This is a fun little rumour floating around at the moment. It makes sense for several reasons. First, the UFC brought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira into the ring at UFC69 … basically that tells me they’re skipping the introductory ‘can’ fights. I don’t know if this is because the UFC feels they can promote him properly with Pride’s video archive, or just because he’s not coming in with several month’s ring rust like Rampage or Crocop did. So this means the UFC is going to be lining him up against one of their top fighters.
Following this logic, there’s not a lot of fighters who are legitimate threats to Nogueira. Arlovski, Werdum, Couture, Crocop, Gonzaga, Kongo, and Silva are all booked. I think the UFC is still giving Heath Herring time to get into top form. Jeff Monson would be an interesting match but his status as a UFC fighter is kinda blurry at the moment. That basically leaves Tim Sylvia, Frank Mir, and Brandon Vera.
The heavyweight division has gone from being a total shambles in 2006 to bursting at the seams with talent. The Light Heavyweight division … not so much. With the sudden shift, Vera becomes a more valuable commodity to the UFC as a light heavyweight. So pitting Vera against one of the largest heavyweights is a good way to force the issue and see if he can really hang at heavyweight.
As well, we still haven’t heard much about Vera’s contractual situation since he signed an ‘extension’ with the UFC. This extension basically said that Vera’s contract wouldn’t expire in May like it should, giving Vera time to work out the legal situation with his former manager. However, no one knows if the UFC has already come to terms with Vera on the details of his next contract. If they haven’t, then handing Vera an extremely difficult match is a good way to see how he performs before sitting down at the negotiating table. Vera’s wins are impressive but it’s too soon to say if he’s worth the hype. Win or lose, a match with Nogueira would answer a lot of questions.
Anyways, this is just speculating on a rumour. But fun none the less.