Quick: What’s 1-2-0-1 since 2009, recently fired yet brought back via a strange case of inhuman urine, that beats up the occasional “Fireman?”
That would be Brandon Vera, a fighter who had such a big buzz on his name back as a heavyweight that he finds himself headlining cards almost in spite of himself.
Vera is one of the fight game’s great enigmas -- he’s cut from a particular kind of fabric that, no matter how much you squint, never fully materializes. Yet his promise was so sincere back when he was beating Frank Mir in 2006 that he still has a sort of ever-lasting curiosity. There’s this hunch about him that just around the next corner is the “real” Brandon Vera, the one that annihilated Justin Eilers and Assuerio Silva en-route to Mir.
This curiosity landed him into big headlining spots against Randy Couture at UFC 105, and then against Jon Jones. And it’s landed him a main event against Mauricio Rua on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles. The UFC had a very small list of available guys that it could grab to stand in against “Shogun” at UFC on FOX 4 after Thiago Silva went down with an injury. Vera -- on fumes and swears -- was available.
Isn’t it funny how things play out? Vera was slotted to rematch Silva a couple of months ago, but wasn’t quite healthy enough to make it happen. So Silva was given Rua. Now with Silva out, Vera is inserted.
But even with the improbable circumstances that led to Vera getting a headlining fight on broadcast television, there’s a sneaking suspicion that there is a vintage form waiting to resurface. Vera himself has alluded to his old self leading up to plenty of fights over the last half decade. He was talking about it as far back as 2008 when he had lost two in a row and Reese Andy along with a new weight class looked like the road map. Vera won unspectacularly in his light heavyweight debut, and has been turning over rocks ever since looking for the “Truth.”
At this point the truth looks more like the helix.
Since Vera beat Mir in 2006, he has won four fights. There was Andy, then Mike Patt, whom he kicked the legs out of. There was Krzysztof Soszynski, arguably his best win in six years, and then Eliot Marshall in his last fight. Andy, Patt and Marshall are no longer in the UFC. Soszysnki is a doctor’s note away from retirement. Vera’s losses to Couture and Keith Jardine were close. Otherwise, the Vera we’ve seen hasn’t been the Vera of all those early notions.
At 34 years old, potential is a funny thing to try and will back into existence.
But if there’s ever been a platform to come soaring back to life, this is it. A win on national broadcast television over a former champion would play wonders for a late run back towards that early thing. The guy still shows up with bad intentions every time he steps in the cage. His legs and knees still induce winces for guys like Patt and Couture. A win against “Shogun” keeps the Vera story alive. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him.
And if Vera leads the fight game in anything for the last five or six years, it’s in opportunities.
Should he squander this one though, it’s safe to say the old Brandon Vera -- the one we thought we knew -- isn’t coming back.