Brandon Vera was supposed to fold in the presence of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. At least, that's what most thought, given the lopsided odds that had Rua favored by as much as 5-to-1 by the time the UFC on FOX 4 main event went off.
It wasn't quite so easy for Rua. In fact, it wasn't easy at all. Vera came to battle, and put a scare in Rua for three-and-a-half rounds, until Rua could finally put him away with a fourth-round knockout.
The finish came at 4:09 of the round, after Rua crushed Vera with a left hook. Vera was so stunned that he tried to adjust his mouthpiece, and Rua pounced, savaging him with a series of strikes until Vera went down and Rua added a few more ground strikes before the ref stepped in between them.
"Brandon Vera is a very good fighter, I respect him," Rua said. "I don't give my best today but I'll give my best in the future."
Rua said he was hit by fatigue between the second and third rounds of the fight, and was slowed down by it.
But even before that, Vera let him know that he was in for a true fight. From the beginning, Vera was firing off combinations and exhibiting heart by withstanding Rua's power barrages. At several points, Rua seemed to have him in trouble against the cage, only to see Vera come off and fire back at him.
Vera's best round was in the second when he scored with several elbows. The Staples Center crowd got behind the underdog, chanting his name, and Vera responded by taking Rua down and keeping him there until the end of the round.
But summoning the championship heart that made him both a PRIDE and UFC champion, Rua was able to reassert himself and eventually finish the game challenger.
It was the second straight war for Rua, who was coming off his November 2010 Fight of the Year with Dan Henderson. The win moved him to 21-6. Vera fell to 12-6 with 1 no contest.