but in reality Vera lost the fight himself in the final round of an otherwise even fight. The performance was enough to get Vera one more chance in the main-event of a UFC card when he faced Jon Jones at the top of a UFC on Versus card in early 2010. Sadly for Vera, that fight turned out to be one of many nights for Jones' UFC opponents: a night of great pain with a defeat at the end of it. Vera lasted 3:19 before Jones finished him.
Since that night, it has been a matter of climbing back up the light heavyweight ladder for Vera. Following the loss to Jones, Vera lost to Thiago Silva, but that decision was overturned due to Silva's post-fight urine sample not being his. That didn't do anything to help Vera as his performance was underwhelming and it did appear at the time that Vera's career had peaked, and there was only one direction for it to go from there: down.
That isn't necessarily a premature evaluation as Vera has only fought once since the Silva fight, a decision win over Eliot Marshall. That win didn't do much to re-establish Vera as a top-level fighter or a contender or even make people really believe that Vera still could capture the potential that surrounded him years ago.
But UFC has never been a promotion to quit on a pet project without a specific reason. Since Vera was at one point a big pet project for UFC and because he never gave the promotion a specific reason to cut him, he finds himself in the position he does Saturday night: with a chance to gain a title shot on the basis of what would be his first win against a name fighter in almost six years.
The positive for Vera is that he has nothing to lose in Los Angeles against Shogun. If he wins, he gets what would likely be his last shot at gold, but if he loses he is no worse off than before he got the fight.
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