Violent Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera will duel at UFC San Antonio this weekend (Sat., March 25, 2023) inside AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
There are no bad match ups between members of Bantamweight’s Top 10, but this one is special. Sandhagen is an electric striker, able to break down opponents with body work or end the night early with a spinning high kick. Vera, meanwhile, is the best finisher at 135 pounds, and he’s riding a huge wave of momentum into yet another wave of momentum. As a result, this fight will carry real title implications, as it’s distinctly possible that the winner is next-in-line for a shot at the belt.
Does it get much better than a guaranteed awesome fight with significant consequence?Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Song Yadong (UFC Vegas 60), Frankie Edgar (UFC Vegas 18), Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Island 5), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 241), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 150), Yuri Alcantara (UFC Fight Night 135)
Key Losses: Aljamain Sterling (UFC 250), Petr Yan (UFC 267), TJ Dillashaw (UFC Vegas 32)
Keys to Victory: Sandhagen is an excellent kickboxer. He manages range well, strikes smoothly from both stances, and can put together beautiful combinations to all targets. He’s also an underrated wrestler, and he uses his skill in that realm intelligently.
In his last fight, Sandhagen expertly diffused the pressure of Song Yadong. Yadong was successfully boxing into the pocket, then using his speed and power advantages to do real damage. However, Sandhagen’s repeated use of intercepting elbows and reactive takedowns forced Yadong to back off a bit, at which point Sandhagen’s kickboxing skill really took over.
Vera doesn’t fight exactly like Yadong, but he does intend to pressure. Once more, Sandhagen will have to give Vera a reason to relent his pressure. More takedowns and more elbows isn’t a bad call, but I’d also like to see Sandhagen taking his jab to the chest to halt Vera’s march and slow him down a bit.
Beyond that, Sandhagen really has to mind his defense. His hands must be up on rolls and pivots, as few are better than Vera at recognizing and timing openings.
Key Wins: Sean O’Malley (UFC 252), Dominick Cruz (UFC San Diego), Rob Font (UFC Vegas 53), Frankie Edgar (UFC 268), Davey Grant (UFC Vegas 29), Brian Kelleher (UFC on FOX 25)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC Vegas 17), Song Yadong (UFC on ESPN 8), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC Fight Night 125), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 119)
Keys to Victory: Vera might just be the most violent Bantamweight on the roster. The man hits viciously hard, can stop opponents with body shots, and is really quite quick to snatch up submissions in scrambles.
Vera’s historic issue is that he’s lower volume than his opponents, but he typically makes up for it by landing more significant shots. That’s a viable strategy opposite Sandhagen, and Petr Yan actually demonstrated why in their interim title fight. “The Sandman” was doing really well early, but after Yan hurt him, his feet slowed, and he was far more vulnerable.
In the early rounds, “Chito” should focus his offense — particularly his kicks — on the legs and body. He has to slow Sandhagen down a bit, which will leave him more vulnerable as Vera picks up his reads. As his understanding of Sandhagen’s timing grows, Vera should be able to find his usual big connections that really change the dynamic of fights.
If you don’t like this fight, you don’t like MMA!
Sandhagen is just one fight removed from his failed title bid, so another title shot is far from guaranteed with a victory. Fortunately, his exciting fighting style makes for really great potential title eliminators with men like Sean O’Malley and Merab Dvalishvili. He’s right in the mix, he’ll just likely need one more win to secure a second shot at the crown.
Conversely, Vera has won four straight fights, including two main events, in exciting fashion. He’s on a serious run, so another big victory could really be the last step needed. It depends on how UFC decides to handle O’Malley’s own potential title bid, but Vera’s history with “Suga” could also make for a hugely intriguing storyline depending on how everything shakes out.
At UFC San Antonio, Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera will go to war in the main event. Which man earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC San Antonio fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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