Rua (21-6) added another victim to his resume at the UFC on Fox event, finishing Vera (12-6) with a flurry of punches at the 4:09 mark of the fourth round. It was a strong performance by the Brazilian, but not the easy walkthrough many expected and not enough to earn him a title shot in the 205-pound division.
In the first round, it appeared Rua wanted to put the fight on the ground. He landed his first takedown just 30 seconds into the fight and started working to pass Vera's guard. After Vera managed to get back to his feet, Rua went for another takedown almost immediately. Vera caught him in a brief guillotine attempt but was unable to secure it.
An early overhand right from Rua wobbled Vera in the second frame and the Staples Center crowd started to sense a finish, as Vera backed up to the cage and covered up. Vera surprised them, and Rua, with a hard left hook instead that put the former champion on his heels.
Visibly tired, Rua slowed the pace of the fight way down in the fourth, pressing Vera up against the fence for the better part of the round. The finish came when Rua created separation with Vera's back still on the cage and landed a hard one, two combination. Vera never recovered from the straight right and referee Herb Dean was forced to step in.
Afterward, Rua admitted it wasn't his best performance but gave credit to Vera for a hard fight.
"Brandon Vera is a good fighter," Rua said. "I have respect for him. Sorry; I didn't give my best today. I'll be at my best in the future."
Machida KOs Bader; earns title shot
Lyoto Machida looked very impressive Saturday night -- impressive enough to earn another crack at the 205-pound title.
The former light heavyweight champion posted a highlight-reel knockout over Ryan Bader in the night's co-main event. The finish came at 1:32 of the second round.
Machida (18-3) proved to be far too much for the talented prospect. Utilizing his elusive, counter-punching style, Machida kept Bader (14-3) completely off rhythm throughout the fight. Given the clear disadvantage he had on his feet, it came as a surprise to some Bader neglected to attempt a takedown in the fight. The end came violently, when Bader went for broke and blitzed Machida with a series of punches. He ended up walking into a straight right that put him out on the spot.
It was just the second win for Machida in his last five fights, with the losses coming to a talented crop of fighters in Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson and current champion Jon Jones. Machida challenged Jones for the title at UFC 140 in December and lost via submission in the second round. Bader, who also has a loss to Jones at UFC 126, sees a 2-fight win streak ended.
"I feel very well," Machida said. "I think it was a great performance. I want to say, the Dragon is back!"
Lauzon submits Varner in thriller
Varner (20-7-1), a former champion in the WEC, hurt Lauzon (22-7) with a straight right hand near the end of the first round that appeared to at least secure him a 10-9 round on the scorecards. He made his first big mistake in the second round, going for a failed guillotine that turned into a takedown for Lauzon. Lauzon used the opportunity to advance to Varner's back and nearly ended things with a rear-naked choke.
With Varner escaping the position, the action resumed in the third. Varner continued to beat Lauzon to the punch in most exchanges, but as he has so many times in the past, Lauzon took advantage during a scramble, catching Varner's head in his dangerous triangle hold. The tap came at 2:44 of the final frame.
Varner, who scored a major upset over Edson Barboza at UFC 146, drops to 1-1 in the UFC with the loss. Lauzon is now 3-1 in his last four fights.
After the bout, Varner revealed a broken hand might have hindered his performance.
"I threw an overhand in the middle of the second and felt my hand break," Varner said. "Unfortunately I've broken them enough to know immediately when that happens. After that I transitioned and tried to use my kicks and elbows but that was really the missing weapon that I needed."
Lauzon praised praised Varner's defense while also admitting he can't wait to return to the Octagon.
"(Varner) did an awesome job defending from his back and utilizing proper hand control to keep out of the rear-naked choke, Lauzon said. "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."
"I love to fight and can't wait to get back in there as soon as I heal up. I'm sure I'm going to be a little sore in the morning but it's all worth it."
Swick returns with monster KO
Even in his dreams, Mike Swick probably couldn't have imagined a comeback like that.
Swick (14-4) returned to the Octagon for the first time in nearly two and a half years in spectacular fashion, knocking out Demarques Johnson (15-11) with a monster right hand at the 1:20 mark of the second round. The 33-year-old hadn't fought since Feb. 6, 2010, due to esophageal spasms and a severe knee injury.
Johnson looked good in the first round, getting the better of a wild exchange along the fence and advancing to full mount after taking Swick to the ground. Swick rallied in the next frame though, catching a body kick from Johnson and dumping him for a takedown. While still in the air, Swick loaded up with his right hand and brought down a crushing blow to Johnson's chin that spelled the end of the fight.
"Hey guys, remember me?" Swick asked the crowd at Staples Center following the win.
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.
Phan takes split decision
Miller (18-7) dictated action early, utilizing his reach advantage to keep Phan (18-10) on the end of his punches. Midway through the first round, however, Phan started finding success with the left hook; a trend that would continue throughout the fight. Miller answered with a stronger effort in the second round, but lost momentum again in the final round when he was staggered early on by a left hand. Judges scored it 29-28 twice for Phan and 29-28 once for Miller.
"I had to win so I feel great," Phan said. "The fight was everything I thought it would be but I'm surprised he took me down that often. He is really tough on the ground so my goal was to sprawl and brawl throughout the fight."
Phan improves to a 2-3 record in the UFC with the win, while Miller falls to 0-2 since dropping to the featherweight division in March.
Davis, Prado no decision due to foul
A light heavyweight matchup between prospects Phil Davis (9-1) and Wagner Prado (8-0) ended in just about the worst way possible.
Early in the first round, Davis committed an unintentional foul when he poked Prado hard in his right eye, causing the area to bleed. Action was stopped while a ringside physician was brought in to check on Prado. Referee Luis Cobian appeared to ask Prado, from Brazil, whether he could see and then immediately called a stop to the fight. Prado, who was making his UFC debut, let out an angry cry when the decision was made.
The fight was ruled an official no decision and will not be reflected on either fighter's record. Davis had been looking to rebound from a decision loss to Rashad Evans at UFC on Fox 2 in January.
"I'm surprised that it turned out like this but I haven't really seen the replay so I don't know what happened," Davis said. "I don't even know if I actually poked him in the eye for sure. It's just very disappointing to wait so long to get in the Octagon and then have this happen and start the whole waiting period over again."
Prado blamed the premature stoppage on Davis.
"In MMA, you're supposed to have a clenched fist and Phil definitely didn't which is why I got poked," Prado said. "The doctor didn't ask me if I wanted to continue fighting he asked how I was feeling and I said that I was seeing double. I've never felt more comfortable coming into a fight. It's been my dream to come to the UFC and show the fans what I can do win or lose. I just didn't want it to end like this."