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UFC Vegas 17 card: Marlon Vera vs Jose Aldo full fight preview

UFC 252: O’Malley v Vera Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Marlon Vera and Jose Aldo will collide this weekend (Sat., Dec. 19, 2020) at UFC Vegas 17 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Vera is riding high. “Chito” has won six of his last seven bouts, the sole loss in that span a very competitive decision defeat. Plus, Vera became the first man to shut up Sean O’Malley, injuring his leg with kicks before battering him from top position (watch highlights) to earn a great deal of momentum. Aldo is 34 years old, and he’s likely nearing the end of his career. Despite a decline, he remains one of the very best in the world, an elite kickboxer with incredible timing and head movement. Up until the end, he gave Petr Yan an incredible challenge, proving that even a slightly slower Aldo is an incredible fighter.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Marlon Vera

Record: 16-6-1
Key Wins: Sean O’Malley (UFC 252),Brian Kelleher (UFC on FOX 25), Andre Ewell (UFC Fight Night 161), Frankie Saenz (UFC Fight Night 148), Brad Picket (UFC Fight Night 107)
Key Losses: Song Yadong (UFC on ESPN 8), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC Fight Night 125), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 119)
Keys to Victory: Vera has come such a long way since his Octagon debut back in 2014. His kickboxing is so much sharper, as the Southpaw stalks opponents and puts together heavy and smart combinations that target body, leg, and head. Plus, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has become a far more effective wrestler.

This fight being three rounds favors Jose Aldo. Were the Yan fight a 15-minute bout, there’s a real chance Aldo would have pulled off the victory — he’s just so sharp and effective while fresh. Vera, meanwhile, is very much a fighter who gets better over time, and he’s somewhat infamous for starting slow.

There can be no slow start against Aldo. On a long enough timeline between these two, the momentum will shift from the Brazilian to “Chito.” However, Aldo only has to win the first two rounds to win the decision. Vera cannot count on the late rally to sway the judges, otherwise he may again lose the decision similar to the Yadong fight.

The only solution is aggression, volume and body shots from the first bell. Vera has to press Aldo and make this a dogfight as early as possible, because then Aldo will grow tired earlier. This may mean taking big shots and potentially getting stopped by the Brazilian, but it remains his best chance at victory.

Jose Aldo

Record: 28-7
Key Wins: Chad Mendes (UFC 179, UFC 142), Frankie Edgar (UFC 200, UFC 156), Renato Moicano (UFC 232), Jeremy Stephens (UFC on FOX 30), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 169)
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 218, UFC 212), Conor McGregor (UFC 194), Petr Yan (UFC 251), Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 237), Marlon Moraes (UFC 245)
Keys to Victory: Believe it or not, Aldo is still technically looking for his first Bantamweight win. Admittedly, that stat means little when we consider his performances against elite 135-pounders, as “Junior” is still a brutal kickboxer who’s nearly impossible to take down.

Vera must walk the line of pressing/exhausting Aldo as much as possible without getting knocked out. Conversely, Aldo has to conserve energy while still landing enough to win on the scorecards in the event that an early stoppage does not materialize.

Footwork will be the most important factor for Aldo. Vera has proven really damn good at walking foes into the fence, where his left hand/left kick/left knee triple threat is very difficult to avoid. Plus, Vera’s ability to punch into the clinch and rip knees is nasty and tiring.

If Aldo is pivoting and changing direction, he should be able to avoid those weapons. So long as he’s in the open, Aldo’s speed and counter shots should prove rather effective in staying a step ahead.

Bottom Line

This is a definite crossroads fight.

At 28 years of age, Vera has hit his stride. He’s put his game together fully and grown much more deadly, resulting in the best streak of wins in his career. “Chito” is trying to make a run at the title, and stopping Aldo would be a significant step in the right direction.

Aldo has lost his last two, and despite how well he fought, he runs the risk of three straight defeats here. Given how long he’s been fighting, it would not be a surprise to see Aldo hang it up as losses continue to build, even if he is still a top-ranked fighter. If Aldo does stick around, he’s still a dangerous 135-pounder, but a loss definitely pushes him from the title mix.

Of course, if Aldo does return to the win column, he’s still a real factor at Bantamweight.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 17 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 17: “Thompson vs. Neal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC Vegas 17, Marlon Vera and Jose Aldo will go to war. Which man will have his hand raised?

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