The nightmare is over; Brandon Vera is returning to the UFC and everything is right with the MMA world once again. Well, maybe not completely right until Fedor signs with a major fight promotion and we finally get to see Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva, but Vera’s return to the active fighting scene is a great thing nonetheless.

In case you missed it, the UFC officially announced yesterday that Vera could be fighting again as soon as October. The announcement did not contain any definitive information about what date Vera will be fighting on and who it will be against.

With no mention of an opponent, the wheels began spinning in my head with thoughts of who I’d like Vera to fight in his first match back and also who I think is the most logical opponent for him based on logistics.

I wanted to share my comments with everyone but I want to first state that the analysis listed below is PURE CONJECTURE and is based on no factual evidence or inside information. I’m simply trying to have some fun by speculation so please don’t claim is reporting anything.

Now that we have that out of the way, let me break down the list of potential candidates for Vera to possibly fight:

  • Tim Sylvia – A match between Sylvia and Vera at UFC 77 has been rumored by several sites the past few weeks. I think a match with Sylvia makes a lot of sense because it presents a great storyline considering the two were in line to face each other at UFC 68 this past March. We all know what happened and Randy Couture is now the UFC heavyweight champ and Vera and Sylvia aren’t. If Vera comes out and drops the hammer on Big Tim, then you have the whole plot line that “The Truth” would be the heavyweight champ right now if it weren’t for problems with his manager. Stylistically, I’m lukewarm on the match but from a marketing perspective Sylvia is the best opponent for Vera. However, chances are we won’t see it as Vera’s first fight back because Sylvia is recovering from back surgery and a staph infection. I don’t see how he could be ready in time to fight in October.
  • The winner of the Mirko Cro Cop vs. Cheick Kongo match at UFC 75 – Normally I would just bypass any mention of Kongo and just reference Cro Cop but after his loss to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70, I’m not taking anything for granted. Cro Cop vs. Vera would be a strong co-main event on any UFC card and a match between the two before year’s end is not out of the realm of possibilities. However, I don’t see it happening as Vera’s first fight. UFC 75 isn’t until September 8 and UFC 77 is in October. Cro Cop has made quick turnarounds before while in Pride but I just don’t see him coming back so soon to fight an opponent the caliber of Vera. If Cro Cop defeats Kongo and Vera wins his first match back then perhaps we’d get to see the two face each other on the UFC’s card scheduled for December 29 with the winner becoming the number one contender for the heavyweight title?
  • Tito Ortiz or Chuck Liddell – We can’t overlook the possibility of Vera dropping down to light heavyweight. While the UFC’s press release talked about Vera returning to the scene as a heavyweight and made no mention of a possible move to light heavyweight we have to take into consideration that the UFC’s heavyweight division is not only better but bigger than it was when Vera last fought this past November. I think we’ll see Vera drop down in weight at some point but I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. While Ortiz has not officially signed to fight Rashad Evans, it’s expected to happen meaning that all the top light heavyweights in the UFC are booked. That is, unless Wanderlei Silva has officially signed. Hmmm… Nah.
  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – I’d love to see it and Nogueira currently is not scheduled for another fight so Big ‘Nog vs. Vera has a legitimate chance of happening in October. From a future planning perspective, I’m not so sure it makes sense. Both fighters haven’t reached their full marketing potential and a loss by either fighter would be a major setback. A match with a lose/win proposition is really a lose/lose for the UFC when there are win/win possibilities out there. Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
  • Winner or loser of Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Randy Couture match at UFC 74 – Stylistically a matchup between either Gonzaga or Couture would be great but I don’t think we’ll see Vera vs. either guy for the same reasons why I don’t think we’ll see him face Nogueira in October. Matches with Vera against either of the three are all possible in the future but the timing just isn’t right. Vera needs a win before fighting for the title and coming back in October to fight Vera might be too ambitious for the loser.
  • Fabricio Werdum – A lot of people are bitching about Karo Parisyan and Andrei Arlovski (and rightfully so) not having matches lined up but why isn’t anyone championing Werdum’s cause? Is it just me or does it feel like the UFC is punishing both Arlvoski and Werdum for having a crappy match at UFC 70? If the UFC views Werdum as nothing more than a gate keeper at this point and they want to give Vera a layup then maybe this matchup might work? Then again, Werdum is a very dangerous opponent and if he upset Vera then I don’t think the UFC would feel like they could make something good out of a bad situation. If they are going to put Vera in with a dangerous opponent then they should do so against someone who carries more marketing potential.
  • Wes Sims – I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. How Joe Lauzon of me?
  • Andrei Arlovski – The old Pitbull vs. Vera would be one helluva match that could result in a double knockout. But the old Arlovski has been replaced by some new guy who is trying to be some fancy fighter who fights not to lose as opposed to fighting to win. If there’s anything that can bring back the old Arlovski then perhaps it’s Vera, a man who fights like he was shot out of a cannon. If Arlovski tried to fight a defensive fight against Vera then he’d have to run in circles because Vera would likely push the pace for the entire duration of the fight. If Arlovski doesn’t want to engage then Vera would likely be more than happy to bring the fight to him. Stylistically, this match has a lot of potential and the marketing potential in the short-term and long-term is also strong. Vera vs. Arlovski could sell some tickets and pay-per-views and the winner of the fight would be in a strong position to challenge for the heavyweight title in their next bout.

After a thorough review of the contenders, when you look at all the angles (potential match quality, box office appeal, and future planning) I don’t think there’s a better matchup for Vera than a bout against Arlovski at UFC 77 in October with the winner being granted a shot at the heavyweight title.