Just two weeks removed from Merab Dvalishvili’s masterclass performance against Petr Yan, two more Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight hopefuls duke it out inside AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, this weekend (Sat., March 25, 2023) when Marlon Vera takes on fellow all-action finisher, Cory Sandhagen.
UFC San Antonio will also see the ageless Holly Holm welcome Yana Santos back to the Octagon after nearly two years away and Nate Landwehr look to further cement himself as one of the sport’s most entertaining Featherweights at Austin Lingo’s expense.
We’ve got seven ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard matches to set the stage this go-round, which we’ve divided 4:3 for your convenience below. Let’s check out the first batch …
125 lbs.: C.J. Vergara vs. Daniel Da Silva
C.J. Vergara (10-4-1) — who punched his ticket to the Octagon by knocking out The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Brazil veteran, Bruno “Korea,” on Contender Series, rebounded from his UFC debut loss to Ode Osbourne by scraping past Kleydson Rodrigues at UFC 274. He couldn’t manage the same against Tatsuro Taira, who caught him in a fight-ending armbar late in the second stanza.
He gives up two inches of reach to Daniel Da Silva (11-4).
A torrid run through the Brazilian circuit — marred only by a freak injury defeat in 2019 — carried Da Silva to the Octagon in 2021. He’s yet to taste his first UFC victory, suffering three straight stoppage losses and missing weight bad ahead of a canceled bout with Vinicius Salvador.
He’s ended all 11 of his professional victories inside the distance, six of them via submission.
If both men fought to the best of their abilities, it would be Da Silva’s fight to lose. Effective as Vergara can be with his in-fighting, he’s got holes in his defense that the faster, more dynamic “Miojo” can feast on. It’s not at all hard to picture Da Silva blowing away Vergara with a head kick or spinning technique in the opening minutes.
It is, however, much easier to picture Da Silva falling apart again. He’s proven incredibly adept at finding ways to lose, and I just can’t trust him to fire on all cylinders against someone this persistent and dangerous down the stretch. In the end, Vergara survives the first round storm to break down Vergara in the later rounds.
Prediction: Vergara via second round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Manuel Torres vs. Trey Ogden
Manuel Torres (13-2) wasted no time on Contender Series, taking just 2:10 to knockout Kolton Englund and earn himself a contract. “El Loco” was similarly efficient in his UFC debut, which saw him win “Performance of the Night” by stopping Frank Camacho.
His sole decision win in 2018 marked the only time he went past the first round as a professional.
Trey Ogden (16-5) reached the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion via Lookin’ for a Fight, where he choked out J.J. Okanovich in a successful bid for the Fury FC Lightweight title. Though he lost to Jordan Leavitt in his debut, he returned to the win column by beating lauded prospect, Daniel Zellhuber, five months later.
He gives up one inch of reach despite being the taller man.
I was absolutely convinced that Zellhuber would smoke Ogden, and while you could chalk up a lot of “Samurai Ghost’s” success to “Golden Boy’s” lack of output, he definitely looked a hell of a lot better than he did against Leavitt. I like him to flip the script here — Torres’ kickboxing is less refined than Zellhuber’s and he has a pair of submission losses on his record that bode ill against a ground specialist.
Torres could definitely still just beast mode his way to another quick stoppage or punish a bad shot with his guillotine, but Ogden’s durability and submission skills look like more than he can handle. In short, Ogden weathers the early storm to take down Torres and find his neck in short order.
Prediction: Ogden via second round submission
125 lbs.: Victor Altamirano vs. Vinicius Salvador
Victor Altamirano (11-2) followed his narrow Contender Series victory over Carlos Candelario with an equally narrow defeat to Carlos Hernandez in his UFC debut. An early knockdown appeared to spell doom in his sophomore effort against Daniel Da Silva, but “El Magnifico” came back to smash him with ground-and-pound and earn his first post-fight bonus.
He’s the taller man by one inch, though he faces a half-inch reach disadvantage.
Vinicius Salvador (14-4) — not far removed from a 1-3 skid — entered Contender Series as a decent-sized underdog against Shannon Ross. Undaunted, he racked up three knockdowns to claim the win and a UFC contract.
That victory marked his 13th professioanl knockout and 14th finish overall.
This fight boils down to whether Salvador can wrestle. He’s just got too much horsepower for Altamirano on the feet. Indeed, “El Magnifico” doesn’t hit all that hard and is way too reliant on dipping his head out of danger, which is just asking for Salvador to knock his block off with one of his from-the-hip bombs. If they exchange for any length of time, Altamirano’s high-volume Taekwondo is not going to hold up against Salvador’s haymakers.
The question, then, is if Salvador can keep it in his wheelhouse. His last two defeats came on the ground, and though he did shut down Ross’s single takedown attempt, Ross isn’t exactly a Division I collegiate wrestling standout. Though Altamirano grinding him out is a distinct possibility, I like Salvador to punish Altamirano’s wonky defense before the latter can get out of first gear.
Prediction: Salvador via first round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Hailey Cowan vs. Tamires Vidal
Hailey Cowan’s (7-2) five-fight win streak came to an end at the hands of Kelly Clayton, who defied more than 3:1 odds to catch Cowan in a guillotine. She’s since bounced back with wins over Monica Franco and Claudia Leite, the latter of which earned her a contract on Contender Series.
She has knocked out and submitted two professional foes apiece.
Tamires Vidal (7-1) worked her way to the Octagon with five straight wins, including a DQ over future UFC competitor Ailin Perez. Her debut pitted her against Ramona Pascual, whom Vidal put away with a bonus-winning flying knee in Nov. 2022.
This one’s going to be ugly. Much like Cowan’s aborted clash with Perez, it’s a clash of clinch specialists that could easily spend the majority of its 15-minute runtime against the fence. It’s unclear who’ll have the edge in those sorts of exchanges, as Cowan is the physically superior, but technically inferior grappler; therefore, there’s a good chance it comes down to whoever can impress the most in their brief windows of opportunity.
I was initially leaning Cowan, but I think “Tratora” ultimately takes it for the same reasons I tabbed Perez to beat “All Hail:” she’s a slightly more natural and powerful striker and Cowan can’t do much off of her back. In the end, Vidal out-works her to make it 2-0 in the Octagon.
Prediction: Vidal via unanimous decision
Three more UFC San Antonio undercard matches remain to preview and predict, including a potential Featherweight banger between Daniel Pineda and Tucker Lutz. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
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.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC San Antonio: “Vera vs. Sandhagen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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