Courtesy of UFC
Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 11:55 p.m.
After years of not living up to his fullest potential, Brandon Vera believes that 2010 is the year it's all going to come together.
His confidence is up coming off a solid training camp in Big Bear, Calif., where he worked out daily with newly crowned WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
He's even made a mix tape.
"There is just a whole different attitude now," Vera said. "I even made a soundtrack of all the songs I used to listen to when I first started training.
"The attitude, I know this is PG-13 and I can't say it, but it's more of an 'F it' attitude now."
If ever there was a time for Vera (11-4) to live up to the hype built around him, it's now, as he's set to face one of the UFC's hottest fighters, Jon Jones (9-1), Sunday at 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo.
Vera has stated that if gets past Jones he wants the No. 3 light heavyweight next, whoever that may be. Current champ Lyoto Machida and top contender Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua are scheduled to fight in May.
The 32-year-old fighter believes he already has taken out one of the top guys in the division in his last fight, a controversial unanimous decision loss to Randy Couture at UFC 105.
Vera admits to still being angered by what he thought was terrible judging in that fight, but says his ability to hang with a UFC legend has shown him he belongs at the top.
"I learned that I can do things, like I can beat that guy," Vera said. "When they announced unanimous decision, I would have bet the house that I won.
"So even though the decision didn't go my way, I still feel that I won that fight. I just take that with me and use that every day in training. I beat my legend, my hero. I don't think there's anybody else who can beat me now."
While Vera likely would still be favored over plenty of other fighters in the 205-pound division, he'll enter Sunday the underdog to one of the brightest prospects in the sport right now.
Jones' only loss came via disqualification in his last fight when he landed illegal elbows to Matt Hammill at the TUF 10 Finale. Although the fight officially went down as a loss, it was obvious that Jones was winning at the time of his disqualification.
Vera was once in a similar position that Jones is now, when he started his professional career a perfect 8-0, including a TKO win over Frank Mir in 2006.
Although Vera admitted his camp has found few holes in Jones's game to exploit, he's confident that his 22-year-old opponent's lack in experience will play to his advantage.
"His game is tight. We've been studying for awhile and his biggest weakness is his inexperience," Vera said. "That's the only X factor in this game. Everything else, he's almost like a seasoned vet.
"We're going to look for holes. I remember when I was still young into the game, there were things that I didn't like and needed to work on that come with experience. Hopefully, I get to exploit that."
Jones has earned a quick following with his unorthodox striking ability and creative finishes in the octagon.
As Vera eluded to, Jones is lacking experience and it's yet to be seen how he'll react under pressure. But the upstart light heavyweight says he's preparing for that and isn't worried about falling under pressure when it does happen.
"The biggest thing for me is just having fun," Jones said. "I realize in practice, when I'm having fun and when I'm just trying to stay cool is when I do much better.
"When my mind is flowing I do pretty amazing things in practice. So if I can take that same type of relaxation to the octagon, it's going to be sweet."
Vera showed his wrestling skills were up to par in his last fight against Couture, but Jones also has been undeterred by strong wrestlers, actually taking down Hammill fairly easily in his last fight.
If the fight does hit the ground, Vera's jiu-jitsu and wrestling backgrounds may give him a slight advantage, but judging from some of his comments the fighters may never leave their feet.
"Between me and Jones, if you just watch us fight, both of us have a hole," Vera said. "Somebody drops a hand here, somebody drops a hand there, somebody turns the wrong way.
"I just think 15 minutes is too long for me and Jones to be standing there banging on each other. One of us is going to have to go to sleep."
Last Time Out:
Vera: Unanimous decision loss to Randy Couture at UFC 105.
Jones: Loss by disqualification to Matt Hammill at TUF 10 Finale.
The Lines: Vera plus-210; Jones minus-270
Vera: On trying to replicate Jones's style in practice: "Have we been able to replicate his style? No. Not to a tee. I mean, he's 6-foot-4 and he moves well with some awekward angles. The only person that may be able to replicate at least the footwork part is Dominick Cruz. So I'm keeping up with Dominick's footwork but other than that, it's hard to replicate his style.
Jones: On spending time with UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre: "I spent a lot of time up in Montreal with Georges and he's just got this down to a tee. He sleeps when it's time to sleep. He drinks a ton of water throughout the day, he takes me to the spa where he goes to this steam room and then he goes into freezing cold water. Georges is the real professional. He's the blueprint of what I need to do."